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Big, Fast, and Strong: Setting the Standard for Backlink Index Comparisons

Posted by rjonesx.

It’s all wrong

It always was. Most of us knew it. But with limited resources, we just couldn’t really compare the quality, size, and speed of link indexes very well. Frankly, most backlink index comparisons would barely pass for a high school science fair project, much less a rigorous peer review.

My most earnest attempt at determining the quality of a link index was back in 2015, before I joined Moz as Principal Search Scientist. But I knew at the time that I was missing a huge key to any study of this sort that hopes to call itself scientific, authoritative or, frankly, true: a random, uniform sample of the web.

But let me start with a quick request. Please take the time to read this through. If you can’t today, schedule some time later. Your businesses depend on the data you bring in, and this article will allow you to stop taking data quality on faith alone. If you have questions with some technical aspects, I will respond in the comments, or you can reach me on twitter at @rjonesx. I desperately want our industry to finally get this right and to hold ourselves as data providers to rigorous quality standards.

Quick links:

  1. Home
  2. Getting it right
  3. What’s the big deal with random?
  4. Now what? Defining metrics
  5. Caveats
  6. The metrics dashboard
  7. Size matters
  8. Speed
  9. Quality
  10. The Link Index Olympics
  11. What’s next?
  12. About PA and DA
  13. Quick takeaways

Getting it right

One of the greatest things Moz offers is a leadership team that has given me the freedom to do what it takes to “get things right.” I first encountered this when Moz agreed to spend an enormous amount of money on clickstream data so we could make our keyword tool search volume better (a huge, multi-year financial risk with the hope of improving literally one metric in our industry). Soon thereafter Ahrefs adopted the process, and 2 years later SEMRush is now using the same methodology because it’s just the right way to do it.

About 6 months into this multi-year project to replace our link index with the huge Link Explorer, I was tasked with the open-ended question of “how do we know if our link index is good?” I had been thinking about this question ever since that article published in 2015 and I knew I wasn’t going to go forward with anything other than a system that begins with a truly “random sample of the web.” Once again, Moz asked me to do what it takes to “get this right,” and they let me run with it.

What’s the big deal with random?

It’s really hard to over-state how important a good random sample is. Let me diverge for a second. Let’s say you look at a survey that says 90% of Americans believe that the Earth is flat. That would be a terrifying statistic. But later you find out the survey was taken at a Flat-Earther convention and the 10% who disagreed were employees of the convention center. This would make total sense. The problem is the sample of people surveyed wasn’t of random Americans — instead, it was biased because it was taken at a Flat-Earther convention.

Now, imagine the same thing for the web. Let’s say an agency wants to run a test to determine which link index is better, so they look at a few hundred sites for comparison. Where did they get the sites? Past clients? Then they are probably biased towards SEO-friendly sites and not reflective of the web as a whole. Clickstream data? Then they would be biased towards popular sites and pages — once again, not reflective of the web as a whole!

Starting with a bad sample guarantees bad results.

It gets even worse, though. Indexes like Moz report our total statistics (number of links or number of domains in our index). However, this can be terribly misleading. Imagine a restaurant which claimed to have the largest wine selection in the world with over 1,000,000 bottles. They could make that claim, but it wouldn’t be useful if they actually had 1,000,000 of the same type, or only Cabernet, or half-bottles. It’s easy to mislead when you just throw out big numbers. Instead, it would be much better to have a random selection of wines from the world and measure if that restaurant has it in stock, and how many. Only then would you have a good measure of their inventory. The same is true for measuring link indexes — this is the theory behind my methodology.

Unfortunately, it turns out getting a random sample of the web is really hard. The first intuition most of us at Moz had was to just take a random sample of the URLs in our own index. Of course we couldn’t — that would bias the sample towards our own index, so we scrapped that idea. The next thought was: “We know all these URLs from the SERPs we collect — perhaps we could use those.” But we knew they’d be biased towards higher-quality pages. Most URLs don’t rank for anything — scratch that idea. It was time to take a deeper look.

I fired up Google Scholar to see if any other organizations had attempted this process and found literally one paper, which Google produced back in June of 2000, called “On Near-Uniform URL Sampling.” I hastily whipped out my credit card to buy the paper after reading just the first sentence of the abstract: “We consider the problem of sampling URLs uniformly at random from the Web.” This was exactly what I needed.

Why not Common Crawl?

Many of the more technical SEOs reading this might ask why we didn’t simply select random URLs from a third-party index of the web like the fantastic Common Crawl data set. There were several reasons why we considered, but chose to pass, on this methodology (despite it being far easier to implement).

  1. We can’t be certain of Common Crawl’s long-term availability. Top million lists (which we used as part of the seeding process) are available from multiple sources, which means if Quantcast goes away we can use other providers.
  2. We have contributed crawl sets in the past to Common Crawl and want to be certain there is no implicit or explicit bias in favor of Moz’s index, no matter how marginal.
  3. The Common Crawl data set is quite large and would be harder to work with for many who are attempting to create their own random lists of URLs. We wanted our process to be reproducible.

How to get a random sample of the web

The process of getting to a “random sample of the web” is fairly tedious, but the general gist of it is this. First, we start with a well-understood biased set of URLs. We then attempt to remove or balance this bias out, making the best pseudo-random URL list we can. Finally, we use a random crawl of the web starting with those pseudo-random URLs to produce a final list of URLs that approach truly random. Here are the complete details.

1. The starting point: Getting seed URLs

The first big problem with getting a random sample of the web is that there is no true random starting point. Think about it. Unlike a bag of marbles where you could just reach in and blindly grab one at random, if you don’t already know about a URL, you can’t pick it at random. You could try to just brute-force create random URLs by shoving letters and slashes after each other, but we know language doesn’t work that way, so the URLs would be very different from what we tend to find on the web. Unfortunately, everyone is forced to start with some pseudo-random process.

We had to make a choice. It was a tough one. Do we start with a known strong bias that doesn’t favor Moz, or do we start with a known weaker bias that does? We could use a random selection from our own index for the starting point of this process, which would be pseudo-random but could potentially favor Moz, or we could start with a smaller, public index like the Quantcast Top Million which would be strongly biased towards good sites.

We decided to go with the latter as the starting point because Quantcast data is:

  1. Reproducible. We weren’t going to make “random URL selection” part of the Moz API, so we needed something others in the industry could start with as well. Quantcast Top Million is free to everyone.
  2. Not biased towards Moz: We would prefer to err on the side of caution,
    even if it meant more work removing bias.
  3. Well-known bias: The bias inherent in the Quantcast Top 1,000,000 was easily understood — these are important sites and we need to remove that bias.
  4. Quantcast bias is natural: Any link graph itself already shares some of the Quantcast bias (powerful sites are more likely to be well-linked)

With that in mind, we randomly selected 10,000 domains from the Quantcast Top Million and began the process of removing bias.

2. Selecting based on size of domain rather than importance

Since we knew the Quantcast Top Million was ranked by traffic and we wanted to mitigate against that bias, we introduced a new bias based on the size of the site. For each of the 10,000 sites, we identified the number of pages on the site according to Google using the “site:” command and also grabbed the top 100 pages from the domain. Now we could balance the “importance bias” against a “size bias,” which is more reflective of the number of URLs on the web. This was the first step in mitigating the known bias of only high-quality sites in the Quantcast Top Million.

3. Selecting pseudo-random starting points on each domain

The next step was randomly selecting domains from that 10,000 with a bias towards larger sites. When the system selects a site, it then randomly selects from the top 100 pages we gathered from that site via Google. This helps mitigate the importance bias a little more. We aren’t always starting with the homepage. While these pages do tend to be important pages on the site, we know they aren’t always the MOST important page, which tends to be the homepage. This was the second step in mitigating the known bias. Lower-quality pages on larger sites were balancing out the bias intrinsic to the Quantcast data.

4. Crawl, crawl, crawl

And here is where we make our biggest change. We actually crawl the web starting with this set of pseudo-random URLs to produce the actual set of random URLs. The idea here is to take all the randomization we have built into the pseudo-random URL set and let the crawlers randomly click on links to produce the truly random URL set. The crawler will select a random link from our pseudo-random crawlset and then start a process of randomly clicking links, each time with a 10% chance of stopping and a 90% chance of continuing. Wherever the crawler ends, the final URL is dropped into our list of random URLs. It is this final set of URLs that we use to run our metrics. We generate around 140,000 unique URLs through this process monthly to produce our test data set.

Phew, now what? Defining metrics

Once we have the random set of URLs, we can start really comparing link indexes and measuring their quality, quantity, and speed. Luckily, in their quest to “get this right,” Moz gave me generous paid access to competitor APIs. We began by testing Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, and SEMRush, but eventually dropped SEMRush after their partnership with Majestic.

So, what questions can we answer now that we have a random sample of the web? This is the exact wishlist I sent out in an email to leaders on the link project at Moz:

  1. Size:
    • What is the likelihood a randomly selected URL is in our index vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood a randomly selected domain is in our index vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood an index reports the highest number of backlinks for a URL?
    • What is the likelihood an index reports the highest number of root linking domains for a URL?
    • What is the likelihood an index reports the highest number of backlinks for a domain?
    • What is the likelihood an index reports the highest number of root linking domains for a domain?
  2. Speed:
    • What is the likelihood that the latest article from a randomly selected feed is in our index vs. our competitors?
    • What is the average age of a randomly selected URL in our index vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood that the best backlink for a randomly selected URL is still present on the web?
    • What is the likelihood that the best backlink for a randomly selected domain is still present on the web?
  3. Quality:
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected page’s index status (included or not included in index) in Google is the same as ours vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected page’s index status in Google SERPs is the same as ours vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected domain’s index status in Google is the same as ours vs. competitors?
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected domain’s index status in Google SERPs is the same as ours vs. competitors?
    • How closely does our index compare with Google’s expressed as “a proportional ratio of pages per domain vs our competitors”?
    • How well do our URL metrics correlate with US Google rankings vs. our competitors?

Reality vs. theory

Unfortunately, like all things in life, I had to make some cutbacks. It turns out that the APIs provided by Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, and SEMRush differ in some important ways — in cost structure, feature sets, and optimizations. For the sake of politeness, I am only going to mention name of the provider when it is Moz that was lacking. Let’s look at each of the proposed metrics and see which ones we could keep and which we had to put aside…

  1. Size: We were able monitor all 6 of the size metrics!
  2. Speed:
    • We were able to include this Fast Crawl metric.
    • What is the average age of a randomly selected URL in our index vs. competitors?
      Getting the age of a URL or domain is not possible in all APIs, so we had to drop this metric.
    • What is the likelihood that the best backlink for a randomly selected URL is still present on the web?
      Unfortunately, doing this at scale was not possible because one API is cost prohibitive for top link sorts and another was extremely slow for large sites. We hope to run a set of live-link metrics independently from our daily metrics collection in the next few months.
    • What is the likelihood that the best backlink for a randomly selected Domain is still present on the web?
      Once again, doing this at scale was not possible because one API is cost prohibitive for top link sorts and another was extremely slow for large sites. We hope to run a set of live-link metrics independently from our daily metrics collection in the next few months.
  3. Quality:
    • We were able to keep this metric.
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected page’s index status in Google SERPs is the same as ours vs. competitors?
      Chose not to pursue due to internal API needs, looking to add soon.
    • We were able to keep this metric.
    • What is the likelihood that a randomly selected domain’s index status in Google SERPs is the same as ours vs. competitors?
      Chose not to pursue due to internal API needs at the beginning of project, looking to add soon.
    • How closely does our index compare with Google’s expressed as a proportional ratio of pages per domain vs our competitors?
      Chose not to pursue due to internal API needs. Looking to add soon.
    • How well do our URL metrics correlate with US Google rankings vs. our competitors?
      Chose not to pursue due to known fluctuations in DA/PA as we radically change the link graph. The metric would be meaningless until the index became stable.

