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What I’ve Learned from 10 Years with Clinical Depression & Anxiety

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I have put off sharing my experiences with mental illness for a long time because I wanted to be “fixed” before I could feel like I was in a place to be giving advice to others.

I would have felt like a fraud to be telling others how things can get better, when I kept taking the odd step backward with my own mental health.

But here’s the secret: there is no “fixed,” and that is OK.

There isn’t a black and white divide between being happy and struggling through. And that is why we need to learn to give ourselves a break when we stumble or have a bad day, or a bad month. It’s OK.

I have always been a deeply private person; feeling more comfortable listening than holding the attention of others.

However, when I see others suffering, I feel that there is a greater need to do what I can to give those people out there some advice, and a bit of hope. So I’ve decided to put my privacy aside for this article.

That’s why I’d like to share my experiences with mental illness, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope it helps even one person feel less alone.

It’s thanks to my own support network as well as a much-needed push after reading Navah Hopkins’ great article on Search Engine Journal which inspired me to finally show this post the light of day, after years of going backward and forward between writing out my thoughts only to back out and scrap them.

My Experiences with Clinical Depression & Anxiety

I started experiencing symptoms of severe clinical depression at the age of 15.

As someone well-versed in hiding my emotions, I have always noted the surprise on doctors’ faces — both on the day of my diagnosis and on multiple occasions over the years — when I would come into their office with the most convincing smile and politeness I could muster, and then score in the mid-20s on the NHS Depression in Adults questionnaire.

Alongside depression, my anxiety levels soon started creeping up and I have been struggling with a combination of both for more than 10 years now.

Depression and anxiety are a really difficult combination to deal with.

The depression will sap you of your drive and energy, and the anxiety will be sending you waves of panic because you aren’t being as high-functioning as you could be.

The two are at constant war with one another. You’re sinking further underwater and losing touch with the world around you, but also feeling alarm bells ringing inside at the same time.

This is something I still struggle with, but where I am now compared to where I was 10 years ago is astonishing when I stop and think about it.

I was a very unhappy and lost teenager who couldn’t see a way forward for myself. I felt that applying to university would be dishonest because I didn’t see a future for myself, and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time as I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to actually go.

I did apply, however. And with a combination of multiple visits to the campus doctor, a course of strong antidepressants and postponing my final year and graduating a year later than expected, I made it through with a degree to show for it.

My journey into technical SEO hasn’t been all smooth sailing, which I have written about previously. However, I have now reached a point in my career where I’m really proud of what I have achieved.

I have developed the internal strength and mental control to face new challenges, such as publishing articles and research pieces to wide audiences, as well as delivering technical talks at digital marketing conferences around the world.

By no means has this journey been easy; my progress has been down to a number of different factors that I have had to work really hard at over the years.

That’s why I’ve decided to put together some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my own experiences, in the hope that they can help others.

1. Open up & Talk

This is the first and most important step to getting better.

I know it can be overwhelming to consider letting someone else know how you’re feeling inside, because they’ll never understand and they’ll think you’re ‘crazy,’ right?

Wrong.

The people who matter will want to help you, and they will not judge you or see you any differently.

I’ve been surprised by how understanding people have been when I’ve told them about my illness, whether that’s family members, friends, or even bosses. It can be scary to strike up that conversation, but you’ll feel so much better once it’s out in the open.

Choose a few select people to tell about your illness and build your own support network of people who will be there to check in on you.

This will help to start clearing those feelings of loneliness, and your network will also be able to provide you with the support you need to go and talk to a doctor who will be able to help you plan out your recovery strategy.

2. Practice Mindfulness

This has been one of the most effective methods that have helped me over the years.

I’ve attended a variety of different types of therapy sessions in my time, but something really clicked for me in one particular CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) session.

I was given a thought sheet, which is a piece of paper with different columns where you write down your worry or negative thought, and then fill in the following details:

Thought-Sheet

At face value, I thought this was a basic method that wouldn’t be useful. I initially thought I would humor the therapist by trying it out.

However, the first time I filled it out I was able to see how unwell I really was and how unhealthy my existing mental processes were.

At that point, I had gone through 23 years of my life by letting my mind run completely wild with negative thoughts, never once pulling them up and questioning their validity.

But once I could write them down on paper and see a blank column for “facts that support the unhelpful thought” and a full column for “facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought,” everything changed.

Writing down your thoughts is step one, the next step is to practice this process internally, which is also known as mindfulness.

Restructuring the way you think is a challenge, but it’s essential to be able to live a happier, healthier life.

It can feel really alien at first to monitor your own brain for negative thoughts and then work through them one at a time, but it does work and starts to become a normal part of the way you think.

It takes practice and perseverance. Trust me.

Thinking about your own thoughts can feel exhausting at first. Training your mind in this way can feel like exercising a muscle that you’ve never used before.

But over time it gets easier, and the process becomes more immediate. When negative thoughts crop up you’ll be able to cut right into your internal dialogue with questions such as:

  • “Is there any evidence that I’m doing a bad job?”
  • “What about the time that x complimented me on my performance?”

3. Find an Exercise Routine That Works for You

When I’m feeling down, the last thing I want to do is leave the house, let alone physically exert myself.

But I always feel so much better once I’ve forced myself to go for a run or attend a gym class. It helps you push the reset button on your brain and return to the rest of your day with a calmer mind.

I’m someone who is really motivated by seeing progression, so signing up to a gym near my house has been great for me.

There are some classes that run through similar combinations of moves each week, and I’m able to see myself progressing as certain moves get easier for me each session, which gives me a real sense of accomplishment.

Push yourself to get out of the house a few times a week and go for a walk, a run, or a swim, anything. Just go and do something that can get your endorphins flowing. You’ll thank yourself for it once you’ve finished.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Don’t beat yourself up for having a tough time. This is where having anxiety can be a real problem when you have a low mood, as it fills you with overwhelming thoughts that you don’t have time to feel sad and that you’re letting yourself and everyone else around you down for not being at your best.

First of all, stop and breathe.

Whenever I feel like this, I practice a simple breathing exercise. Three slow, deep breaths. That’s it. This always works wonders for me and helps me reset.

