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Does it affect your SEO rankings?

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30-second summary:

  • While nofollow links solely dominated the web for 14 years, Google recently announced two new additions: sponsored and UGC links.  
  • Shortly afterward, Google made further amendments to all three links. 
  • This article breaks down where things currently stand.  
  • Joseph Dyson discusses whether the new link attributes impact rankings and concludes with suggestions on how businesses can improve online visibility.  

Whether you’re an SEO newbie or a seasoned pro, we’re sure you’re familiar with the cardinal rule of the game: evolution.  

Stagnancy isn’t a common sight in the digital marketing world 

Google is constantly releasing new updates as it moves toward more seamless and accurate crawling, indexing, and ranking.  

On September 10th 2019, Google set the bar higher than before by adding two new attributes alongside the preexisting “nofollow” attribute, which had been in place for over 14 years.  

Before we get to the new additions, let’s break down the original nofollow attribute as a quick refresher.  

What’s a nofollow link? 

A nofollow link is a hyperlink with a rel=“nofollow” tag.  

What does this mean? To put it as simply as possible, the nofollow tag signals search engines to ignore a link. The destination URL doesn’t get a boost in search engine rankings, as nofollow links don’t pass PageRank (an algorithm that helps Google rank web pages on SERPs).  

When it comes to link building, receiving a nofollow backlink can be a bummer, as your rankings are left in a state of limbo. While web users are redirected to your website, the domain that offers you the link simultaneously informs Google to not send any “link juice” your way.  

However, nofollow links still have hidden perks. They drive traffic (despite leaving rankings untouched), increase brand awareness, and help leads discover and familiarize themselves with your business.  

But wait, why are nofollow links used in the first place?  

Google originally announced the concept of nofollow links in 2005 to fight comment spam. They were quickly embraced by the SEO world and are frequently used to avoid breaking SEO rules set by Google.  

Links that added value to content but couldn’t be vouched for were categorized as nofollow links. In addition, paid links also included the nofollow link attribute. This announcement played a big role in preventing businesses from buying link juice.  

But what changed?  

While nofollow links had been extremely effective thus far, they were an oversimplified solution to a complex problem. Instead of taking subjective intent for including hyperlinks into account, they offered a cleanly demarcated black and white scenario that proved to be a nuisance for many businesses.  

The only two options were nofollow links or dofollow links, the latter being the default for all hyperlinks. 

The introduction of sponsored and UGC links

In 2019, Google announced two major additions to standard nofollow links: sponsored links and UGC links. 

Marketers heaved a major sigh of relief in the announcement’s wake, as they could now use the two new attributes to help Google better understand the link’s intent and use.  

But that wasn’t all. In March 2020, Google made further amendments to its previous announcement.  

Here’s where things currently stand: 

Sponsored links

According to Google’s latest update, the sponsored attribute (rel=“sponsored”) is specifically used for hyperlinks that are promotional in nature.  

Prior to their creation, paid links were categorized as nofollow links, which proved to be extremely misleading. The new sponsored attribute helps Google identify advertising links separately.  

The benefit? Enhanced categorization and less confusion. Link receivers and providers can easily decipher sponsored links from “untrustworthy” nofollow links. 

UGC links

The UGC (user-generated content) attribute was created to help Google determine which links are, as the acronym indicates, generated by users.  

This was a lifesaver (we’re not exaggerating) for webmasters who had been struggling to indicate that specific hyperlinks were not endorsed.  

The UGC attribute is used to link to sections of websites where users generate their own content, e.g. comment sections, forums posts, etc. 

Nofollow links

Google’s latest announcement took the weight off nofollow links—quite literally.  

Previously, the nofollow tag was used for both paid and user-generated links. However, the new categories (“sponsored links” and “UGC links”) made things much simpler by placing paid and user-generated content in different categories.  

The nofollow tag is now solely used for non-trusted links.  