Ultimately, I wasn’t able to get everything I wanted, but I was left with 9 solid, well-defined metrics.

On the subject of live links:

In the interest of being TAGFEE, I will openly admit that I think our index has more deleted links than others like the Ahrefs Live Index. As of writing, we have about 30 trillion links in our index, 25 trillion we believe to be live, but we know that some proportion are likely not. While I believe we have the most live links, I don’t believe we have the highest proportion of live links in an index. That honor probably does not go to Moz. I can’t be certain because we can’t test it fully and regularly, but in the interest of transparency and fairness, I felt obligated to mention this. I might, however, devote a later post to just testing this one metric for a month and describe the proper methodology to do this fairly, as it is a deceptively tricky metric to measure. For example, if a link is retrieved from a chain of redirects, it is hard to tell if that link is still live unless you know the original link target. We weren’t going to track any metric if we couldn’t “get it right,” so we had to put live links as a metric on hold for now.


Don’t read any more before reading this section. If you ask a question in the comments that shows you didn’t read the Caveats section, I’m just going to say “read the Caveats section.” So here goes…

  • This is a comparison of data that comes back via APIs, not within the tools themselves. Many competitors offer live, fresh, historical, etc. types of indexes which can differ in important ways. This is just a comparison of API data using default settings.
  • We set the API flags to remove any and all known Deleted Links from Moz metrics but not competitors. This actually might bias the results in favor of competitors, but we thought it would be the most honest way to represent our data set against more conservative data sets like Ahrefs Live.
  • Some metrics are hard to estimate, especially like “whether a link is in the index,” because no API — not even Moz — has a call that just tells you whether they have seen the link before. We do our best, but any errors here are on the the API provider. I think we (Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs) should all consider adding an endpoint like this.
  • Links are counted differently. Whether duplicate links on a page are counted, whether redirects are counted, whether canonicals are counted (which Ahrefs just changed recently), etc. all affect these metrics. Because of this, we can’t be certain that everything is apples-to-apples. We just report the data at face value.
  • Subsequently, the most important takeaway in all of these graphs and metrics is direction. How are the indexes moving relative to one another? Is one catching up, is another falling behind? These are the questions best answered.
  • The metrics are adversarial. For each random URL or domain, a link index (Moz, Majestic, or Ahrefs) gets 1 point for being the biggest, for tying with the biggest, or for being “correct.” They get 0 points if they aren’t the winner. This means that the graphs won’t add up to 100 and it also tends to exaggerate the differences between the indexes.
  • Finally, I’m going to show everything, warts and all, even when it was my fault. I’ll point out why some things look weird on graphs and what we fixed. This was a huge learning experience and I am grateful for the help I received from the support teams at Majestic and Ahrefs who, as a customer, responded to my questions honestly and openly.

The metrics dashboard

The Dashboard for All MetricsWe’ve been tracking these 9 core metrics (albeit with improvements) since November of 2017. With a close eye on quality, size, and speed, we have methodically built an amazing backlink index, not driven by broad counts but instead by intricately defined and measured metrics. Let’s go through each of those metrics now.

Size matters

It does. Let’s admit it. The diminutive size of the Mozscape index has been a limitation for years. Maybe someday we will write a long post about all the efforts Moz has made to grow the index and what problems stood in our way, but that’s a post for a different day. The truth is, as much as quality matters, size is huge for a number of specific use-cases for a link index. Do you want to find all your bad links? Bigger is better. Do you want to find a lot of link opportunities? Bigger is better. So we came up with a number of metrics to help us determine where we were relative to our competitors. Here are each of our Size metrics.

Index Has URL

What is the likelihood a randomly selected URL is in our index vs. competitors?

This is one of my favorite metrics because I think it’s a pure reflection of index size. It answers the simple question of “if we grabbed a random URL on the web, what’s the likelihood an index knows about it?” However, you can see my learning curve in the graph (I was misreporting the Ahrefs API due to an error on my part) but once corrected, we had a nice reflection of the indexes. Let me restate this — these are comparisons in APIs, not in the web tools themselves. If I recall correctly, you can get more data out of running reports in Majestic, for example. However, I do think this demonstrates that Moz’s new Link Explorer is a strong contender, if not the largest, as we have led in this category every day except one. As of writing this post, Moz is winning.

Index Has Domain

What is the likelihood a randomly selected domain is in our index vs competitors?

When I said I would show “warts and all,” I meant it. Determining whether a domain is in an index isn’t as simple as you would think. For example, perhaps a domain has pages in the index, but not the homepage. Well, it took me a while to figure this one out, but by February of this year I had it down.

The scale of this graph is important to note as well. The variation is between 99.4 and 100% between Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs over the last few months. This indicates just how close the link indexes are in terms of knowing about root domains. Majestic has historically tended to win this metric with near 100% coverage, but you would have to select 100 random domains to find one that Moz or Ahrefs doesn’t have information on. However, Moz’s continued growth has allowed us to catch up. While the indexes are super close, as of writing this post, Moz is winning.

Backlinks Per URL

Which index has the highest backlink count for a randomly selected URL?

This is a difficult metric to really pin down. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to determine what backlinks should count and what shouldn’t. For example, imagine a URL has one page linking to it, but that page includes that link 100 times. Is that 100 backlinks or one? Well, it turns out that the different link indexes probably measure these types of scenarios differently and getting an exact definition out of each is like pulling teeth because the definition is so complicated and there are so many edge cases. At any rate, I think this is a great example of where we can show the importance of direction. Whatever the metrics actually are, Moz and Majestic are catching up to Ahrefs, which has been the leader for some time. As of writing this post, Ahrefs is winning.

Root Linking Domains Per URL

Which index reports the highest RLD count for a randomly selected URL?

Simple, right? No, even this metric has its nuances. What is a root linking domain? Do subdomains count if they are on subdomain sites like Blogspot or WordPress.com? If so, how many sites are there on the web which should be treated this way? We used a machine learned methodology based on surveys, SERP data, and unique link data to determine our list, but each competitor does it differently. Thus, for this metric, direction really matters. As you can see, Moz has been steadily catching up and as of writing today, Moz is finally winning.

Backlinks Per Domain

Which index reports the highest backlink count for a randomly selected domain?

This metric was not kind to me, as I found a terrible mistake early on. (For the other techies reading this, I was storing backlink counts as INT(11) rather than BIGINT, which caused lots of ties for big domains when they were larger than the maximum number size because the database defaults to same highest number.) Nevertheless, Majestic has been stealing the show on this metric for a little while, although the story is deeper than that. Their dominance is such an outlier that it needs to be explained.

One of the hardest decisions a company has to make regarding its backlink index is how to handle spam. On one hand, spam is expensive to the index and probably ignored by Google. On the other hand, it is important for users to know if they have received tons of spammy links. I don’t think there is a correct answer to this question; each index just has to choose. A close examination of the reason why Majestic is winning (and continuing to increase their advantage) is because of a particularly nefarious Wikipedia-clone spam network. Any site with any backlinks from Wikipedia are getting tons of links from this network, which is causing their backlink counts to increase rapidly. If you are worried about these types of links, you need to go take a look at Majestic and look for links ending in primarily .space or .pro, including sites like tennis-fdfdbc09.pro, troll-warlord-64fa73ba.pro, and badminton-026a50d5.space. As of my last tests, there are over 16,000 such domains in this spam network within Majestic’s index. Majestic is winning this metric, but for purposes other than finding spam networks, it might not be the right choice.

Linking Root Domains Per Domain

Which index reports the highest LRD count for a randomly selected domain?

OK, this one took me a while to get just right. In the middle of this graph, I corrected an important error where I was looking at domains only for the root domain on Ahrefs rather than the root domain and all subdomains. This was unfair to Ahrefs until I finally got everything corrected in February. Since then, Moz has been aggressively growing its index, Majestic has picked up LRD counts through the previously discussed network but steadied out, and Ahrefs has remained relatively steady in size. Because of the “adversarial” nature of these metrics, it gives the false appearance that Ahrefs is dropping dramatically. They aren’t. They are still huge, and so is Majestic. The real takeaway is directional: Moz is growing dramatically relative to their networks. As of writing this post, Moz is winning.


Being the “first to know” is an important part in almost any industry and with link indexes it is no different. You want to know as soon as possible when a link goes up or goes down and how good that link is so you can respond if necessary. Here is our current speed metric.


What is the likelihood the latest post from a randomly selected set of RSS feeds is indexed?

Unlike the other metrics discussed, the sampling here is a little bit different. Instead of using the randomization above, we make a random selection from a million+ known RSS feeds to find their latest post and check to see if they have been included in the various indexes of Moz and competitors. While there are a few errors in this graph, I think there is only one clear takeaway. Ahrefs is right about their crawlers. They are fast and they are everywhere. While Moz has increased our coverage dramatically and quickly, it has barely put a dent in this FastCrawl metric.

Now you may ask, if Ahrefs is so much faster at crawling, how can Moz catch up? Well, there are a couple of answers, but probably the biggest is that new URLs only represent a fraction of the web. Most URLs aren’t new. Let’s say two indexes (one new, one old) have a bunch of URLs they’re considering crawling. Both might prioritize URLs on important domains that they’ve never seen before. For the larger, older index, that will be a smaller percentage of that group because they have been crawling fast a long time. So, during the course of the day, a higher percentage of the old index’s crawl will be dedicated to re-crawl pages it already knows about. The new index can dedicate more of its crawl potential to new URLs.

It does, however, put the pressure on Moz now to improve crawl infrastructure as we catch up to and overcome Ahrefs in some size metrics. As of this post, Ahrefs is winning the FastCrawl metric.


OK, now we’re talking my language. This is the most important stuff, in my opinion. What’s the point of making a link graph to help people with SEO if it isn’t similar to Google? While we had to cut some of the metrics temporarily, we did get a few in that are really important and worth taking a look.

Domain Index Matches

What is the likelihood a random domain shares the same index status in Google and a link index?

Domain Index Matches seeks to determine when a domain shares the same index status with Google as it does in one of the competing link indexes. If Google ignores a domain, we want to ignore a domain. If Google indexes a domain, we want to index a domain. If we have a domain Google doesn’t, or vice versa, that is bad.

This graph is a little harder to read because of the scale (the first few days of tracking were failures), but what we actually see is a statistically insignificant difference between Moz and our competitors. We can make it look more competitive than it really is if we just calculate wins and losses, but we have to take into account an error in the way we determined Ahrefs index status up until around February. To do this, I show wins/losses for all time vs. wins/losses over the last few months.