And-Breathe

Secondly, this is perfectly normal. Every single one of us struggles from time to time.

Recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and just take a step back and practice some self-care until you feel like yourself again.

Take some time to rest as well as doing some of the things you enjoy. I know that depression can rob you of your ability to enjoy things, but taking a break to rest first really helps to open me up to more positive feelings.

A “self-care” day will look different for everyone.

For example, my ideal rest day would probably involve a lie in, playing video games, a yoga session, a bubble bath, and a walk in nature where I can pet some dogs.

If I’ve had a tough day, my partner will take me out on a walk to our local park to look at dogs. It’s simple but it works every time!

5. Give Back

Nothing can pull me out of a dark place like seeing someone else hurting. Helping someone else with their problems can transport you away from your own darkness.

Make a note to check in with the people you care about every now and again and see if there’s any way you can support them.

We all like to brush things off and say that everything is fine, so instigating a genuine conversation with someone about how they’re feeling can be incredibly impactful. It’s important that we all take the time to acknowledge and check in with each other on a deeper level.

As well as helping people in your immediate network, think about other ways in which you can use your own experiences to give advice and support to others struggling with mental illness. It might be starting a blog on mental health, or raising money for charities like Mind or Samaritans, for example.

As painful as it can be to suffer from a mental illness, I believe that it gives you the superpower of enhanced empathy.

You know what it’s like to hurt, so you have a heightened sense of the pain in others and wanting to help them feel better so they don’t have to experience the kinds of things that you yourself have felt.

Embrace your powers and share them with the people around you.

In Summary

I’ve made a lot of progress with managing my mental health up until this point, but I’m not completely “fixed,” as this is an unhealthy idea that isn’t realistic.

Instead of striving for a place of perfection, we need to keep working toward being more understanding and forgiving of ourselves over time.

This post originally was published on Medium, and has been republished with permission of the author.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, August 2019
In-Post Image: Max van den Oetelaar/Unsplash



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SEO

Five quick SEO wins to give your website a boost in search

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30-second summary:

  • There are SEO tactics you can apply even without significant expertise.
  • These tactics even the playing field a bit for those who can’t hire a huge team or outsource to an agency.
  • Paying attention to things like images and hosting can give your site a boost.
  • There are simple link building tools that are free and easy to use.
  • Applying these tactics will help you get in the SEO game and give your website a boost in search.

SEO is not easy. In fact, there are around 200 factors that go into determining where your website appears in search results. As such, optimizing your site for search can be a daunting task. Companies hire full teams of SEO experts or outsource the work to agencies to handle the huge workload that can come with executing an effective SEO strategy. Many companies, like yours perhaps, don’t have the resources to do this, however. Fortunately, there are a number of quick wins you can take advantage of to give your website a boost in search.

Try these five tactics to gain some quick SEO wins for your website.

1. Optimize images and visuals

The images and visual elements you place on your site, in articles, on pages, and all around, can be hugely valuable in giving an easy boost to your search rankings.

One example I like to point to is this image on the SE Healthcare website.

Give your website a boost in search - Optimize images and visuals

Image: SE Healthcare infographic ranking in image searches – Source

In working with SE Healthcare on the company’s SEO strategy for a new product launch, we were targeting keywords around the core of physician burnout. Over time, we noticed that this image actually started ranking. It started showing up for tons of searches for “physician burnout solutions” as a result. And those searches went straight to this image in an image search on Google.

Clicks on this result ended up with shares of our infographic appearing on social media as well as a serious lift in our search results for related searches. And we ultimately found that inquiries about related product lines began to rise as well.

So, make sure you’re doing the following to use images to give an easy boost to your search results.

Add visual elements throughout your site

First, adding images, infographics and other visual elements to your site just creates a better experience for users. Any time you can substitute a visual element to explain a concept rather than adding a thousand words of unnecessary text, it can go a long way in connecting with visitors.

Obviously, don’t eliminate text altogether or your SEO will suffer. But, be sure you add images in articles to enhance the articles. Add graphics to explain product features. Add high-quality images of your products. The list goes on, but you get the point. Images add tons of value to your site, and they can also help you rank in search. Google and other search engines love images.

Where to add images

To give you an idea of where you can place images to optimize your site, try the following:

Representative icons – Add representative icons above products and other elements to pull your visitors’ attention.

give your website a boost in search - Where to add images

Image: Icons to represent services – Source

Infographics – Drop infographics into articles and other pages to visually explain concepts and add more value to keep readers on the page and scrolling.

give your website a boost in search - Demo videos

Image: Example of an infographic to add value – Source

Demo Videos – These can really boost your ability to highlight your products by showing rather than telling.

give your website a boost in search with demo videos

Image: Demo video example – Source

Visual Coupon Codes – This is a great way to highlight discounts and entice shoppers on your site to make a purchase. Works great for ecommerce businesses.

Add coupons as a visual element

Image: Visual discount codes – Source

Thumbnail Images – Make sure to add thumbnail images for your posts. These will show up as shown below.

Use thumbnail images

Image: Example of using thumbnail images with posts – Source

Images in Blogs – Placing images through your blog is hugely important. You can use a header image as well as images throughout the post to illustrate important points.

Image: Example of adding a supporting image that expands on the info provided in the text within a blog post – Source

These are just a few ideas of how you can leverage visuals throughout your website to enhance the user experience and give your website a boost in search.

Incorporate videos

Embedding a YouTube video into your articles or your pages can really help boost stats like time on page and lower stats like bounce rate. When these stats head in a positive direction, Google will take notice.

Google loves sites that keep visitors’ attention and keep them on site. A video embedded in the middle of an article can add a minute or more to the time someone spends on your page. And the best part, you don’t even have to create the video.

For example, you could write an article about making Fall décor from egg cartons. Conduct a search on YouTube and find an example of someone doing this, and then embed it in the middle of the article. Not only will visitors read your copy, but they will likely also stop and watch the video, thus keeping them engaged longer.