While nofollow links were not used for crawling and indexing before, Google’s 2020 update indicated that they would be used as a “hint” for crawling and indexing. While people quickly began to consider this a win for ranking purposes, the picture wasn’t as rosy as it was made out to be.  

Currently, each of the three links (nollow, sponsored, and UGC) is used as a mere hint, not a direct ranking factor. While they may be crawled, they will not substantially impact rankings. 

Which link attribute should you use?

While adding more options should ideally make things simpler, it can backfire if you’re not sure about proper attribution.  

Here’s how webmasters should use the new attributes: 

1. rel=“sponsored”

Use the sponsored attribute strictly for paid or sponsored links. While affiliate links are also considered sponsored links, Google hasn’t directly made that clear yet. 

2. rel=“ugc” 

Use the UGC attribute for all user-generated content.  

3. rel=“nofollow” 

Use the nofollow attribute if you want to link to a specific page but don’t want to be associated with it for any reason (unreliability, incredibility, untrustworthiness, unfamiliarity). 

The nofollow tag will indicate that you don’t endorse a particular link and would not like to offer them ranking credit.  

How should you boost your rankings? 

While using these tags is a great way to assiduously categorize your content, it’s not a big win for your rankings… or your link building partners.  

Granted, you may notice a slight boost. However, it’ll be negligible at best.  

Google’s public search liaison, Danny Sullivan, encapsulated this perfectly: 

Nofollow UGC sponsored links does it affect SEO

While the latest update came much later in 2020, it was already being actively discussed in 2019. Sullivan was quick to dismiss claims that rankings would go through the roof once the new “hint” model was released.  

While all those nofollow links you’ve collected over the years will still help you generate traffic, you’ll ultimately have to turn to other strategies to notice a substantial boost in rankings 

Here are some effective ways you can climb SERPs: 

Maximize outcomes from link building

Link building is easily the most fast-acting and sustainable way to improve rankings. In short, link building involves receiving dofollow backlinks from websites with high domain authority (a score that determines a website’s ranking on SERPs).  

As you build quality backlinks, Google will perceive your website as an authoritative and trustworthy source. In fact, Google uses the quality and quantity of backlinks to rank websites on SERPs. The boost in rankings will help you increase conversions and improve brand identity 

It’s important to note that your backlinks should come from a website with good to high domain authority. The higher, the better; however, 50–60 is a good starting point for small businesses.  

In addition, make sure you receive dofollow backlinks as opposed to nofollow backlinks. As discussed before, the latter will help you generate traffic. However, your rankings will remain in a state of limbo for the most part (refer to Danny Sullivan’s tweet if the blind optimism kicks in!).  

Recommended link building strategies

If you’re new to the realm of link building, we recommend using these strategies: 

  • Leverage the broken link building method 
  • Build strong connections with non-competing businesses to offer and receive links 
  • Incorporate more internal links in your content  
  • Try your hand at guest blogging 
  • List your site in reliable directories 
  • Convert nofollow backlinks into dofollow backlinks by contacting the respective business  

Create a mobile-friendly website 

Google recently announced mobile-first indexing, which means that Googlebot will be using the mobile version of a page for ranking purposes first. While this may come as a surprise to some people, we’re sure most of you are nodding your head “matter-of-factly”.  

The large majority of Americans (a whopping 96%) own a cellphone. If you’ve created a stunning and interactive desktop-friendly website but haven’t been prioritizing mobile-friendliness, you may be inadvertently damaging your rankings.  

Take Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to determine your website’s accessibility for mobile phone users.  

If you don’t like what you see, your customers probably won’t either.  

Climb SERPs by creating an eye-catching and seamless mobile-friendly website that helps you generate quality traffic and grow your business.  

When combined with link building, mobile-friendliness can go a long way in helping your business become more visible on search engines and break into the Google three-pack 

Create, update, and optimize your content 

While you may have checked off all the boxes, leaving the content section untouched can take a toll on your business.  