Reminder: these are adversarial statistics. Ahrefs is actually very close. They consistently lose by a very small margin, they don’t lose by a lot. Consistenty, though, aggregates over time. However, as you can see, Moz wins the “all time,” but Majestic has been winning more over the last few months. Nevertheless, these are quite insignificant, often being the difference between one or two domain index statuses out of 100. Just like the Index Has Domain metric we discussed above, nearly every link index has nearly every domain, and looking at the long-term day-by-day graph shows just how incredibly close they are. However, if we are keeping score, as of today (and the majority of the last week), Moz is winning this metric.

Domain URL Matches

What is the likelihood a random URL shares the same index status in Google as in a link index?

This one is the most important quality metric, in my honest opinion. Let me explain this one a little more. It’s one thing to say that your index is really big and has lots of URLs, but does it look like Google’s? Do you crawl the web like Google? Do you ignore URLs Google ignores while crawling URLs that Google crawls? This is a really important question and sets the foundation for a backlink index that is capable of producing good relational metrics like PA and DA.

This is one of the metrics where Moz just really shines. Once we corrected for an error in the way we were checking Ahrefs, we could accurately determine whether our index was more or less like Google’s than our competitors. Since the beginning of tracking, Moz Link Explorer has never been anything but #1. In fact, we only had 3 ties with Ahrefs and never lost to Majestic. We have custom-tailored our crawl to be as much like Google as possible, and it has paid off. We ignore the types of URLs Google hates, and seek out the URLs Google loves. We believe this will pay huge dividends in the long run for our customers as we expand our feature set based on an already high-quality, huge index.

The Link Index Olympics

Alright, so we’ve just spent a lot of time delving into these individual metrics, so I think it’s probably worth it to put these things into an easy-to-understand context. Let’s pretend for a moment that this is the Link Index Olympics, and no matter how much you win or lose by, it determines whether you receive a gold, bronze or silver medal. I’m writing this on Wednesday, April 25th. Let’s see how things play out if the Olympics happened today:

As you can see, Moz takes the gold in six of the nine metrics we measure, two silvers, and one bronze. Moreover, we’re continuing to grow and improve our index daily. As most of the above graphs indicate, we tend to be improving relative to our competitors, so I hope that by the time of publication in a week or so our scores will even be better. But the reality is that based on the metrics above, our link index quality, quantity, and speed are excellent. I’m not going to say our index is the best. I don’t think that’s something anyone can really even know and is highly dependent upon the specific use case. But I can say this — it is damn good. In fact, Moz has won or tied for the “gold” 27 out of the last 30 days.

What’s next?

We are going for gold. All gold. All the time. There’s a ton of great stuff on the horizon. Look forward to regular additions of features to Link Explorer based on the data we already have, faster crawling, and improved metrics all around (PA, DA, Spam Score, and potentially some new ones in the works!) There’s way too much to list here. We’ve come a long way but we know we have a ton more to do. These are exciting times!

A bit about DA and PA

Domain Authority and Page Authority are powered by our link index. Since we’re moving from an old, much smaller index to a larger, much faster index, you may see small or large changes to DA and PA depending on what we’ve crawled in this new index that the old Mozscape index missed. Your best bet is just to compare yourselves to your competitors. Moreover, as our index grows, we have to constantly adjust the model to address the size and shape of our index, so both DA and PA will remain in beta a little while. They are absolutely ready for primetime, but that doesn’t mean we don’t intend to continue to improve them over the next few months as our index growth stabilizes. Thanks!

Quick takeaways

Congratulations for getting through this post, but let me give you some key takeaways:

  1. The new Moz Link Explorer is powered by an industry-leading link graph and we have the data to prove it.
  2. Tell your data providers to put their math where their mouth is. You deserve honest, well-defined metrics, and it is completely right of you to demand it from your data providers.
  3. Doing things right requires that we sweat the details. I cannot begin to praise our leadership, SMEs, designers, and engineers who have asked tough questions, dug in, and solved tough problems, refusing to build anything but the best. This link index proves that Moz can solve the hardest problem in SEO: indexing the web. If we can do that, you can only expect great things ahead.

Thanks for taking the time to read! I look forward to answering questions in the comments or you can reach me on Twitter at @rjonesx.

Also, I would like to thank the non-Mozzers who offered peer reviews and critiques of this post in advance — they do not necessarily endorse any of the conclusions, but provided valuable feedback. In particular, I would like to thank Patrick Stox of IBM, JR Oakes of Adapt Partners, Alexander Darwin of HomeAgency, Paul Shapiro of Catalyst SEM, the person I most trust in SEO, Tony Spencer, and a handful of others who wished to remain anonymous.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up and Growing Your YouTube Presence

Posted by AnnSmarty

When was the last time you saw a video on YouTube? I bet you’ve seen one today. YouTube is too huge and too popular for marketers to ignore.

If you don’t have a YouTube channel, now’s the time to start one.

If you have a channel and you never got it off the ground, now’s the time to take action.

This article will take you through the process of setting up your YouTube presence, listing steps, tools, and important tips to get you started and moving forward.

1. Define your goals

If your goal is to become a YouTube star, you might be a bit late to the party: it’s really hard to get noticed these days — too competitive. Stardom will take years of hard work to achieve because of the number of channels users have to choose from.

Even back in 2014, when I was reading about YouTube celebrity bloggers, one quote really stood out to me:

“We think, if we were coming to YouTube today, it would be too hard. We couldn’t do it.”

That’s not to say, however, that you cannot achieve other, more tangible goals on YouTube. It’s an excellent venue for business owners and marketers.

Here are three achievable goals that make more sense than fame from a business perspective:

1.1. YouTube for reputation management

Here’s one thing about reputation management on Google: You’re never finished.

Even if your reputation is fabulous and you love every single result that comes up in the SERPs for your business name, you may still want to publish more content around your brand.

The thing is, for reputation management purposes, the more navigational queries you can control, the better:


YouTube is the perfect platform for reputation management. YouTube videos rank incredibly well in Google, especially when it comes to low-competition navigational queries that include your brand name.

Furthermore, YouTube videos almost always get that rich snippet treatment (meaning that Google shows the video thumbnail, author, and length of the video in the SERPs). This means you can more easily attract attention to your video search result.

That being said, think about putting videos on YouTube that:

  • Give your product/service overview
  • Show happy customers
  • Visualize customer feedback (for example, visual testimonials beautifully collected and displayed in a video)
  • Offer a glimpse inside your team (show people behind the brand, publish videos from events or conferences, etc.)

1.2 YouTube videos for improved conversions

Videos improve conversions for a clear reason: They offer a low-effort way for your customer to see why they need your product. Over the years, there have been numerous case studies proving the point:

  • An older study (dating back to 2011) states that customers are 144% more likely to add products to a shopping cart after watching the product video
  • Around 1 in 3 millennials state they have bought a product directly as a result of watching a how-to video on it
  • This Animoto survey found that almost all the participants (96%) considered videos “helpful when making purchasing decisions online”
  • Wistia found that visitors who engage with a video are much more likely to convert than those who don’t

That being said, YouTube is a perfect platform to host your video product overviews: it’s free, it offers the additional benefit of ranking well in Google, and it provides additional exposure to your products through their huge community, allowing people to discover your business via native search and suggested videos.

1.3 YouTube for creating alternative traffic and exposure channels

YouTube has huge marketing potential that businesses in most niches just cannot afford to ignore: it serves as a great discovery engine.

Imagine your video being suggested next after your competitor’s product review. Imagine your competitors’ customers stumbling across your video comparison when searching for an alternative service on Youtube.

Just being there increases your chances of getting found.

Again, it’s not easy to reach the YouTube Top 10, but for specific low-competition queries it’s quite doable.

Note: To be able to build traffic from inside your YouTube videos, you need to build up your channel to 10,000 public overall views to qualify to become a YouTube partner. Once approved, you’ll be able to add clickable links to your site from within your videos using cards and actually build up your own site traffic via video views.

2. Develop a video editorial calendar

As with any type of content, video content requires a lot of brainstorming, organizing, and planning.

My regular routine when it comes to creating an editorial calendar is as follows:

  1. Start with keyword research
  2. Use question research to come up with more specific ideas
  3. Use seasonality to come up with timing for each piece of content
  4. Allocate sufficient time for production and promotion

You can read about my exact editorial process here. Here’s a sample of my content roadmap laying out a major content asset for each month of the year, based on keyword research and seasonality:

Content roadmap

For keyword and question research I use Serpstat because they offer a unique clustering feature. For each keyword list you provide, they use the Google search results page to identify overlapping and similar URLs, evaluate how related different terms in your list are, and based on that, cluster them into groups.

Keyword clustering

This grouping makes content planning easier, allowing you to see the concepts behind keyword groups and put them into your roadmap based on seasonality or other factors that come into play (e.g. is there a slot/gap you need to fill? Are there company milestones or events coming up?).

Depending on how much video content you plan to create, you can set up a separate calendar or include videos in your overall editorial calendar.

When creating your roadmap, keep your goals in mind, as well. Some videos, such as testimonials and product reviews, won’t be based on your keyword research but still need to be included in the roadmap.

3. Proceed to video production

Video production can be intimidating, especially if you have a modest budget, but these days it’s much easier and more affordable than you’d imagine.

Keeping lower-budget campaigns in mind, here are few types of videos and tools you can try out:

3.1 In-house video production

You can actually handle much of your video production in-house without the need to set up a separate room or purchase expensive gadgets.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Put together high-quality explanatory videos using Animatron (starts at $ 15/month): Takes a day or so to get to know all the available tools and options, but after that the production goes quite smoothly
  • Create beautiful visual testimonials, promo videos, and visual takeaways using Animoto ($ 8/month): You don’t need much time to learn to use it; it’s very easy and fun.
  • Create video tutorials using iMovie (free for Mac users): It will take you or your team about a week to properly figure out all its options, but you’ll get there eventually.
  • Create video interviews with niche influencers using Blue Jeans (starts at $ 12.49/month)
  • Create (whiteboard) presentations using ClickMeeting (starts at $ 25/month): Host a webinar first, then use the video recording as a permanent brand asset. ClickMeeting will save your whiteboard notes and let you reuse them in your article. You can brand your room to show your logo and brand colors in the video. Record your entire presentation using presentation mode, then upload them to your channel.


3.2 How to affordably outsource video production

The most obvious option for outsourcing video production is a site like Fiverr. Searching its gigs will actually give you even more ideas as to what kinds of videos you might create. While you may get burned there a few times, don’t let it discourage you — there are plenty of creative people who can put together awesome videos for you.

Another great idea is to reach out to YouTube bloggers in your niche. Some of them will be happy to work for you, and as a bonus you’ll be rewarded with additional exposure from their personal branding and social media channels.

I was able to find a great YouTube blogger to work for my client for as low as $ 75 per video; those videos were of top quality and upload-ready.

There’s lots of talent out there: just spend a few weeks searching and reaching out!

4. Optimize each video page

When uploading your videos to YouTube, spend some time optimizing each one. Add ample content to each video page, including a detailed title, a detailed description (at least 300–500 characters), and a lot of tags.