Insert alt tags

Google is getting better at reading images and determining what they are showing, but the technology still has a way to go. To make sure Google understands the images on your website, you need to place alt tags in each one image upload describing the image. This helps Google determine what the image is showing and whether it relates to a specific search.

Images are super important for helping your site’s SEO performance, so be sure to follow the tips above to benefit.

2. Enhance website security

When you think of cyberattacks, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Whatever answer popped into your head, I bet it didn’t have anything to do with SEO. Many site owners fail to realize the negative impact a cyberattack can have on your site’s search rankings.

Google, however, is paying attention to a variety of reasons. If your website is lacking in security, and Google takes notice, your site could be in serious trouble.

How Google treats cyber attacks

If Google crawls your website and finds it has been hacked, the search engine giant could actually blacklist your website. When this happens, site visitors will see a notice saying something like “This site may have been hacked.” It goes without saying that visitors seeing that notice will likely navigate away from your website and look for answers and solutions elsewhere.

People see this warning and instantly click away, which can seriously damage your site’s stats. Google will undoubtedly take notice, and your site could be demoted. You may not even notice anything until you see a huge drop in traffic or a major rise in your bounce rate and decide to investigate. By that point, the damage will be done, and you’ll be forced to spend tons of time making things right.

There are a number of types of attacks that can hurt your site. Let’s take a look at a couple types of cyberattacks that can have a seriously negative impact on your search rankings.

DDoS attack

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. This type of attack is becoming more and more prevalent. The cybercriminal will send massive amounts of bot-related traffic to your site, which can cause significant downtime.

This significant downtime can cause your search rankings to drop. Even 15-minutes of downtime can be a negative signal to Google, so just imagine what a whole week could do. For this reason, you need to take steps to avoid a DDoS attack in order to prevent a drop in search rankings.

Bad bots

This involves bad bots crawling your site and scraping content or stealing data. Obviously, you want to avoid an instance of data theft. Just think of all the major headlines that have been made in recent years from companies being hacked and customer data being stolen. A lesser-known bad bot is the content scraper. These bots essentially scrape your content and place it elsewhere. This compromises your site’s originality and uniqueness and can lead to your search rankings dropping.

These are just a couple of the types of hacks that can hurt your SEO. There are plenty more to be aware of, so you’ll want to do your homework and make sure your site is prepared.

How to protect your site

Fortunately, there are a number of proactive steps you can take to protect your site to avoid this negative impact on your SEO. Here are a few things you should be doing:

  • Make sure you have HTTPS setup
  • Install a strong firewall
  • Conduct regular testing to uncover potential vulnerabilities
  • Use multi-factor authentication for your website logins and even for email
  • Install a security plugin
  • Update your website regularly
  • Use secure logins and passwords for your team (and update them regularly)

Doing these things can position you to avoid the negative SEO impact of a cyberattack and help you maintain the search rankings you worked so hard to earn.

3. Speed up the hosting

Multiple studies confirm that faster site speed does indeed result in better search results. There are a ton of factors that go into optimizing the speed on your site, but one simple factor that’s super easy to control is your site’s hosting provider.

Many of the technical things you can do to speed up your site take time and often require an expert. Fast hosting, on the other hand, simply involves making the right choice and then working with the hosting providers to get your site up and optimized.

There are a ton of hosting providers that offer hosting for $2.99 a month (give or take), but often those are shared hosting, which can be significantly slower. To really get the most out of your hosting and truly experience an increase in site speed, I recommend looking at the following types of hosting providers.

Managed WordPress hosting

I start with this because 38% of websites are built using WordPress. It’s my preferred platform, and for WordPress users, managed WordPress hosting can really help optimize your site and give a boost to your site’s speed. I use a managed WordPress hosting provider for my own website.

Managed WordPress hosting often comes with a higher level of support, enhanced security, and obviously since I’m bringing it up here, faster page load speed.

The cost can range from $50 to upwards of $200 per month, which makes this an affordable option for small- to mid-sized businesses.

Dedicated hosting

The name speaks for itself. You won’t be sharing this hosting with anyone. It is 100% dedicated to your organization alone, which gives you a huge boost in speed. Unfortunately, this option also comes with a boost in cost.

That said, if you are seeing 100s of thousands of visitors to your site each month, this option is right for you. And if you’re seeing that level of traffic, and your site is optimized for conversions, you can likely afford it.

This option can cost a few thousand dollars, so if you aren’t quite there yet, it may be something to keep in mind for the future.

As you can see from the graphic below from Section.io, site speed can seriously impact the bounce rate of your website, which is why I stress the importance of the impact your hosting provider can have.

give your website a boost in search - Add infographics

Image: Source

If these options aren’t the right fit for you, there are tons of other options. With shared hosting, for example, you can pay a bit more to get faster speeds. And with Cloud hosting, you get the benefit of lower downtime.

Whatever option you choose, make sure you talk to the hosting provider and ask questions about site speed and how their platform will help you boost the performance in this area. A faster site is an easy way to give a boost to your SEO.

4. Simplified link building

Link building takes a lot of time and effort. You need to conduct research upfront, and then the execution part, including the outreach to website owners, can be quite time intensive.

There are, however, a few methods you can use to grab some easy links and start slowly building up your arsenal of links.

Let’s take a look at two specific ways you can do link building effectively while saving some time and effort.

HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

This is a great resource. Help A Reporter Out, known in the industry as HARO, allows you to connect with journalists who are seeking sources for the content they’re creating.

You sign up for an account, and when you receive emails with a list of inquires each day related to the subject matter you select. For example, if you run a marketing agency, you can sign up for the business and finance emails. If you run a healthcare organization, you can sign up for the healthcare list.

Once you’re signed up, you’ll receive emails each day that list out queries from journalists asking for expert sources like yourself to provide your opinion or advice on particular topics. Those emails will look something like this:

 

Image: HARO email example

As you can see in the email, you’ll see a one-liner highlighting the subject of the query. If you see something that stands out (a subject you feel you could answer expertly), you can just scroll down through the email and you’ll see the full query.

The full query will have more details about the publication and what, specifically, the writer is looking for. Only answer queries where you truly feel you are an expert.