Opting for web design and development isn’t enough. If you don’t create, update, and optimize your content, you’ll fall behind and get engulfed by your competition.  

Create value-added and engaging content to make sure your website actively circulates SERPs.  

And that’s not all

We suggest updating old content on a monthly basis in light of new updates and announcements by Google. As we highlighted before, Google is constantly upping its game. Keep up with ranking factors and algorithm amendments to ensure you’re covering all the bases.  

And, of course, don’t forget to optimize your content.

Get in touch with keyword specialists to master keyword research and incorporation. Use the right mix of short-tail, long-tail, geo-targeting, and LSI keywords to help your business become a frequent sight on the first page of Google for industry-specific and local searches.  

According to research, over five million blog posts are published each day.  

How do you make your content stand out? While keywords help, they’re not the be-all and end-all of optimization. In addition, use title tags, meta description tags, header tags, customized URLs, and canonical tags to master the art of on-page SEO. We don’t need to say much; your rankings will be all the proof you need! 

Conclusion

As the SEO world becomes increasingly competitive each day, claiming your spot simply isn’t enough. You have to go the extra mile to preserve it.  

Whether you’re creating optimized content or leveraging link building, ensure consistency to retain online visibility and SERP rankings.  

Keep at it and you’ll manage to not only achieve but also maintain your target KPIs over time.

Joseph Dyson is a Senior Account Manager at Search Berg with extensive experience in lead generation and digital marketing. He offers link building services and frequently contributes to the Search Berg blog with marketing tips and insights.



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How Gael Breton Escaped Client SEO & Built a Full-Time Income Through Affiliate Marketing

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Who Gael Breton and why should you listen to him? Well, first Gael is a tremendously talented affiliate marketer who specializes in building “authority” websites. Gael got his start in the SEO agency world and transitioned into owning his own properties. In this discussion, you’ll learn: How Gael started and grew his first SEO agency …

Read moreHow Gael Breton Escaped Client SEO & Built a Full-Time Income Through Affiliate Marketing



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Defining value stream management for SEO agencies business owners

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30-second summary:

  • Value stream management is the practice that helps businesses to determine the value of the software development process. 
  • By managing value streams, you can improve the flow of value to your SEO agency and monitor the software delivery lifecycle.
  • Mapping value streams will help you improve visibility throughout the whole software development cycle.
  • You can enable value stream management by defining real-time metrics, creating a value stream map, enabling cross-team collaboration, connecting different processes, and automating the workflows.

With the scope of the competition on the market, the delivery of SEO options is becoming harder than ever. To stay competitive, all processes within the software development cycle must be optimized to their best.

If you’re looking to improve the workflows in your SEO agency, consider implementing value stream management. To help you get started, we’ve created this ultimate guide to value stream management. After reading, you’ll get a better idea of what is a value stream and how you can start managing your value streams by creating maps. 

What is value stream management (VSM)?

To define the concept of value stream management, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. Let’s cover the basics and define key terms before moving further to discuss value stream management for SEO businesses. 

A value stream refers to every step of the software delivery lifecycle (SDLC), from the product idea to the production and tools required to deliver your software to the customers. To help you visualize the concept, here’s an example of a value stream for product (not software) development.

value stream management process

Source: Dragon1

In other words, a value stream is a series of activities that build up the value of your SEO software. Value is defined by something a customer gets, like high-quality software, in a fair period of time for a fair price. 

Value stream management flow

Source: Maaw info

Value stream management (VSM) refers to the process of optimizing processes from the very point when you conceptualize an idea to the time when this idea is in production and generating revenue. To put it simply, VSM allows you to manage your SEO software development process from idea to cash. 

The benefits of value stream management for your SEO agency

Value stream management enables SEO software companies to deliver higher quality products faster and more efficiently than their competitors while significantly reducing risks. Besides, proper implementation of VSM enables the following benefits. 