  • Title of the video: Generally, a more eye-catching and detailed title including:
    • Your core term/focus keyword (if any)
    • Product name and your brand name
    • The speaker’s name when applicable (for example, when you post interviews). This may include their other identifiable personal brand elements, such as their Twitter handle
    • Event name and hashtag (when applicable)
    • City, state, country (especially if you’re managing a local business)
  • Description of the video: The full transcript of the video. This can be obtained via services such as Speechpad.
  • A good readable and eye-catching thumbnail: These can be created easily using a tool like Canva.

Use a checklist:

Youtube SEO checklist

5. Generate clicks and engagement

Apart from basic keyword matching using video title and description, YouTube uses other video-specific metrics to determine how often the video should be suggested next to related videos and how high it should rank in search results.

Here’s an example of how that might work:

The more people that view more than the first half of your video, the better. If more than 50% of all your video viewers watched more than 50% of the video, YouTube would assume your video is high quality, and so it could pop up in “suggested” results next to or at the end of other videos. (Please note: These numbers are examples, made up using my best judgment. No one knows the exact percentage points YouTube is using, but you get the general idea of how this works.)

That being said, driving “deep” views to your videos is crucial when it comes to getting the YouTube algorithm to favor you.

5.1 Create a clickable table of contents to drive people in

Your video description and/or the pinned comment should have a clickable table of contents to draw viewers into the video. This will improve deep views into the video, which are a crucial factor in YouTube rankings.

Table of contents

5.2 Use social media to generate extra views

Promoting your videos on social media is an easy way to bring in some extra clicks and positive signals.

5.2.1 First, embed the video to your site

Important: Embed videos to your web page and promote your own URL instead of the actual YouTube page. This approach has two important benefits:

  • Avoid auto-plays: Don’t screw up your YouTube stats! YouTube pages auto-play videos by default, so if you share a YouTube URL on Twitter, many people will click and immediately leave (social media users are mostly lurkers). However, if you share your page with the video embedded on it, it won’t play until the user clicks to play. This way you’ll ensure the video is played only by people who seriously want to watch it.
  • Invest time and effort into your own site promotion instead of marketing the youtube.com page: Promoting your own site URL with the video embedded on it, you can rest assured that more people will keep interacting with your brand rather than leave to watch other people’s videos from YouTube suggested results.

There are also plenty of ways to embed YouTube videos naturally in your blog and offer more exposure. Look at some of these themes, for example, for ideas to display videos in ways that invite views and engagement.

Video sharing WordPress

5.2.2 Use tools to partially scale social media promotion

For better, easier social media exposure, consider these options:

  • Investing in paid social media ads, especially Facebook ads, as they work best for engagement
  • Use recurring tweets to scale video promotion. There are a few tools you can try, such as DrumUp. Schedule the same update to go live several times on your chosen social media channels, generating more YouTube views from each repeated share. This is especially helpful for Twitter, because the lifespan of a tweet is just several minutes (between two and ten minutes, depending on how active and engaged your Twitter audience is). With recurring tweets, you’ll make sure that more of your followers see your update.

  • A project I co-founded, Viral Content Bee, can put your videos in front of niche influencers on the lookout for more content to share on their social media accounts.

5.3 Build playlists

By sorting your videos into playlists, you achieve two important goals:

  • Keeping your viewers engaged with your brand videos longer: Videos within one playlist keep playing on autopilot until stopped
  • Creating separate brand assets of their own: Playlist URLs are able to rank both in YouTube and Google search results, driving additional exposure to your videos and brand overall, as well as allowing you to control more of those search results:


Using playlists, you can also customize the look and feel of your YouTube channel more effectively to give your potential subscribers a glimpse into additional topics you cover:

Customize Youtube channel

Furthermore, by customizing the look of your YouTube channel, you transform it into a more effective landing page, highlighting important content that might otherwise get lost in the archives.

6. Monitor your progress

6.1 Topvisor

Topvisor is the only rank tracker I am aware of that monitors YouTube rankings. You’ll have to create a new project for each of your videos (which is somewhat of a pain), but you can monitor multiple keywords you’re targeting for each video. I always monitor my focus keyword, my brand name, and any other specific information I’m including in the video title (like location and the speaker’s name):


6.2 YouTube Analytics

YouTube provides a good deal of insight into how your channel and each individual video is doing, allowing you to build on your past success.

  • You’ll see traffic sources, i.e. where the views are coming from: suggested videos, YouTube search, external (traffic from websites and apps that embed your videos or link to them on YouTube), etc.
  • The number of times your videos were included in viewers’ playlists, including favorites, for the selected date range, region, and other filters. This is equal to additions minus removals.
  • Average view duration for each video.
  • How many interactions (subscribers, likes, comments) every video brought.

Youtube Analytics

You can see the stats for each individual video, as well as for each of your playlists.

6.3 Using a dashboard for the full picture

If you produce at least one video a month, you may want to set up a dashboard to get an overall picture of how your YouTube channel is growing.

Cyfe (disclaimer: as of recently, Cyfe is a content marketing client of mine) is a tool that offers a great way to keep you organized when it comes to tracking your stats across multiple platforms and assets. I have a separate dashboard there which I use to keep an eye on my YouTube channels.

Cyfe Youtube


Building a YouTube channel is hard work. You’re likely to see little or no activity for weeks at a time, maybe even months after you start working on it. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s a big platform with lots of opportunity, and if you keep working consistently, you’ll see your views and engagement steadily growing.

Do you have a YouTube channel? What are you doing to build it up and increase its exposure? Let us know in the comments.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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The Upside of Setting Outrageous Goals


This week’s guest on The Digital Entrepreneur is determined. His goal is to help five billion people with their efforts to grow their businesses. How?

He’s doing so by sharing as much content as he possibly can and by providing valuable services to purpose-driven companies.

He strives to be wealthy, not just in material things, but also with connections to make the world a better place …

In this 46-minute episode, Brandon Lewin and I discuss:

  • The biggest benefit he derives from being a digital entrepreneur
  • Why he finds it imperative to “give away” all the information he possibly can
  • His story on how he got the taste for entrepreneurship at a young age
  • What led him to the realization that he never wanted to work for anybody else
  • The milestone that he’s most proud of as a digital entrepreneur
  • How he consciously chooses the right people to work with to create his “A-Team”
  • How marketing automation has benefited his business

And much more.

Plus, Brandon answers my patented rapid-fire questions at the end of the episode, which unveiled a couple common interests that we share. Don’t miss it.

Listen to this Episode Now

The post The Upside of Setting Outrageous Goals appeared first on Copyblogger.


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SearchCap: Google Location Setting, Save Google Images & Thanksgiving Search Spend

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google Location Setting, Save Google Images & Thanksgiving Search Spend appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Social Media Marketing: Setting expectations both internally and externally [Video]

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, discover two strategies for preventing social media fails from Andrew Jones, Industry Analyst, Altimeter Group. The key is managing expectations both internally, and also externally. Watch this video from the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE to learn how to address, and prevent, social media fails.

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Setting Up 4 Key Customer Loyalty Metrics in Google Analytics

Posted by Tom.Capper

Customer loyalty is one of the strongest assets a business can have, and one that any can aim to improve. However, improvement requires iteration and testing, and iteration and testing require measurement.

Traditionally, customer loyalty has been measured using customer surveys. The
Net Promoter Score, for example, is based on the question (on a scale of one to ten) “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”. Regularly monitoring metrics like this with any accuracy is going to get expensive (and/or annoying to customers), and is never going to be hugely meaningful, as advocacy is only one dimension of customer loyalty. Even with a wider range of questions, there’s also some risk that you end up tracking what your customers claim about their loyalty rather than their actual loyalty, although you might expect the two to be strongly correlated.

Common mistakes

Google Analytics and other similar platforms collect data that could give you more meaningful metrics for free. However, they don’t always make them completely obvious – before writing this post, I checked to be sure there weren’t any very similar ones already published, and I found some fairly dubious reoccurring recommendations. The most common of these was
using % of return visitors as a sole or primary metric for customer loyalty. If the percentage of visitors to your site who are return visitors drops, there are plenty of reasons that could be behind that besides a drop in loyalty—a large number of new visitors from a successful marketing campaign, for example. Similarly, if the absolute number of return visitors rises, this could be as easily caused by an increase in general traffic levels as by an increase in the loyalty of existing customers.

Visitor frequency is another easily misinterpreted metric; 
infrequent visits do not always indicate a lack of loyalty. If you were a loyal Mercedes customer, and never bought any car that wasn’t a new Mercedes, you wouldn’t necessarily visit their website on a weekly basis, and someone who did wouldn’t necessarily be a more loyal customer than you.

The metrics

Rather than starting with the metrics Google Analytics shows us and deciding what they mean about customer loyalty (or anything else), a better approach is to decide what metrics you want, then deciding how you can replicate them in Google Analytics.

To measure the various dimensions of (online) customer loyalty well, I felt the following metrics would make the most sense:

  • Proportion of visitors who want to hear more
  • Proportion of visitors who advocate
  • Proportion of visitors who return
  • Proportion of macro-converters who convert again

Note that a couple of these may not be what they initially seem. If your registration process contains an awkwardly worded checkbox for email signup, for example, it’s not a good measure of whether people want to hear more. Secondly, “proportion of visitors who return” is not the same as “proportion of visitors who are return visitors.”

1. Proportion of visitors who want to hear more

This is probably the simplest of the above metrics, especially if you’re already tracking newsletter signups as a micro-conversion. If you’re not, you probably should be, so see Google’s guidelines for event tracking using the
analytics.js tracking snippet or Google Tag Manager, and set your new event as a goal in Google Analytics.

2. Proportion of visitors who advocate

It’s never possible to track every public or private recommendation, but there are two main ways that customer advocacy can be measured in Google Analytics: social referrals and social interactions. Social referrals may be polluted as a customer loyalty metric by existing campaigns, but these can be segmented out if properly tracked, leaving the social acquisition channel measuring only organic referrals.

Social interactions can also be tracked in Google Analytics, although surprisingly, with the exception of Google+, tracking them does require additional code on your site. Again, this is probably worth tracking anyway, so if you aren’t already doing so, see Google’s guidelines for
analytics.js tracking snippets, or this excellent post for Google Tag Manager analytics implementations.

3. Proportion of visitors who return

As mentioned above, this isn’t the same as the proportion of visitors who are return visitors. Fortunately, Google Analytics does give us a feature to measure this.

Even though date of first session isn’t available as a dimension in reports, it can be used as a criteria for custom segments. This allows us to start building a data set for how many visitors who made their first visit in a given period have returned since.

There are a couple of caveats. First, we need to pick a sensible time period based on our frequency and recency data. Second, this data obviously takes a while to produce; I can’t tell how many of this month’s new visitors will make further visits at some point in the future.

In Distilled’s case, I chose 3 months as a sensible period within which I would expect the vast majority of loyal customers to visit the site at least once. Unfortunately, due to the 90-day limit on time periods for this segment, this required adding together the totals for two shorter periods. I was then able to compare the number of new visitors in each month with how many of those new visitors showed up again in the subsequent 3 months:

As ever with data analysis, the headline figure doesn’t tell the story. Instead, it’s something we should seek to explain. Looking at the above graph, it would be easy to conclude “Distilled’s customer loyalty has bombed recently; they suck.” However, the fluctuation in the above graph is mostly due to the enormous amount of organic traffic that’s been generated by
Hannah‘s excellent blog post 4 Types of Content Every Site Needs.