Once you find something that’s a fit, submit an email to the writer via the email link in the email you were sent. I recommend formatting it something like this:

By using this format, you’ll have a better chance of getting accepted, and when you get accepted, the writer will typically add a link back to your site from your quote.

If you keep an eye on your HARO emails and try to respond to 1-2 queries each day, you will gradually start to get your answers accepted, thus gaining valuable backlinks, sometimes from super high domain authority sites. I’ve personally grabbed links from sites like Content Marketing Institute (80+ DA) and Forbes (80+ DA), among others.

Directory submissions

This is another easy link building win. All you need is the following information, and then you can start creating accounts for various directory sites.

  • Elevator pitch for your business (aka, brief description)
  • Your website’s URL
  • Physical address and contact information
  • Logo or image to accompany your listing

Some sites will allow you to enter more info, but you need to at least be armed with the basics above.

Start with the general sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and of course, Google My Business. Get those sites up, and then dig a bit deeper. Your industry will definitely have industry-specific directory sites, so don’t forget to fill out those as well.

By filling out directory sites, you are gaining links back to your website, but you are also setting up opportunities for your profile on those sites to appear in search when your site itself does not.

These are just a couple of easy ways to start building links. Begin with these tools, and as you start to get on a roll with HARO, and your directory sites are all set up, you can move onto more difficult efforts.

5. Check for broken links

One thing that can hurt your site is having broken links littering your pages. If you post a ton of content, it can be easy for broken links to slip past you.

For example, you link out to external posts to provide supporting information to your blog readers. Over time, the owners of the sites you link to may remove posts, or those pages themselves may become broken.

If you have a ton of broken links throughout your content, this can impact your SEO, and it can create a poor user experience.

Fortunately, there are lots of great tools you can use to check for broken links and then correct them. Here are a few options:

  • SEMRush – This is a paid platform with lots of bells and whistles. There are a ton of great tools included, so if you want to go all-in on SEO, start here.
  • Ahrefs – While Ahrefs has a great paid platform, they also offer a basic broken link checker for free. I highly recommend checking it out.
  • Dead Link Checker – This is another free tool. You just type in your URL and the checker will scan your site and point out any issues with broken links that it finds.

Whatever tool you choose, you’ll want to locate broken links and either update them with links to new, relevant content or unlink them. Doing this can help keep your site clean and give your website a boost in search.

Conclusion

Applying these tactics can help you get a head start on your SEO efforts. While many SEO tactics are very time-intensive and super challenging, these four tactics are a bit easier and can give you some quick wins.

And the best part is that you don’t need to be a seasoned SEO vet to execute these tactics. Anyone can set up a hosting provider, for example. And typically, the hosting provider will move your site over to the new hosting, so all you’ll have to do is provide some login info.

And looking at HARO, connecting with reporters for high-quality publications can be extremely challenging. HARO helps level the playing field and gives you access to reporters in a much easier way.

So, get your team together and figure out the best approach to start applying these tactics. If you stay consistent and focus on the end goal, these tactics can really give your website a boost in search.

Anthony is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm. He is a storyteller, strategist, and eternal student of marketing and business strategy.



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The Complete SEO Guide for 2020

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Understanding the importance of a title tag is critical for your SEO strategy.

Optimizing your page title tags for SEO is simple:

Just make sure to throw your keyword in the page title tag and you’re good to go, right?

Yes and no.

You could stop after step 1 and probably do pretty well in search results(if you’ve done everything else right).

But the truth is:

There’s so much more you need to know about search engine algorithms to optimize your page title tags.

That’s what this title tag guide is all about.

Make sure you read until the end because I’ll be sharing some title tag optimization tactics that will skyrocket your organic search engine results CTR.

Let’s jump in.

FREE Download: See 21 examples of perfect SEO content that you can start modeling today.


What is a Title Tag?

As the name suggests, an HTML title tag is an element of your web page’s HTML code that indicates its title. It is often used to let both search engine algorithms and people know what the page’s content is all about.

You can only have one title tag per page. It will appear in your source code as:

<head>
<title>Example of a Title Tag</title>
</head>

Most people will encounter your title tag in four places:

1. Web Browser Tabs

The title tag can be seen on your web browser when you open your page in a new tab.

This is especially helpful when a user has many tabs open and would like to go back to your content. Because of this, it’s important that your title tags are unique, easily recognizable, and can be immediately differentiated from other open search listings.

2. Browser Bookmarks

Browser bookmarks on Chrome browser window show the website’s title tags by default. As you’ll notice below, the page title tags are usually truncated when it’s on the “Bookmarks Bar”.

However, you can see most of a page’s title tag if you’re using folders. This is a good reason why you should use short, but descriptive title tags. More on this soon.

3. Shared Media on Social Media Platforms

You know those little previews on Facebook and Twitter when someone shares content on those platforms? Your title tag will show up in the head section, accurately describe and letting people know what the page is about and what they can expect to find when they click on that link.

Some social networks will allow you to customize your title tag just for their platform user experience. An enticing title tag helps draw in more visitors to your product or home page.

If you’re on WordPress, you can customize your OG data using Yoast and All-in-One SEO Pack. You can also download this OG plugin. It doesn’t require any setup and it will ensure that your “Featured Image” shows up and you get an image credit when people share your content on social.

If you’re having issues with your Featured Image not showing, use the following SEO tools:

4. Title Tag In the SERPs 

One of the most important places where your title tag will show is in Search Engine Results Pages (that includes Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc).

The title tag shows up as a big, blue clickable link above a short meta description or summary.

This means that if someone found your web page by a search query that is related to your business, this is your first chance to make a lasting impression and convince them to click on your website.

It’s very easy to add a title tag to your website, but writing an effective one takes time, research, and a little skill (that’s easily developed).

But first, you need to know:

Why are Title Tags Important for Search Engine Optimization?

Some blogs will tell you that optimizing title tags are obsolete in 2020. This is misleading. While title tags may not play the same role in SEO as they did a decade ago, there are still many reasons not to neglect this low-effort, important part of search engine optimization.