  • VSM helps you find and address the limitations of your workflows. By mapping out all stages of the software development process, you can identify potential limitations and blunders. 
  • VSM enables you to deliver higher quality SEO solutions. By optimizing development processes, you can deliver better quality products. 
  • VSM allows the continuous development of your agency. By investing in optimization and VSM, you can guarantee the success of your business in the long run. 
  • VSM helps you to make the overall flow of information across the entire process visible to people who normally manage separate functions, processes, and departments. 

How does value stream mapping work?

By now you should understand that value stream management allows optimization of all development processes, from the first time an idea of a product is conceptualized to the moment when the product is produced and launched in the marketplace. 

Within value stream management, many capabilities feed that process. Value stream mapping one of these capabilities. 

A value stream map refers to the visualization of all critical steps in the SEO software development process. Value stream maps include a description of each stage and information, like the time, the volume of work, and spendings dedicated to each of the stages. 

By creating value stream maps, you can analyze the current state of your processes and improve your product based on the series of events that take your SEO solution from the initial concept to the finished product your customers receive. To put it simply, value stream mapping allows you to identify where you’re adding value and where you’re wasting it. 

Besides, creating value streams allows you to categorize activities into high priority vs. low priority items. This way, you can prioritize and triage some processes in favor of others. 

How can you enable VSM?

In order to optimize your SEO software development practices and tools, you need total visibility throughout the whole development cycle. Likely, you can achieve this by mapping value streams. 

Not particularly sure where to start? Follow these five steps to enable value stream management for your SEO agency. 

1. Defining real-time metrics and objectives

Defining real-time metrics is the first step toward enabling value stream management. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to define metrics which leads to misleading results and inability to assess the effectiveness of their VSM efforts. 

Choosing the right objectives allows you to understand what’s happening in the development and identify where value is “leaking” in the process. 

Here’s a list of metrics to help you get started: 

  • The development cycle time 
  • The overall volume of change (before and after VSM)
  • Lead time (LT)
  • Process time (PT)
  • Percent complete & accurate (percept of time when the software is received by users in the correct and ready-to-use form)

Collecting these metrics is paramount for the successful evaluation of your VSM efforts. 

2. Creating a value stream map

After you’ve defined the key metrics and objectives, you can start studying your workflows. Create a map (either physical or digital) that explains each step of the software development process, from conceptualizing an idea to delivering the final product to customers. This way, you can see the distribution of resources within your software development cycle. 

Here’s a great example of a value stream map. 

Value stream management map example

Source: ipinimg 

3. Enabling cross-team collaboration

Value stream management requires you to enable cross-team collaboration. Rather than testing business analysts separately from developers and other teams, you want to optimize the workflow across all of these teams. 

4. Connecting multiple processes, teams, and tools 

Now, as you’ve created opportunities for all teams to work together, you should find a way to answer the following question. How do you make sure that all of the work that your employees are doing, the value streams of their development, map to your priorities? 

To answer this question, you have to evaluate the workflows and roles of each team regarding your objectives and priorities. 

5. Coordinating and automating workflows 

VSM tools allow you to embed governance into existing system development cycles. In other words, some platforms allow you to automate the value stream management processes. 

Tom Hayes, a VSM advisor at the Guerrilla Agency shares his expertise,

“By coordinating and automating workflows, you can continually improve your SEO solution and ultimately achieve better results.”

The bottom line

Value stream management is different from other approaches because it’s focused on the idea that everything that happens to your customers, from the idea to the delivery, is important and needs to be managed in a holistic manner. 

By implementing VSM in your SEO agency, you can better understand your system development cycles and workflows. 

Implementing value stream management is easier than it may seem. You can start by mapping value streams and defining your main objectives. Moreover, there are many platforms that will make the VSM process easy and personalized for your SEO agency.

Connie Benton is a chief content writer, guest contributor, and enthusiastic blogger who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. You can find her on Twitter at @ConnieB34412379.