Although many new visitors who discovered the Distilled site through this blog post have returned since, the return rate is unsurprisingly lower than some of the most business-orientated pages on the site. This isn’t a bad thing—it’s what you’d expect from top-of-funnel content like blog posts—but it’s a good example of why it’s worth keeping an eye out for this sort of thing if you want to analyse these metrics. If I wanted to dig a little deeper, I might start by segmenting this data to get a more controlled view of how new visitors are reacting to Distilled’s site over time.

4. Proportion of macro-converters who convert again

While a standard Google Analytics implementation does allow you to view how many users have made multiple purchases, it doesn’t allow you to see how these fell across their sessions. Similarly, if you can see how many users have had two sessions and two goal conversions, but you can’t see whether those conversions were in different visits, it’s entirely possible that some had one accidental visit that bounced, and one visit with two different conversions (note that you cannot perform the same conversion twice in one session).

It would be possible to create custom dimensions for first (and/or second, third, etc.) purchase dates using internal data, but this is a complex and site-specific implementation. Unfortunately, for the time being, I know of no good way of documenting user conversion patterns over multiple sessions using only Google Analytics, despite the fact that it collects all the data required to do this.


These are only my favourite customer loyalty metrics. If you have any that you’re already tracking or are unsure how to track, please explain in the comments below.

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Setting Up Your SEO Project / Agency for Success

Posted by RonGarrett

For the past 1.5 years, I have been the Client Development Executive for Distilled's NYC office. I helped open this office in June 2011, and at the time we were struggling as an office because we had few leads, minimal recognition in NYC, and massive competition from both local bespoke agencies and larger full-service agencies. Within 6 months, I was able to ensure the SEO consultants were at full capacity.

Currently, my role entails working with both amazing big brands and innovative startups to help Distilled consultants solve pain points and define scalable solutions (usually not pertinent to SEO). Over the past year, I've come to find that most of the problems within companies have little to do with SEO. Instead, most of them involve dealing with people and problem solving in order to get things done. This realization has made a positive impact both on Distilled and on our clients. I've found that often times speaking the language of the clients and addressing their specific needs is the driving key to success for any SEO project.
This post was written for SEOs who are client-facing and those who manage their own agencies. Below are some of the common themes I've encountered and how I would manage each situation and set it up for success.

For SEOs: how to set up your project for success

Why the cycle of sadness is so important

I'm going to start off with something to wake everyone up. The first touch point for any new prospect is generally sales. I can't stress this enough. Although every organization has its own inefficiencies, the first step in the process is often times the most important. Think back to a time when you took on the wrong client, the wrong project, undersold the scope of work yet still had to deliver on it, or didn't set up a proper handover. You have a brief window of time to qualify, mine information, set the client's expectations, and hand over the project to the SEO. It's even tougher if you are the one selling and delivering the project. It's a never ending cycle of sadness, so it's imperative to try and get it right the first time around.

Cycle of Sadness

A few ways to mitigate the cycle of sadness are as follows, and more detailed information about all these points are broken down throughout the rest of the post:

  • Ask lots of questions and repeat back the information that was provided by the client to ensure you have an accurate picture of their organization.
  • Request examples from the client's work that they think represents their best content, relationships for outreach, PR, etc… so you can match their definition of excellence against yours. This will mitigate risk when talking about leveraging their teams assets versus your own.
  • Get a consultant to do a quick sample audit of their site (I usually ask for 20 – 30 minutes of their time) to identify major opportunities and how those opportunities will end up being prioritized in a first stage project plan.
  • If you are new to putting together costs, it's always wise to get your numbers and hours to deliver the project cross-checked by a colleague you trust. If you are proposing work that you are weaker in and need to to research and prep, try to be transparent about that with the client and account for those costs. You can make up for this on the back end once you become super efficient at delivering this type of work.
  • Make sure you document everything and centralize it for sharing with your colleagues or referencing at a later date. Spend some time cleaning up the data and making it easy to find and read through.
  • Push back on clients who are asking for things that aren't in line with the way you do business or that you don't feel comfortable doing. Whatever you do, don't become a yes man or woman. If the client is asking you for something you aren't sure about, take some extra time to research, ask questions, and budget in enough time for you to be able to sufficiently deliver the work.

How to build relationships with clients (the right way)

  • Be likable / personable – It is so important to let your personality shine through when talking with the client, whether it's on the phone or by email. We encourage being personable in our responses and letting a bit of humor shine through. It really gets the client to open up and be more direct in their communication.
  • Be professional – Before communicating with the client, always do a level of due diligence to streamline the process, whether it's doing a bit of research, thinking about their considerations, cleaning up your notes, sending over a meeting agenda, reiterating next steps via email, etc. Having a buttoned-up approach to business that shows that you are prepared and have taken the clients considerations into account before actioning something goes a long way.
  • Be effective – The challenge with this one is that effective can take on many definitions. It's important to deeply understand the strategy you have laid out for the client, and make sure that when you apply time towards delivery of the project, that you are prepared, focused, and set up for success. Here are some of the ways I try to stay effective:
  • Make sure I'm getting enough sleep at night
  • Take breaks throughout the day
  • Time boxing (set a certain amount of time to get one thing done and limit yourself to that time)
  • Keep your energy levels up by snacking / eating meals throughout the day
  • Be helpful - Never stop reading. When you have a client in a particular sector or targeting a specific demographic, start reading sites that will help you stay up to date on what is going on. It's also particularly helpful when you stumble across an article that talks about what your client's main competitors are doing, so you can gain intel and share that with your client. You can also take on a subset of responsibilities that your client would have to fulfill otherwise to help them out so they can focus on other things. The great thing about being helpful is, it's often times greatly appreciated.
  • Be transparent - Don't just be transparent about the good stuff; get comfortable delivering the bad news as well. It can be very challenging to deliver bad news to a client, push back a deadline, or not be happy with the first iteration of your work and tell them that, but the more open and honest you can be with them, the more open and honest they will be with you. It also sets the precedence for them to trust you more.
  • Be proactive – This can be challenging as well, especially when you have a never ending list of things to accomplish before noon, but always look for ways to be proactive instead of reactive. One of the largest complaints I receive from clients when I ask them why they are leaving their previous agency is that the agency wasn't being proactive enough. The client was finding things out after the fact on their own instead of hearing it directly from the SEO / Agency. You can even try scheduling something into your calendar as a bit of forward-thinking research time or brainstorming with your team. You can take the output of what you research or brainstorm and deliver to the client. Clients love to know that you put thought into their success and wellbeing without them asking for it.

Helping to define the KPIs and ROI of a project

Work with the client to define the primary business objectives (the life blood of the organization) and the terminology they use to describe them. Ask them what marketing metrics they are currently tracking and how closely those metrics are being associated back to the primary business objectives. Understand the different types of conversions they care about, and how they are currently tracking and monitoring those. I will then ask how they have tracked ROI in the past, and if tracking ROI for this project will function any differently now. Then, I offer up common measurements of ROI I have used with previous clients if they do not have a well developed model for ROI for their business yet. I also educate them on the benefits softer metrics can have on a business's success. 
Examples of soft ROI metrics include:
  • Helping the client mitigate risk
  • Hiring new employees
  • Training existing staff
  • Providing the client data that helps form a new strategy 

This can all be seen as ROI, but is much more difficult to measure the impact of.

Ensuring an SEO project is set up for success internally and externally

How SEOs should kick off a project
  • Get a full project brief / handover from the individual that worked with the client before signing.
  • Always budget in time (1-2 hours) to do some preliminary research before kicking off the project. This should include taking a look at all of the different stake holders in the project, making sense of the project brief/handover from the individual (ask questions/get clarification), and taking a look at the client site/blog/PR/News/etc. to get a good snapshot of where they currently are.
  • Define 2-3 topic points you can bring up during the kickoff to establish credibility, expertise, and confidence in how prepared you are to succeed with the project.
  • Take full advantage of the knowledge and expertise your point of contact has in working in house during the kickoff call. Do not stop with surface level questions, but when you get a response and want to know more about a particular aspect, make sure you ask more specific questions. EX: "I noticed when you were talking about X you mentioned Y. What did you mean by Y? Oh, that's very interesting, how would you define Z? I would love to have a deeper understanding of that last part we talked about. Would you mind unpacking that for me?"
  • Take rigorous notes, or have somebody who isn't leading the call take notes.
  • Clearly define next steps off the back of the call. Because the client is going to have expectations (they are now paying you and waiting to see what you can do), it's best to have the next steps pre-determined before hopping on the call and setting their expectations, or letting them know you will compile all of the information they have provided you during the kickoff and put together a more detailed project delivery plan for the next few weeks and send it over by no later than "INSERT DATE".

Kick Off Meeting Agenda

Because you only get so much time with the client on the kickoff call, I would suggest spending most of your time listening, asking great questions, and taking in as much information as you can. The more time you talk about yourself, the less information you will get. Let the client know at the beginning of the call that should they have any questions about how something will work, they should feel free to stop and ask throughout the meeting.
Make sure that before you leave the kickoff call, you do a quick recap so their expectations are set on what happens next. Make sure if there are any dependencies on them, that you are explicit about them during the call, and that you will send over a quick email after the call outlining them.

How to retain clients

Client retention is one of the most important metrics we look at in our agency. I have put together a few things that I have noticed increases the client retention across the board.
  • Do enough discovery at the beginning to make sure you are working on the right things and providing immense value as early in the project as possible. Defining a strategy and a plan for execution is important in making sure you are working on the high value activity more often times than not.
  • It's also important to have a clear project roadmap that can be easily updated and found by both parties.This is important because it keeps everybody on the same page, and represents the most updated path to success for the project. Make it easy for the client to find. I often times find using a shared Google Doc does the trick. 

SEO Roadmap

  • Make sure you have at least 3-6 months built out to ensure enough visibility to what you are going to be providing the client. This will put them at ease knowing that we are building towards a bigger vision while hitting milestones along the way.
  • Have quarterly reviews with your clients where you can bring in a third-party person who is not closely tied to the day-to-day activity (in most cases the Client Development Executive). This happens in order to get perspective on the success of the project, the direction it's heading, and ideas on areas we can make improvements. During quarterly reviews, I will normally pick a set of 5 areas of the project and have the client grade us between 1-10. They are:
  • Account management
  • Project management
  • Communication
  • Results
  • Happiness
For the areas where the client says below a 10 (which will happen more times than not), I ask them what we can do differently to go from our current score to a 10. This will give more granularity as to how they think we can make improvements.
It's important to always have your hand on the pulse of the client's organization. If and when things change, it is in the account manager's best interest to have a deep understanding of what things changed, what drove the change, why it's important, and who it's going to impact. This gives you the opportunity to act / react to the situation accordingly.
Make it very simple for your client to track and measure results by configuring dashboards in Analytics. From here, you can also help them set up GeckoBoard inside their organization so you can share all of the major KPIs you are working to influence easy to read and see. This gamifies the stats you and your client care about and creates additional awareness. There are different forms of reporting that can be effective too. I am a big fan of using really nicely designed letterhead from a word document to create and send Executive Summaries. This is the information the Executive Team could want to know.
Build meaningful relationships with multiple stake holders within the organization. It's important to build relationships to increase surface area within the organization (eliminates you having one point of failure should something change). It's also important to continue building relationships with your clients executive team and up. Never forget about your internal champions, the people that just want to be the samurai and get things done. A great way to get additional buy in is to invite people out from your client's office (if they are nearby) for drinks and dinner. There is no better way to get the inside scoop and build a stronger relationship then hanging out outside the office. Also look for ways to make the in-house individuals of your client look good. Helping those who hired you look good and get raises is a great way to build loyal clients and develop a partnership between the two companies.
Last but not least, never stop advocating for things that will improve the relationship, the value of the work done together, or building a better project. A lot of clients are fearful that their SEO/Agency will get lazy and start coasting 6 – 8 months, which is why so many companies switch agencies from year to year. Always look for opportunities to improve the existing roadmap of work together. Be sure to create awareness around the things you've done to pro-actively set the client up for success. This builds trust. Work on pre-delivering a roadmap and ideas on where they can allocate their budget for next year to help alleviate some of the work your point of contact may have to do (they will appreciate this). Actively communicate the steps you are taking in order to retain their business. Consistently talk about how important and meaningful this client relationship is to you and the organization, and how much you appreciate the chance to work with them.