Here are the benefits of optimizing your title tags for your SEO strategy (the right way):

1. Title Tags & Keyword Rankings

Do you need to place your target keyword in the title tag to rank well in Google search results?

The short answer is “Yes”.

The longer answer is that meta tags may not be as important part as they once were for search engine results.

Brian’s research found that having the keyword in the title tag does impact rankings, but it’s a small factor in comparison to other factors:

Image Source: Backlinko.com

Ahrefs also found that “there’s a slight correlation between the usage of keywords in the title tag and search engines rankings.”

Image Source: Ahrefs.com

And finally, one last case study from Matthew Barby also indicated that “The presence of keywords in the page title” tags does correlate to higher search engine rankings.

Image Source: MatthewBarby.com

Truth be told:

I’ve never attempted to rank pages without using the main keyword phrase in the title tag.

That’s because it wouldn’t make sense for me to stop doing what’s working.

My recommendation will continue to be that you should place your primary keyword in the title tag. Just keep in mind that a title tag is a small factor in the larger ranking equation.

2. CTR (Click-Through-Rate)

Although there’s some debate about CTR being a ranking factor, there’s no denying that increasing your CTR will increase your organic search engine results page traffic.

And just to be clear:

The goal of search engine optimization is to get more organic search traffic. When you change your mindset from “rankings” to “traffic” it changes the way you operate.

Optimizing your title tag for maximum CTR is an intelligent action to take.

I’ll explain some best practices you can use to optimize your page title tags to achieve that goal in a second.

Side note: I lean towards CTR being a direct or least an indirect ranking factor. The way I look at is there’s no benefit of NOT optimizing for CTR. Even if it isn’t a ranking factor.

Ross Hudgens from Siege Media has an excellent video on this topic, worth a watch:

TL; DW: Click-through rate may not be a direct search engine ranking factor, but it looks like it impacts search results rankings indirectly.

3. Social Sharing & Title Tags

Your page’s title tag is a focal point when it’s shared on social media. Does that mean you need to use clickbait titles like this?:

No, but you should think about why clickbait works.

The truth is clickbait is only annoying when the actual content doesn’t add real search result value.

4. Headlines Matter

What you place in your title tag is nothing more than a headline. You’ve probably heard the idea that only 8 out of 10 Internet users will read past the headline.

Or that:

“Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – Confessions of an Advertising Man (1963) by David Oglivy

The truth is:

If you’re reading this, then you’re in the minority.

In fact:

Most people only make it through around 17-20% of my content before returning back to watching cat videos.

But regardless, the good title copy you use within your title tag is the first touchpoint for readers.

You have to do it well or your engagement will be low.

Those are four important reasons why you need to optimize your title tag, but now I need to cover a few important questions:

Does Google Rewrite Titles?

If Google doesn’t think that your title tag is relevant to the target audience, readable, or provides value to your site’s user experience, the search engine can and will completely rewrite the title tags – and often in ways that a site owner won’t like.

In fact, here’s what Gary Illyes said:

“We will never quit rewriting titles. We’ve seen so many sites whose title really suck. A lot of sites have no title; a lot of sites have a title saying “Top Page”. In fact, Google almost always rewrites titles. We couldn’t provide useful results to our users if we quit rewriting titles. Experiments showed us users preferred written titles. So, we’ll continue to write titles.” – Gary Illyes (Source)

It’s pretty clear based on Gary’s words that Google’s search engine algorithms will rewrite your title tags (and isn’t planning on stopping anytime soon).

But what can you do to prevent it (and a high bounce rate)?

The #1 thing you can do is make sure that your title matches your product page’s content/intent. If your product page title is “Buy Shoes”, but your page is all about “buying blue Nikes”, then Google will likely rewrite your title.

Your title tag should be a 100% match of the page content.

One other factor you need to consider is the title tag length.

How Long Should Your Title be?

There are technically no character limits to your title tag, but search engines can only display 60 characters so much of your title before cutting it off.

If your SEO title tags are too long, Google may cut the end of the title off with an ellipsis (…), which could potentially prevent site visitors from seeing important information about the page.

According to Moz’s research, Google usually displays the first 50-60 characters (including spaces) of a title tag, but the more accurate limit would be 600px. This is because some characters (like M, W, etc.) take up more space than others.

Staying under 60 characters is a good rule of thumb, but you can also use many title tag preview SEO tools like this one just to be sure.

If you’re on WordPress, Yoast and All-in-One SEO pack will do the job.

If you want to find title tags that are too long at scale, then I recommend using Screaming Frog.

Open up Screaming Frog, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and select “Over 65 Characters” from the filter:

You can click on each individual URL and preview what the title tag looks in the SERPs. Just click “SERP Snippet” at the bottom:

Can Your Title Tag and H1 be the Same?

The short answer is, yes. You should try to keep your H1 tag consistent with your title tag, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an exact match. For example, this page has a different title tag and H1 tag:

One method you can use is to vary your H1 from your title tag to rank for more long-tail keyword variations. I prefer keeping my H1 nearly identical to the title, but it’s elements to test for sure.

You can use Screaming Frog to find all titles that are the same as your H1 tags.

Open up Screaming Frog, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and select “Same as H1” from the filter:

With some of those important title tag questions out of way, let me show you:

22 Easy Ways to Optimize Your Title Tags for SEO

Since we’ve already established that a good title tag is a low-effort way to optimize both your SERP ranking and your CTR, how exactly do you go about writing one?

Here are 22 ways to optimize your title tags for better rankings, CTR, and social sharing:

1. Focus on the Content First

That’s right. The first action you need to take is to make sure your SEO content is of the highest quality possible. It doesn’t matter how well you optimize your title tag if the page itself is low-value.

Getting the click is important, but getting visitors to dwell longer, visit more than one page, or complete a goal is what the objective should be. That’s only possible if you’re crafting effective SEO content.

Don’t take this step lightly!

2. Identify the Page Type

How you craft your titles will depend on the page type. For example, optimizing a title tag for a product page will be much different than a blog post.

There are a few different types of SEO-driven pages that a website will have:

Homepages

If you decide to optimize your homepage for a keyword phrase, there’s a good chance it will have the middle or bottom of the funnel search intent. For example, Hubspot targets “inbound marketing software” with their homepage.