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How to Get 4,000 Watch Hours on YouTube (FAST!)

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Gotch SEO Academy is now open! Learn how to get more consistent first page rankings and free traffic from Google (step-by-step).

In this guide, I’m going to show you how to get 4,000 watch hours on YouTube.

Since I began my journey on YouTube in 2017, I’ve accumulated 59,000 watch hours:

And if I was able to do it with my cringe-worthy videos, then you can too.

So the first question is:

What Happens When You Get 4,000 Watch Hours on YouTube?

There is one simple reason why every YouTuber wants to reach 4,000 watch hours: to make money online.

According to YouTube, you need 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months and 1,000 subscribers to access the YouTube Partner Program (YPP).

Once you reach that threshold, you can apply for the YPP. Then you can start showing ads on your videos if you’re approved.

Now you’ll need lots of subscribers and views to make a full-time income from YouTube ad revenue. However, it’s an excellent supplementary source of revenue.

For example, I’ve made $5,596 from ads since getting monetized.

That equates to about $303 per month or $10 per day. The best part is that it’s a 100% passive form of revenue. You get paid every time someone watches one of your videos.

It’s not a massive amount of money.

In fact:

It’s dead last as far as revenue sources in my company.

But it’s “passive,” which it’s pretty awesome.

Now the truth is: There is no such thing as passive income. You still need to produce quality videos consistently.

Otherwise, your audience will lose interest, your engagement will drop, your views will drop, and ultimately, your ad revenue will fall.

There’s nothing passive about the work you have to do to maintain and continue to grow on YouTube.

Now I want to let you in on a little secret:

The real reason why you should aim for 4,000 watch hours isn’t just for ad revenue. You should do it because you’re building an engaged audience.

As Grant Cardone often says, “money follows attention.”

So remember when I said YouTube ad revenue is a small part of my company’s revenue? That’s true.

However, YouTube traffic is now my third biggest source of revenue for my training course, Gotch SEO Academy.

So with that out of the way, here is a 7 step process to reach 4,000 watch hours on YouTube:

1. Find PROVEN topics

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead: you can find proven content ideas and then put your twist on it. Here’s how:

Go to YouTube and enter a keyword related to your industry. In this example, I’ll use “fashion.”

Take note of the topics that have produced lots of views. Now open a few of the channels.

If the channel has a lot of subscribers (> 30,000), then click on the “Videos” tab.

Then sort the videos by “Most Popular” to find topics that are proven to work:

Repeat this process for every channel in your industry until you’ve built a nice database of topics.


2. Qualify (and Prioritize) Your Topics

You need to be strategic with what types of videos you create if you have a new channel. If your channel is established, then you can target more competitive topics. There a few ways to qualify topics, but VidIQ will do most of the work:

Step #1: Download VidIQ

Step #2: Go to YouTube and search the topic you’re interested in.

VidIQ will show you a “Score” for the topic.

Ideally, you should only target topics with a high score. A high score is when the topic has substantial search volume but low competition.

I recommend adding the score next to each keyword in your database. Then you prioritize your topics by score.


3. Develop Your Strategy

At this point, you should have selected a keyword target. Now you need to develop a video strategy.

Here are a few questions to ask when developing your strategy:

How long should your video be?

Examine the top 10 videos for your topic and create an average. You should then aim to exceed the average length.

What are some commonalities and differences among the top videos?

I recommend watching the top 5-10 videos and taking notes.

  • What do you like?
  • What do you dislike?
  • What are some unique things they’re doing in their videos that you can incorporate into your videos?

This is the most critical part. Dedicate time to studying their videos because that’s the first step to beating them.

What’s your title?

Did you know that 80% of Internet users don’t read past the headline? That principle applies to YouTube as well.

If your headline (title) doesn’t drive any curiosity, it won’t do well on YouTube.