How to speak to a CEO or a high level marketing director, specifically if you need a bigger budget

Send him or her an email to pre-deliver what you need from them, give them a clear why to get buy-in for the meeting, get dates / times lined up, and always use a slide presentation to express new ideas at the executive level. Usually, I work closely with an SEO to put together this pitch deck, but Ian Lurie of Portent shared one of the proposals that I wrote in "build a compelling case and start with the why." As long as there is a clear value proposition, getting additional budget should be pretty straightforward assuming they have budget left to invest in these channels.
Email pre-delivering the opportunity. See below for an example:
Dear Mr. or Mrs. "NAME",
I had an opportunity to review our current project with my colleagues, and we have identified an opportunity (opportunities) I would like to share with you that could create a lot of value for your organization. I understand you are very busy, so to make best use of your time, I will put together a PowerPoint presentation which we can present to you during our meeting sometime this week or next. This expansion of the project is likely to result in an increased budget, which is why we wanted to get your feedback and ideas on the matter. Do you have a few days and times that work nicely?

For those who manage their own agency or are head of sales of an SEO agency

How to determine whether a client is right for you

Before I can determine whether a client is a good fit for our company, I request setting up a first call that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour so that I can better understand their business. Below are the questions that I make sure are answered during the call.
  • "What is the URL for your domain? I want to make sure I have it up while we talk further."
  • Once I have their domain up, I will do a quick review of their site to see if their SEO is nonexistent, basic, intermediate, or advanced and try to get a sense of where they could use the most support. This will give me talking points for later in the call.
  • "Tell me a brief history of the company [I would have already conducted an initial research of the company before any call, but I want to see how my perception matches up to what the prospective client says], how it got started, where the organization is as a whole right now, and what the plans are for the foreseeable future."
  • I will specifically take a look at the site's PR / news section to see the topics of interest they are most interested in talking about. This will give me perspective into the things they are most proud to shout about.
  • "What is your role at the organization?"
  • By this time, I will have already dropped their email address into Gmail, hovered over it with my chrome plugin Rapportive, and found all the social networks associated with their email account. I generally like checking out LinkedIn, About.me (if they have one), and any personal blog to get insights into their professional track record, personality, likes, and dislikes).
  • "How did you get started a this company?" (This is a great ice breaker. It gives them a chance to open up about themselves and tell you a story. This may give you talking points that you can use as part of a follow up conversation).
  • "How long have you been at the organization?" (This will give you quick reference as to whether or not you need to expand your reach within an organization and how quickly).
  • "Why SEO now?" (If they don't elaborate as to their previous SEO experience and use of agencies, make sure you elaborate on that with them).
Here are a few common themes that have popped up during the first initial sales conversation and how I would respond to their inquiry:
Scenario 1: "We were searching for SEO companies through Google and we wanted to find out more information about your services and company."
My response:
You show them your appreciation for the individual selecting and calling your company, and that you are willing to dedicate as much time as they need to make the best decision possible for their organization. This puts them at ease and reassures them that you are willing to help them for the right reasons, and not sell to them. Be a friendly expert, not a used car salesmen.
Scenario 2: "We have done some minor title tag changes and meta descriptions, and we would like to use your company for link building." (This generally means that they may have read a few articles on SEOmoz and/or other SEO blogs, but when it comes to doing information architecture changes for the purposes of SEO, removal of duplicate content, 301 redirects, URL restructuring and setting up tracking and segments in Analytics probably hasn't been tackled.)
My response:
With the technical SEO implementation you have done to date, is this something you would be open to our team reviewing? Most often times they say yes. You can also go back over the site at a later date to spot technical, on page, IA opportunities. I will then discuss our methodology and guidelines for linkbuilding. Because of the updates that have impacted some websites link profile, I think it's important to paint a picture for why our method of linkbuilding meets Google guidelines and talk about the subtle nuances of how we accomplish this.
Scenario 3: "We have built our business off of paid search, and we want to expand our visibility into organic search. Can you help us?" (This generally means I will start by educating them about SEO, and how we can learn the current keywords that are converting in AdWords, do some additional keyword search, and define a strategy for growing their organic traffic)
My response:
I will request access to their AdWords account or get an export of their converting keywords, and save it for the SEO/Paid Search consultant to have a look and go into discussing our services and how we can apply the existing keyword knowledge to supporting their SEO efforts.
Scenario 4: "We have worked or working with another SEO /Agency currently and we are looking to switch partners/vendors. What does your company offer, what does a standard engagement look like, and what are your costs?"
My Response:
I need to fully understand the situation in order to set up it up for success. Some of the questions I'd ask include:
  • What type of work did you do with your current / previous SEO / Agency?
  • What made you decide to transition at this time?
  • How many SEO / Agencies has your business worked with in total? (this normally gives me an indicator as to whether or not the client could be a bad client and their SEO/Agency fired them, or they had mismanaged expectations of the work.)
  • What would your existing SEO / Agency needed to do differently to keep your business? If you select our company as your next SEO / Agency, and you could wave a magic wand and get the type of relationship and results from working together that you wanted, what would that look like? I generally try to keep digging on that last question for as much detail as I can. People aren't used to being asked if I could have anything I wanted, what would I ask for.

Turning away a project that is not right for the agency / freelancer

Accepting a project that is not a good fit for your company can lead to an unhappy client, wasted money and resources, disgruntled employees, and massive pain points for all involved, which ultimately can damage the company's culture. However, every lead is an opportunity, and sometimes they are few and far between. Bottom line is you can't make this type of decision until you have a full understanding of the entire situation.
Image courtesy of SmallBizTrends
In this instance, it is important to have done your best to understand the potential client's requests, needs, and considerations before turning them away. I also spend time trying to educate the potential client to make sure value is created one way or another. If they do not have the budget necessary or they continue asking for the wrong things or unethical tactics, or you feel like the culture of the two companies would be a bad match, the best thing you can do is be gracious and honest.
Pro tip: unless the client is an absolute nightmare and you have no intention of working with them again (even in the future), always be sure to leave an open door in your communication to come back in case they reconcile the reason you turned them away to begin with. This will give them a second chance.
Scenario 1: The client doesn't have the budget to work with you given your standard rates and is unable to get more at this time.
My sample response:
Dear "Insert Client Name",
We really appreciate the time you have spent with us discuss your interest in working together. Unfortunately at this time we do not feel like our organization would be a good fit at the budget we discussed given the scope of work. I would be happy to make a personal introduction to a colleague of mine who might be able to help you. They have communicated to me that they do take on clients in your budget range.  His / Her name is "Insert Name" and he / she is the "Insert Title" of "Insert Company Name". Please feel free to use me as a resource should you have any questions or would like to re-open the conversation of working together in the future.
Scenario 2: The client is not a good cultural fit, and you think it would put too much strain on the success of the project.
My sample response:
Dear Client,
Thank you again for making time to speak with me this past week. I had an opportunity to speak to my colleagues and after much discussion, we have decided that we would like to respectfully decline bidding on this project / campaign at this time. Although the project campaign would have been great to work on, we feel like there is just too big of a discrepancy between team dynamics/company culture, and because we work very hands on, we see this as creating challenges. {Discuss the areas where the team dynamics / company culture broke down so the client has a path for correction}. We are still open to the idea of working together in the future, but in order for it to work, these are the things we would need to work through in order to discuss next steps. Please let us know if you have any questions. I'm happy to discuss it in more detail on a call if you like. Thanks in advance for your understanding, and we wish you much luck on this project!
Scenario 3: The client continuously pushes their agenda to work on things that will either have little to no impact on their success or asks for things that your company doesn't feel comfortable delivering. In this instance, I would make sure I work to educate the client and try to get them on track with asking for more of the right things.
My sample response:
Hop on the phone with the potential client, give them one final opportunity to explain their position. Be explicit about what will and will not work with their proposed project plan. Then, try and educate them on why it will or will not work out for the purposes of the engagement. If you still feel like the project or relationship is not in a good place by the end of the conversation, be very candid with them. Let them know you appreciate all of their time, but you don't think working together based on the real reasons is the best fit for your organization at this time. I know it can be tough to say this, but just remember people will respect you in the long run for being honest with them and not sugar coating things. It also gives them a clear path the correction should they change their mind. After the call, it's always important to send a quick recap email to have a transcript of the call to refer back to.
Dear Client,
Thank you again for making time for the call. Even though we were unable to come to an agreement on this project at this time due to "insert reason," please let me know if you have any further questions about it down the line.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, when you sign on a new client, you are creating an agreement between two parties. The better picture you can create for what the client expects, keep a pulse on if expectations change, and make sure you are proactively working to deliver value and communicate in a transparent way, the greater the chance of retaining and upselling your clients. You will notice there were common threads throughout my post that are good things to keep in mind when working with a client.
  • Are you being honest, transparent, proactive, and delivering on the original or updated agreement you signed with your client?
  • Do they have a clear picture of what is to come next?
  • Can you provide them with a unique value proposition that will make them look look good that they can't find anywhere else?

This is easier said than done, but hopefully the examples of emails and types of responses I give in particular situations will help you through these times. I really appreciate you all taking the time to read this post, and please feel free to ask any questions below in the comments! Happy Mozzing :)

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Are You Setting Up WordPress For SEO Success?

Posted by evolvingSEO

Or do you find yourself feeling a bit like Gary Coleman

what chu talkin bout wordpress

He is talking about WordPress, yes?

If you've ever tried to optimize WordPress for SEO success you've probably said those exact words at some point… some crazy theme breaks something, or a plugin crashes the whole site, or in terms of SEO you get 971 duplicate pages back from your crawl report. 

But I don't think your troubles with WordPress are your fault entirely. I've been there too when I was first learning it! Gary Coleman has been there. But this post is an opportunity to move on from that…

Let's Wipe That Gary Coleman Look Off Your Face!

There's a lot of well meaning yet misguided info out there. After over two years of battling with (umm… using…) WordPress, I know it can be tricky and frustrating at times, and so I wanted to create a guide that might help clear some of this up.

I'm not here to get into every single little detail and variation, but rather to spend time on the core WordPress features and give special focus on SEO related WordPress issues.