This keyword has transactional intent so their homepage is structured to drive leads for their product name (not educate).

Notice the effective use of a curiosity gap at the end of their title tag as well.

Category Pages

E-commerce websites are the most likely candidate to try to rank category pages. However, there are some information-driven websites where it makes sense.

For example, RTINGS has a beautifully-structured category page for the keyword phrase “tv reviews”.

Although the keyword phrase “tv reviews” may lead to a sale in the future, I still consider it to be top of the funnel intent. Or, informational in nature.

Notice that RTINGS front-loads their primary keyword phrase and use not one, but two modifiers (“Best” and “2018).

Product Pages

Many product pages will target a combination of Navigational/Transactional keyword phrases. For example, take a look at the keyword phrase “Nike trout 4 cleats”.

Someone searching this keyword is primed to buy, so the title tag needs to reflect that intent.

Local Pages

Keyword stuffing title tags seems to be a common practice on the local level. After digging around, I was able to find an interesting example of the keyword phrase “Los Angeles personal injury lawyer”.

Although I don’t love the idea of jamming “car accident lawyers” in the title, I do like a few things about this title. First, they’ve front-loaded their primary keyword. Second, they’re using numbers within their title, which makes it much more eye-grabbing.

Blog Posts

Crafting title tags for blog posts is the easiest to understand.

Your goal should be to make your title as accurate and interesting as possible. The following tips can drastically improve your blog post title performance.

Most blog posts are going to keyword phrases with Informational intent, so you need to satisfy that.

3. Satisfy Searcher Intent

This applies to both your title and the page itself. The best way to satisfy searcher intent is to think about it from a funnel or buyer journey perspective.

There are four primary categories of searcher intent:

  • Informational – These are top of the funnel search queries such as “what is SEO”.
  • Comparison – These are middle of the funnel search queries such as “Ahrefs vs Moz”.
  • Transactional – These are bottom of the funnel search queries such as “Moz free trial”.
  • Navigational – These types of search queries are branded like “Gotch SEO”. This means the searcher already knows your brand or may already be a customer.

Most keyword phrases will fall under one or more of these categories.

Your title must satisfy the search intent behind the keyword phrase you’re targeting. You do not want ambiguity. Make it as clear as possible for the searcher.

4. Front-Load Your Primary Keyword

If you approach crafting your title tags from a searcher intent perspective, it would make sense to have the keyword phrase front-and-center. If someone’s searching for “best baseball cleats”, they’re likely to click on a result that showcases that keyword right away.

Keep in mind that “front-loading” doesn’t mean that your keyword phrase needs to be first in the title tag. It just needs to be towards the beginning.

5. Make Sure You Write for Searchers, Not Search Engines

Yes, place your keyword in your title tag, but don’t do this:

“SEO Company | SEO Agency | Chicago SEO Company”

You wouldn’t believe how often we find this type of title tags stuffing in our SEO audits (check out our SEO audit service if you need help).

There a few reasons why you shouldn’t stuff keywords in your title tag:

It’s Not Necessary

Google’s algorithms are much more sophisticated than before. More specifically, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is designed to understand the content better.

That means it can identify synonyms and variations of your keywords. You don’t need to jam keyword variations into your title tag. Instead, you can place keyword variations or synonyms naturally throughout your copy and you’ll still perform well for them (given you did everything else right).

You Should Only Target One Primary Keyword Phrase Per Page

Although there are some exceptions to the rule (super authoritative websites), you should aim to target one primary keyword per page.

You’re Losing Precious Real Estate

Most keyword phrases aren’t persuasive in any way. When you stuff your title tag full of keywords, you’re losing the ability to add elements of effective copywriting and persuasion. I’ll be explaining some of these tactics in a second.

6. Use Shorter Titles

Matthew Barby’s research found that shorter titles tend to perform better in Google:

Image Source: MatthewBarby.com

Try to stay below 60 characters (including spaces).

If you’re struggling to keep it below 60 characters then you should try:

  • Avoid using all-caps in your title tag. Capital letters take up more space than lowercase letters.
  • Avoid using punctuation when necessary
  • Remove redundant or repetitive words
  • Use short phrases instead of long, complicated ones

7. Avoid Duplicating Page Titles

No two pages (that you want to be indexed in Google) should have the same title. The best way to find duplicate page titles is to use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

Open up Screaming Frog SEO Spider, enter the target domain, and click on the “Page Titles” tab:

Then click the “Filter” dropdown and select “Duplicate”:

Sort the list by “Title 1”:

You only need to be concerned about duplicate title tags if your page is indexed. The new version of Screaming Frog makes this super easy with their new “Indexability” column.

8. Write Unique Titles for EVERY Page

Every page on your website should have a unique title. In fact, according to Google:

“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.” – Google

The best way to find pages with missing titles is to once again, use Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

The steps are identical as above except you’ll select “Missing”:

9. Use Title Modifiers

If you dig through my content on Gotch SEO, you’ll discover that I love using title modifiers. I believe using title modifiers is one of the best ways to drive more long-tail traffic (without much effort).

I actually call this The Phantom Technique because many of these keyword variations are largely untapped.

Some simple title modifiers you can use are “top”, “best”, or the year.

Important note: If it’s relevant to use a year in your title tag, make sure that your URL doesn’t include it. For example, I update my anchor text guide every year and change the year in the title tag, but the URL never changes.

That means I can continue to build the authority of that page because my URL isn’t changing every year.

10. Build a Keyword Variation List

I also build a keyword variation list every time I find a new primary keyword phrase to target. For example, my primary keyword phrase for my backlinks guide is “backlinks”.

But obviously, my title couldn’t just be “Backlinks | Gotch SEO” because that’s A) boring and B) I would lose out on long-tail traffic.

Instead, I searched for relevant keyword variations I could naturally add to the title.

Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is perfect for this task.

Enter your primary keyword phrase, start the analysis, and then click on “Phrase Match”:

This section is a goldmine for finding keyword variations for your title.