You need users to click through on your video. And your title is a big piece to that puzzle (along with your thumbnail).

I recommend writing out at least ten different headlines. Then, run each headline through the AMInstitute headline tool.

There are many frameworks for producing curiosity-driven headlines. However, the ones that tend to do the best include numbers.

What will you need to produce the video?

Not all videos are created equal. Some require big budgets, while others will only need your phone.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what you use to produce your videos. What matters is the quality of the content you’re providing in your video.

Ensure the audio and video are at least at the level of your competitors, and you’ll do just fine.

What’s your deadline?

Deadlines make projects real. Set a deadline and stick to it.


4. Create the Video

I have a simple process for creating videos that you can steal:

Script out the entire video

I know. Some people hate this idea because they’re afraid of being robotic.

However, most people go off the rails if they don’t follow a script.

Scripts keep your videos efficient and easy to consume. The goal isn’t to waste the viewer’s time.

You want to give them the information they need in the fastest time possible. A script is that solution.

I recommend including some of these key elements into your script:

  • Mention your target keyword in the first line and last line of the video.
  • Use open loops at the beginning of the video. An example of an “open-loop” is when I say, “Make sure you read this entire guide because tip #6 is fundamental to your success on YouTube.”
  • Insert pattern interrupts (like I did above).

Did you know that video editing experts recommend changing shots every 3-10 seconds?

Watch any TV commercial. Notice how frequently the shots change. You should do the same.

Why?

It’s super hard to keep people’s attention, so you need to use every tool at your disposal.

Watch this video under tip #6 to see pattern interrupts in action.

Record your video

If you’re doing a talking-head video, you’ll need a teleprompter. Now just turn the camera on and record.

If it’s your first time, it’s going to feel like hell. That’s okay. It gets easier.

Just remember that no one is watching you.

That camera is no different than speaking to a wall. It has no emotions and no judgment.

So that means you have permission to be yourself without any consequences. The cool part is that YouTube users like people who are themselves.

So, hit record, be yourself, and add value.

Edit your video

You can do it for free with iMovie or a paid editing software like Premiere Pro. You can also hire a video editor on UpWork.


5. Optimize Your Video

Before you upload your video, you need to optimize it. I recommend including your target keyword in the filename. Now upload your video, and it’s time to optimize it for YouTube’s organic search.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Include the keyword in the title and first sentence of your description.

  • Write an in-depth description. Aim for > 100 words for your description. Make sure to include variations of your primary keyword as well.
  • Include your keyword in your tags. VidIQ will give you tag recommendations based on the topic.

I also recommend looking through the top videos for your keywords. Copy the tags they’re using.

Add an end screen. You should always try to get users to watch more of your videos.

This will quickly grow your watch time.


6. Promote Your Video

What I just showed you is about 50% of the process. The other 50% of the process is to promote your video.

Here are a few quick tips:

Leverage your email list.

Your email list is the most valuable asset for growing ANY channel—especially YouTube. If you don’t have an email list, I HIGHLY recommend you start building one. It is the most crucial marketing channel online (in my opinion).

Leave thoughtful comments on other channels in your industry.

Take note of when popular channels publish in your industry. Then, be there to drop an intelligent comment on every new video.

This will help you build a relationship with the creator. And it will also help drive users to your channel.

7. Repeat

I showed you a simple process for creating an awesome YouTube video.

But here’s the deal: creating one video isn’t enough.

In fact:

There’s a high probability that your first video won’t do well. That’s why you need to stay the course and keep publishing.

You will get to 4,000 watch hours as long as you keep producing.

That’s It!

The key to reaching 4,000 watch hours on YouTube is to GET STARTED. Then, it’s to keep producing valuable content.

There are no secrets.

Well, maybe some.

That’s why I created a brand new training program called YouTube SEO Academy. I’ll be opening enrollment soon.

In the meantime, download our free YouTube video promotion checklist.

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