Five Goals of This Post

  1. Clear up some confusion about WordPress terminology
  2. Explain that WordPress, being a dynamic CMS, is built on relationships (as in "relational database") – and explain those relationships
  3. Show you some hands on, practical tips for setting up your WordPress site with an SEO focus
  4. Give you a few ways to cross check SEOmoz's crawler diagnostics with other sources
  5. Get rid of that 'ol Gary Coleman look!

For This Post, Let's Assume

  • We're running wordpress.org (the self hosted version)
  • This is a single author site (to keep it simple, although not hard to extend the concepts to multi-author)
  • We're not doing any ecommerce, photo galleries, or anything else you'd find in a more custom application of WordPress.
  • We're using Yoast's SEO for WordPress plugin.

Alright. Everyone ready? LET'S GO!! ….What Chu TALKIN' Bout WordPress?!

Part 1 – WordPress Terminology

  • Explanation of some of the most common terms

Regular Web "Page" vs. WordPress "Page"

Let's get really basic here for a minute, hope you don't mind. But I think a lot of people may confuse/interchange a WordPress page with a Web Page.

A web page is a single HTML document that exists at a unique URL. Even if the extension is .php or .asp. The underlying source code is still HTML. This is a WEB page. It does not matter HOW it was created – it loads in your browser as an HTML document and that's all you need to know. And for the rest of this post, when I say "web page" I'm talking about any HTML document existing at a URL.

But a WordPress page is WordPress's version of a "static" page. In fact, anytime you're talking about a page in the context of WordPress, put the word "static" before "page" = "static page" and it will always make more sense.

Pages vs. Posts

This is the second thing people either usually confuse, or have a hard time grasping. To your credit, I think it's confusing that they're put side by side in documentation, as if they're somehow similar. They're not at all!

post vs page

Note that pages and posts differ entirely in how they function.

  • A post is dated and "time-sensitive" and a page is not.
  • A post can belong to categories, tags, dates and authors and a page can not.
  • You can access a post from multiple pages – its category, tag, date or author.
  • A page is only accessible from where ever you link to it.

Some additional references about pages vs. posts:

Categories vs. Tags

Ah. Another sticky point for folks. Some may argue, but I think Yoast would agree. Categories are for your main 5-7 "buckets" of topics that your posts fall into. Tags are there to fine-tune categories, and are usually much more specific that categories.

categories vs tags

  • Also, you should NOT have a category that is the same as a tag or vice versa. Categories should all be unique from tags.
  • And, categories can have hierarchy and tags have no hierarchy.

Author Archives

author archives

Dated Archives

dated archives

  • Easy. Good.

Pagination (Subpages)


Yeah… why is this confusing? The only thing that doesn't paginate… are PAGES!!  ….WHAT CHU TALKIN' BOUT??'

Part 2 – Relationships In WordPress

  • This part will show you how the different elements within WordPress relate and interact with one another.

Pages – They're Static

Not much to 'splain here (I hope by now!).

  • Pages are like regular, non-blog pages on a website.
  • They can have a hierarchy.
  • They will not go into the RSS feed.

Use Pages For The Following Types Of Content

  • An "About Us" section
  • If a dentist, say a page about "dental implants" describing your service.
  • If a restaurant, your Menu Page.
  • Directions page
  • Fees page etc.


Think of "Many To Many" relationships in databases. 

post category relationship in wordpress

  • You can put a post in many categories. And of course a category can hold many posts.


post tag relationship in wordpress

  • You can put the same tag on many posts.

Date & Author Archives

date an author archives relationships

  • Dates are simple. If you view a date archive by month, all the posts from that month appear within that date archive.
  • For our single author blog setup, since every single posts is by the same author, that's what you'd get when viewing that archive (which is why we 301 redirect it to the blog homepage).

Accessing Posts

access posts from

  • This is showing you, you can arrive at the same post from multiple places.

recent of popular posts access

  • And this is showing you, for the most recent posts, or popular posts, sometimes there is a link in the sidebar – and of course the blog home IS a feed of the most recent posts.

Don't Forget Pagination (Subpages)!

subpages in wordpress

  • All of these web pages can have subpages off of them.

Bonus – For the Truly Geeky

I found this awesome template of the hierarchy within WordPress and loading a page. Not necessary to know for what we're doing here, and not 100% relevant either, but I found it really useful, especially if you like to know more about what's going on behind the scenes.

Part 3 – Best Practice Configuration

Any Decisions I Need To Make Up Front?

decide this stuff

This is sort of a "I wish I knew then" chart. Things that would be useful to know up front, such as;

  • Decide your categories at the beginning.
  • Decide what you want the homepage of your blog to be early on.
  • When you create a user account, choose the username wisely, because this is the URL and can not be changed afterwards (don't get stuck with "admin"!)

What Should Be Accessible To Users & Search Engines?


  • This chart is showing you what page types should be accessible to the user and to the search engines.
  • So unless otherwise noted, the page type can be indexed and followed.

What Links Go In What Menus?

where to link to from menus

This is the general rule of thumb I follow for deciding what links to put where. In general

  • I put pages and categories in main menus
  • I put categories, recent/popular posts, dated archives, and maybe tags in the sidebar/widget.

Where Do I Control URLs Titles & Descriptions?

url title and description control in wordpress

URL control can be confusing, because some are set in odd places, or called "slugs".

  • Page and Posts URLs get set within the page/post editor
  • Category and tag URLs get set in their respective menus under "slug"
  • Author URLs are the "username"

If you've got everything set up correctly, it should be EASY to get your titles and descriptions in check.

  • Title and description templates get set in Yoast
  • Titles and descriptions at the individual page/post level are set in that page/post editor with Yoast.
  • Need help writing a title? Use this post I did about writing titles.

Actual Setup


This is where things get tricky, because a lot of themes tend to break perfectly good WordPress install. Or they try to handle SEO stuff when they shouldn't. Or, you get a theme, and a plugin and WordPress all handling title tags and it becomes a mess.

DO use themes for design elements;

  • Colors
  • Fonts,
  • Page layout
  • Headers
  • Footers
  • Basic social media button stuff

Do NOT use themes for SEO stuff, such as

  • Indexation
  • Analytics codes
  • Titles and descriptions
  • RSS feeds
  • Menu structure (ideally this is done with WordPress Custom Menus)

Let the Yost SEO plugin handle this stuff! Shut off / do not use these types of SEO functions within the themes. 


There are two plugins I always install right away for pure SEO stuff;

I often see other plugins that try to set SEO settings – so be sure you're only managing SEO with one thing!

Configuring Yoast SEO

Titles & Descriptions

yoast title settings

  • Yoast SEO has the ability to assign a title and description template for every possible page, post and archive – so I advise using Yoast to manage all title and description templates.

As noted: Don't forget to update your header.php file to include the correct title code;

title in header for yoast seo

A note about the 'sitename' variable – this is the site title under settings>general

sitename yoast


indexation setting yoast seo

  • This follows all of the best practice procedure from above. Tag, author, and date archives will all look too similar to other content. So it does not make sense to have them indexed.
  • Please note: Want to reiterate – this is what I typically use for a standard WordPress setup – one author, standard blogging format, or a business website with a blog inside etc. You may find yourself in a different circumstance if you have multiple authors, ecommerce etc.
  • Also – if your blog has already existed for some time, and you've been indexing tags all along for example, you shouldn't just go deindexing them. Look in analytics, see how much traffic they might be bringing you, if that traffic is quality, and make a well thought out decision about if/how to move away from indexing tags.

archive and robots settings yoast seo

  • Since running a single author blog, disabling the author archives 301 redirects them back to the blog homepage. This is good for the engines AND the user since they look exactly the same.
  • I like letting users browse posts in the dated archives
  • Not best practice to add noodp/noydir to every page – but the plugin allows you to do it for individual pages/posts in the editor.

XML Sitemaps

xml sitemap in yoast

  • Make sure you don't have any other plugins or your theme handling the sitemap.
  • Check off what you don't want included in the XML sitemap. (This is usually the same as what you are NOT indexing).


permalink settings in yoast

  • One thing I LOVE about Yoast's plugin – you can strip /category/ off the folder structure for categories. AWESOME! You should definitely do this. If the site has already been indexed with /category/ redirects are automatically created.
  • You could redirect images to their parent post or page. I usually don't but it won't do any harm if you do.
  • Unless you're running something with https (secure pages) you can just leave canonical settings as default.

Part 4 – Diagnostics

gary coleman and duplicate seomoz pages

This is THE most common question we get in Q&A. Duplicate content issues. Basically I want to give you guys some extra tools and resources for checking duplicate content issues re: WordPress and the Moz crawl report.

A lot of folks get concerned when they see "47 duplicate page titles found" etc, and with understanding!

If you've set everything up as above correctly, there isn't a whole lot of room for error. But sometimes things happen and stuff breaks or we miss something.

And most times, no matter the issue, ensuring you have things setup as described above in the post, will fix things.

Step 1 – Check Google Webmaster Tools

Check webmaster tools. If they are not reporting duplicate page titles or descriptions, you probably have little to worry about. Moz might have picked up on pages that were crawlable but not being indexed. But definitely check back in with webmaster tools in a week or so (its healthy to check webmaster tools once a week anyway!)

Step 2 – Crawl With Screaming Frog

I honestly love the Moz crawl report. Its turned up some important things to fix for me at times. Yet I think its just smart with ANY tool to cross check, especially if it involves a big error like duplicate content.

Use the free version of Screaming Frog to crawl up to 500 pages (and the paid version is unlimited).

  1. Crawl the site
  2. Click on titles
  3. Select Duplicates
  4. You'll see a report like this:

duplicate titles subpages

In this case we can clearly see subpages are causing a lot of the duplicate title issues. 

Step 3 – Use Google Queries To See What's Indexed

Just because a crawler like Screaming Frog or the SEOmoz crawler crawls pages, does not mean they are indexed. Check Google's index to find out with these queries.

  • site:mydomain.com/blog – check for blog indexation
  • site:mydomain.com/category – check for category indexation (unless you've stripped from folder structure)
  • site:mydomain.com/tag – check to see what tags are indexed
  • site:mydomain.com/author – check to see if author archives are indexed
  • site:mydomain.com/2012 – check to see what dated archives from 2012
  • site:mydomain.com/ inurl:page – check for subpages being indexed (see example below)

subpages indexed query

Steps To Take If You Confirm Errors

If you also find errors in webmaster tools, screaming frog, or Google's index:

  1. Identify which page type it is (category, tag, dated archive, author archive, or subpages)
  2. Determine if the page should be indexed to begin with.
  3. If it should be indexed, make sure you have a setting in WordPress to generate unique titles/descriptions from the template.
  4. If it should NOT be indexed, block it using Yoast and be sure you don't have to do any 301 redirects

I know that's a little overly simplistic – it'd be tough to cover every possible variation of errors within this post – but that general framework is what I would advise to follow.

Part 5 – Do The Gary Coleman Dance

gary coleman wordpress dance

No seriously. I know WordPress can be challenging – but I hope this guide has helped give you a better understanding of its different functions, and how to resolve some common issues on your own.

I will answer some questions…

Got questions? If you lead them with "What chu talkin' bout!?" I'll answer (within reason – only short 3-4 sentence answers possible here). NO specific site questions here please, just general concept questions.