You can also use UberSuggest and Keywords Everywhere to build your keyword variation list (both are free).

Although you won’t use 99.9% of these variations in your title tag, a large percentage of these keywords can dispersed throughout your page.

11. Emphasize Freshness

Do you know anyone that prefers old content? I don’t and that’s why emphasizing “freshness” in your title works really well.

One persuasion principle that I picked up from Frank Kern is that people love “new” things. In fact, something simply being “new” can be a big driving force.

Hence the reason why you’re more likely to buy a newer model car than a car from the 80s.

Another example is when you see a training course use “2.0” or “Revamped” in their headline. They’re emphasizing freshness.

Some ways to incorporate freshness into your title tags are to use the word “new”, “updated for YEAR”, “new data”, etc.

12. Use the H & W Strategy

The H & W strategy simple: Just use one of the following words in your title tag:  “How,” “What,” “Why,” “When,” “Where,” or “Who.”

How to {Create|Learn|Build|Use|Leverage|Increase|Get|Do}…

Example: How to Tie a Windsor Knot

  • Total Organic Keywords: 5,079
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 161
  • Total Social Shares: 819 (Buzzsumo)

What {are|is}?

Example: What Are Second Cousins vs. Cousins Once Removed

  • Total Organic Keywords: 2,600
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 59
  • Total Social Shares: 1.9 Million (Buzzsumo)

Why

Example: Why the Myers-Briggs Test is Meaningless

  • Total Organic Keywords: 2,500
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 77
  • Total Social Shares: 19,000 (Buzzsumo)

When

Example: 21 High-Protein Snacks To Eat When You’re Trying To Be Healthy

  • Total Organic Keywords: 1,800
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 32
  • Total Social Shares: 28,000 (Ahrefs)

Where

Example: The Complete Guide to Where to Put Your Eye Makeup

  • Total Organic Keywords: 5,200
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 33
  • Total Social Shares: 26,000 (Ahrefs)

13. Use Numbers

We’ve all been victims of consuming numbered listicles at one point or another. That’s because they’re super effective.

According to a study by Conductor, they found that 36% of respondents preferred headlines that included numbers:

Image Source: Moz.com

An example of an effective listicle post is “18 Unforgettable Countries Where You Can Roll Big on $50 a Day“. This example ranks for “cheapest countries to visit” (~3,600 searches/mo), has 45 linking root domains, and over 81,000 social shares.

Outside of the traditional listicle, you can also use monetary values such as: “Silicon Valley’s $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze

Or, you can use percentages in title tags like this: “Nike’s online sales jumped 31% after company unveiled Kaepernick campaign“.

14. The Secret Title Tag Hack (Copywriters Hate It)

Ahh… yes, the classic clickbait headline.

I know I’ve fallen for many, but that’s because they work well! Mainly because they leave open loops in your mind and engage our natural human curiosity.

The trick here is to give readers a sneak peek into what they can find out by clicking on your link without giving too much away.

Employ as much tantalizing language as necessary; remember: you need to evoke surprise, amazement, or speak to a deeply-rooted fear. You can combine this technique with the other techniques above to create a truly click-worthy headline.

Example: 7 Unbelievable Exercises That Will Help Keep Your Nose In Shape

  • Total Organic Keywords: 3,500
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 17
  • Total Social Shares: 12,000 (Ahrefs)

Note: Use clickbait tactics few and far between because they can be annoying or unauthentic. Overuse could hurt your brand’s perceived value.

15. Be the Most Comprehensive

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) applies in many different scenarios, but especially with knowledge gaps. People want assurance that they aren’t missing out on any important information.

That’s why {Complete|Ultimate|Definitive} guides work well.

Example: The Ultimate Guide To Brunching In NYC

  • Total Organic Keywords: 3,300
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 62
  • Total Social Shares: 48,000 (Ahrefs)

16. Emphasize Speed (Time Savings)

One of the most powerful benefits to emphasize is saving time. Although this usually applies to products, it can be emphasized in title tags as well.

Use words like “fast”, “quick”, “simple”, etc.

Example: How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks Fast

  • Total Organic Keywords: 4,200
  • Total Linking Root Domains: 113
  • Total Social Shares: 160,000 (Ahrefs)

17. Break the Pattern

Pattern interrupts are common in video content, but there are ways to break the pattern in the SERPs as well. Some the best methods are used [brackets], {curly brackets}, (parentheses), equal signs (=), plus (+) or minus (-) signs, or pretty much any unordinary symbol.

You can also test using Emojis in title tags as well. Google doesn’t always show them though.

18. Use Title Tags to Find Keyword Cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more pages on your website are optimized for the same keyword phrase. Auditing your title tags using Screaming Frog SEO Spider is actually one of the fastest ways to identify keyword cannibalization.

Open up SFSS, enter your target domain, click on the “Page Titles” tab, and keep the filter set to “All”:

You can then use SFSS’s built-in search function to find pages that are similar. In this example below, I searched “backlinks” and identified two pages using that primary keyword phrase.

In this case, it doesn’t make sense to consolidate these assets because the intent behind “how to build backlinks” vs “buy backlinks” are much different.

Identifying keyword cannibalization issues requires manual analysis, but it’s time well spent.

19. Test Your Titles

How do you know if your title tags will be effective? Well, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. I recommend using AM Institute’s tool to test and refine your titles before going live:

You can also use CoSchedule’s free headline analyzer tool as well.

20. Incorporate All the Methods

The good news is that you don’t need to be exclusive with what techniques you use. Mix and match the title tag optimization methods to get the best results possible.

21. Measure Performance with Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you CTR data for your organic keywords. Just click on the “Performance” tab and you’ll access to all kinds of useful data:

Although your CTR is determined by more than just your title tag, it’s one of the most important factors. If you are ranking well, but your CTR is subpar, then you should test changing your title.

Here’s a simple title tag testing framework I use:

  • Create 10-20 title tags variations
  • Qualify the idea using AM Institutes tool
  • Execute the change
  • Annotate the change in Google Analytics
  • Wait (at least 3-4 weeks) – You need to give Google time to recrawl the page and see whether there’s a positive or negative impact.