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Setting Up Actionable SEO Dashboards in the New Google Analytics

There have been many mixed reviews about the latest Google Analytics UI. Putting the frustration of having to learn a new UI aside (here’s a great guide to navigating the new Google Analytics interface), the new Google Analytics actually brings to the table great customization options. One of my favorites being custom dashboards.

Both the old and new interfaces offer a standard dashboard that acts as an overview of your analytics profile. But where the new UI has its advantage is with your ability to create your own dashboard – in fact, you can create up to 20 of them for each profile.

Creating Dashboards

The first thing we’ll want to do is click the “+ New Dashboard” link on the left navigation of your profile’s Home tab. Google will then ask you to name the dashboard and to choose either a “Blank Canvas” or a “Starter Dashboard.” The Starter Dashboard is just like the default dashboard you already have in Google Analytics, so let’s choose “Blank Canvas.” Now it’s time to populate your dashboard with widgets.

There are two ways you can customize your new dashboard:

  1. Use the “Add Widget” feature on your dashboard
  2. Navigate to the view you want in Google Analytics and click the “Add to Dashboard” link.

When you use the “Add Widget” feature, there are four types of widgets you can choose from:

  1. Metric – This will show you a single metric as well as a “sparkline” for that metric (which is basically a tiny line graph)
  2. Pie – Displays a breakdown of various metrics in pie chart form
  3. Timeline – A graph (only) of any metric (or compare two metrics) over any period of time
  4. Table – Your traditional Google Analytics table, but it can be customized to only display what you’ve setup (including filters)

You build each widget the same way you would segment/filter data in Google Analytics normally. The key here is saving the view to your dashboard so you can quickly login and review performance without having to set everything up again.

As you add more widgets to your custom dashboard, you can easily drag, drop and rearrange your widgets into one of the three dashboard columns.

Now that we know how to setup dashboards, let’s take a look at some useful SEO dashboards you should consider creating.

SEO Monitoring Dashboard

The purpose of this dashboard is simple: a quick look into the health of your SEO campaign.

Widget #1: Total Organic Non-Branded Keyword Traffic (Metric/Timeline)

With this metric/timeline widget, we’re simply wanting to look at our total number of organic, non-branded search traffic. Remember, with the metric widget, you can only look at a single metric. If you only want to see the total number of visits, add a metric widget. However, if you’d like to see the total visit count broken out over the selected date range, you’ll want to add it as a timeline widget.

For this widget, we’ll add a Metric/Timeline with the following dimensions:

Nonbranded Organic Traffic

Widget #2: Total Organic Non-Branded Keyword Conversions (Metric/Timeline)

In this widget we’re looking to get a snapshot of just how many total conversions (or transactions) that have been generated by our non-branded organic keyword referrals.

For this widget, we’ll add a Metric/Timeline with the following dimensions:

Non-Branded Organic Conversions

Just like before, if you’d prefer to see this over time you can change this widget to be a timeline instead of a metric widget.

Widget #3: Total Organic Non-Branded Keyword Traffic (Table)

This widget filters out your branded search keyword referrals so you can get right to the keywords you’re most interested in. You may also consider adding an additional filter to remove (not provided) if it takes up a significant number of the results.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Non-Branded Organic Keywords

You’ll notice that I didn’t choose any goals for the secondary metric. We’ll cover that in the next widget. For now, we want to get a good understanding of what keywords are driving

Widget #4: Total Organic Non-Branded Keyword Conversions/Transactions (Table)

In this widget we’re looking to get a quick look at our top converting/transaction keywords. Once again, I recommend filtering out your branded search terms. Depending on how many important conversion points you want to keep track of, you may need to add more than one widget of this type because you can only view two metrics in each Table widget.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Non-Branded Organic Keyword Conversions

Widget #5: Top Social Action Content (Table)

You’ll find it easier to navigate to this report in the Standard Reporting section of Google Analytics (Audience > Social > Pages) and adding the widget using the top navigation bar in Google Analytics. The goal of this particular widget is to quickly see which content on your site is getting shared the most in social media. That way you’ll know what content topics have the best chance of going viral.

By default Google will show you information for only Google+, in a future post I’ll walk you through how to get other sites like Twitter and Facebook setup on here, too.

If your blog content lives under a /blog/ subfolder, you may want to consider filtering the report to only look at that content.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Social Action Content

After I added the widget to our SEO Monitoring dashboard, I went back and edited it to also include total visits as well.

Widget #6: Top Content Traffic & Conversions (Table)

In addition to knowing what content is getting shared the most, I like to keep an eye on what blog content is getting the most traffic and conversions.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Top Organic Landing Pages

Don’t forget to filter in just your blog content if that is the area you want to focus on.

Widget #7: Organic Search Engine Referrals (Pie)

I like to keep an eye on which search engines are sending me traffic and how it changes over time. The best way to get a snapshot of this is to add a pie chart widget.

For this widget, we’ll add a Pie with the following dimensions:

Search Engine Referrals

I chose to only look at the top three organic search engine referrals, but you can select up to six for your pie chart.

Widget #8: Page Load Speed (Table)

We also need to keep an eye on any pages that are loading slow. We can actually setup the widget to only look at organic traffic page load speeds, although it would be in your best interest to look at all your content, not just that just with organic visits.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Page Load Speed

The above table shows you your top ten slowest loading landing pages, and also includes how many visits that pages receives. You can sort by either, but it’s probably best to tackle the pages with the slowest load time first.

Widget #9: Site Search Keywords (Table)

The final piece to our monitoring puzzle: a list of keywords being searched for the most on our internal site search. This is a great way to generate new keyword ideas and to find new usability ideas (more on that later).

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Site Search

I also like to add conversions as a dimension to this widget so I can not only keep an eye on which terms are getting searched for the most, but also which lead to the most conversions.

Website Redesign Dashboard – SEO Focus

So it’s time for the dreaded redesign process. You have a pretty good idea of what’s ahead: long nights, lots of frustration and hopefully, a great looking website not too far down the line. With this dashboard you can quickly gain insight into what changes you should be making in the upcoming redesign to help out your SEO campaign.

You might also consider renaming this dashboard to be a Usability dashboard so you can frequently check-in on how well your site is performing for your visitors.

We’ll be borrowing a few of the widgets in our SEO Monitoring dashboard, but also adding a few. Let’s first look at which widgets we should be re-adding to this new dashboard:

Widget #1: Top Converting Keywords (SEO Monitoring Widget #2)

A website redesign offers a great opportunity for keyword inclusion throughout our site’s architecture (navigation, URLs, etc.) With this widget we can keep an eye on which keywords we should be focusing these optimization efforts on.

Widget #2: Top Social Action Content (SEO Monitoring Widget #5)

Which social networks are engaging the most with your content? What pages are getting the most engagements? Answering these questions will help you create a user experience that is not only tailored to your top social network traffic drivers, but that also encourages social sharing.

You’ll also want to look closely at what makes the content in this report so shareable. Is it because of the way they are laid out? The images they use? These insights can really help you carry that experience throughout your new site.

Widget #3: Top Converting Content (SEO Monitoring Widget #6)

Just like with the top social action content, you want to keep an eye on the content that is working best (and worst). This will allow you to duplicate your successes and (hopefully) eliminate your failures.

Widget #4: Page Load Speed (SEO Monitoring Widget #8)

The redesign is the perfect time to address page load speed problems. Take a look at the slowest rendering pages in this table and determine what the common problems are that are slowing the load speed down.

Widget #5: Site Search Keywords (SEO Monitoring Widget #9)

Site search is great for finding new keywords, it’s also a great way to figure out what problems people are having navigating your site. With this widget you can quickly see the types of content people are expecting to find on your site – but aren’t able to.

On to our new widgets!

Widget #6 & #7: SEO Geographic Summary (Table) & Language (Table)

Is it time to consider translating your site for a new geographic audience? This type of change will definitely need your attention as an SEO. It’s also an opportunity for you to branch out your link building into new languages.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Geographic Summary

The organic traffic filter I have in place is definitely optional. I think it helps keep the data set you’re looking at more consistent by restricting it to organic visits only like the other widgets are set to.

For the Language widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Language Summary

You’ll note that I also filtered out all non-organic traffic here, too.

Widget #8: Top Exit/Bounce Pages (Table)

For this particular widget, we’re once again trying to identify problem pages. Any pages that have a high exit/bounce rate should get a close review to see if the cause for people leaving can easily be identified.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Exit and Bounces Summary

It’s important that we filter out any blog content that naturally creates high bounce rates. If you also have an event like a Account Login on your site, you may wish to use Google’s Event Tracking to filter out those visits as well.

Widget #9: Mobile Devices (Pie)

Which mobile devices are your visitors using to access your site? Are you getting a substantial number of visits? Do you anticipate it growing during the life of the next site design? More than likely this will be an area of focus for your redesign. It’s important that you know exactly which devices your consumers are using to view your site so you can ensure compatibility.

For this widget, we’ll add a Pie with the following dimensions:

Mobile Summary

Widget #10: Browser Conversion Rate (Table)

Finally, I like to take a look into what browser our visitors are using most, and what their conversion rate currently is. We all say we test all browsers for compatibility, but there are always pages that were rushed or that just fell through the cracks that might not be presenting themselves the way you had hoped.

For this widget, we’ll add a Pie with the following dimensions:

Browsers Summary

Holistic Dashboard

It’s no secret that to succeed in today’s online marketing world you need to be doing more than just SEO. Not just from the sense that other marketing efforts can help drive in new leads, but because it helps your SEO campaign succeed.

This dashboard highlights how your PPC and social media efforts are performing, so you can take that information and apply it to your SEO campaigns.

Widget #1: Top Social Action Content (SEO Monitoring Widget #5)

This widget will allow us to keep track of what types of content are performing best from a social perspective.

Widget #2: Top Referral Conversion/Transaction Sources (Table)

Within this report we’ll be able to quickly see which social networks are the most profitable in terms of conversions and/or actual transactions. This is a great way to see which social networks respond well to your offering, and that you should be investing more time in.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Social Conversion Sources

Ideally you’ll want to setup a filter to only look at social networks. If you’re good about tagging your URLs with custom variables, then you can change the filter to look at the medium and enter the medium value you use for social URLs (example: social).

Widget #3: Top Paid Converting/Transaction Keywords (Table)

Ever since the (not provided) update, we’ve all lost out on valuable keyword data. But just as Google hoped we would, we can get this information from our PPC spend. With this widget we’ll look at the keywords that are driving the most conversions/transactions for our PPC marketing, so we can look into targeting them in our SEO marketing, too.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Top Paid Converting Keywords

Widget #4: Top Paid Revenue Generating Ad Groups

Just like with our previous keyword widget, I also like to look at the top performing ad groups. This is a good way to know what top level topics are performing the best for your paid search campaigns, so you can prioritize them in your SEO campaigns.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Top PPC Ad Groups

Widget #5: Top Paid Landing Pages (Table)

If you’re not using custom landing pages for your paid search campaigns, this is a great way to see which keywords are working best for the various pages on your site. I like to run these types of tests before I commit to any keywords for SEO.

For this widget, we’ll add a Table with the following dimensions:

Top Paid Landing Pages

That’s just three of the 20 dashboards you could setup in Google Analytics. What are you adding to your dashboards to make them more actionable?


SEO Book.com

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