The goal of these page title tests is to increase CTR.

Keep in mind: Navigational search queries (that aren’t your brand name) like “Blogspot” (I’ve been floating between the #2 – #5 spot) will have low CTR:

Changing your title tag won’t do much in this scenario because it’s based on intent.

On the other hand:

Navigational search queries that ARE for your brand (branded search) should have exceptionally CTR:

22. Be Realistic

All of these methods will help you optimize your title tags for peak SEO performance.

But don’t forget:

Placing your keyword in your title tag is a micro ranking factor.

Think of it as the bare minimum for ranking well.

That’s All for Title Tags!

I hope this guide helped you learn a thing (or two) about title tags.

If you got a lot of value out of this post please share it and drop a comment below because I respond to every single one 🙂

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Top 3 Best Link Building Services for 2020 ($140,424 Spent)

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Looking for the best link building services in 2020?

I got you covered because Chris Dreyer (founder of Rankings.io) and I have spent well over $1,000,000 on different link building services.

This case study will focus on $140,424 of that spend.

Why not the entire spend?

  1. This is an organic case study (we’ll be updating it).
  2. We’re still gathering data from hundreds of orders.
  3. I felt a level of insanity coming over me after manually analyzing hundreds of links.

Let’s jump right into the findings.

Top 3 Best Link Building Services (Case Study)

  1. Page One Power
  2. Fat Joe
  3. The Hoth

Before I go too deep into this, I want to share the goal of this case study. My goal is not to “bash” any of these services.

Everything I share here is designed to help both buyers and sellers in link building campaigns.

Buyers deserve to know what SEO process they’re investing in and how it will affect the SEO performance. Sellers deserve to get quality feedback, so they can improve their services and link building activities.

I’m not going to beat around the bush with my link building efforts data analysis. If the link-building techniques are bad, I’m going to say it’s bad.

I’ll also explain the right way for buyers to use link building services (80% of buyers aren’t using these services correctly. More on this later.).

Sound good? Cool, let’s get started.

Here’s a high-level overview of the 942 links we analyzed:

As of 6/24/2020, we’ve collected data from 942 different link placements. We have the most data from Fat Joe and Page One Power. This will change as we continue to add more orders to our database.

The Hoth and Page One Power had the highest number of unique linking root domains (on average). However, this data isn’t particularly valuable at a high level. I’ll explain why.

Both link building companies also dominated the total organic keywords for their placements. This is a solid metric, but it’s also not 100% reliable because of the reasons I’ll explain.

Lastly, link placements from Page One Power and The Hoth dominated the estimated organic search traffic numbers as well.

Here’s how we conducted these link building companies services case study:

1. We gathered metrics for all link placements using Ahrefs

The KPIs we used for a 30,000-foot view analysis are:

  • Ahrefs Rank
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow)
  • Keywords
  • Traffic

The objective was to see what services faired best at a high-level.

Here’s why high-level metrics (averages) don’t really work:

1. Varying order types

Some links are at a higher price point while others are at a lower price point. As you can imagine, higher-priced placements are generally better. This also leads to:

2. Metric inflation

One or two websites with big numbers can inflate the averages. We filtered out super high-authority sites to avoid inflating the averages as much as possible.

3. Total referring domains doesn’t mean much

The only way to truly judge the quality of a website’s link profile is to do manual analysis. Link-by-link.

That’s why step #2 in this process was critical.

2. I randomly selected 10 link placements from each vendor and did a manual analysis

I’ll be sharing a granular analysis of 2-3 out of the ten link placements for each vendor. My focus will be on placements that received a perfect score of 5, an average score of 3, and a poor score of 1.

Here are the domain-level criteria we used:

  • Is this a legit website or a PBN rebuild?
  • Is this website active?
  • Is this website adding new value or is it just a hub for accepting paid links?
  • Is the website using an SSL certificate?
  • Does the website have a clean history?
  • Is the domain-relevant? To score this, we used The Relevancy Pyramid.
  • Does the website explicitly say that it accepts guest posts, sponsored posts, or paid links?
  • Does the business have an external presence on social media?
  • Does the website have organic search traffic? If not, does it have traffic from other sources?

Here are the page-level criteria we used:

  • Is the page hosting the link indexed?
  • Does the article have a legitimate author?
  • Is the article readable?
  • Does the article have a Grammarly score greater than 70?
  • Does the article have relevant, high-quality external links?
  • Does the article have internal links?
  • Is the article thin?
  • Is the article topically relevant?

Based on high-level metrics and manual analysis, these are the top 3 best link building services:

1. Page One Power

It should come as no surprise that Page One Power had the highest quality links.

I questioned whether or not we should have on this list at all because they aren’t productized service like the others. They have monthly retainers and their service is customized for each client.

That said, they are still a “link building service”.

And I must say, they’re damn good at what they do.

Out of all the services I tested, Page One Power’s link placements were most consistent. But it actually wasn’t just their link placement that impressed me.

It was HOW they built links.

I’ve been preaching this for a long time, but the best way to build links to your site is by creating linkable assets. ALL of Page One Power’s placements do exactly that.

In fact: It’s a requirement.

This the safest and most natural way to build links to your site.

It’s far more natural to acquire links to an informational content asset than a boring transactional page (example: local lead capture page or product page).

Placement #1 (5/5)

  • Total cost: $550
  • Domain Rating (DR): 73
  • Ahrefs Rank: 48,167
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 3,101
  • Total Keywords: 16,740
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 7,441
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 86%
  • Word Count: 768

I wanted to highlight this link placement because it doesn’t seem like it deserves a 5/5 (on the surface).

But let’s dig a little deeper.

Page One Power was tasked with finding link opportunities in the legal niche. This is a notoriously difficult niche for getting REAL links.

The workaround is to sacrifice domain-level relevance.

Instead, you can build relevance on the content level.

I gave them a 3/5 for content relevance because it was a little broad, but I understand the reasoning (which is to make the placement more natural).

There were three elements that I loved about this link placement.

1. The content is editorial and written by a legit author

2. The link profile is beautiful

The domains have DoFollow links from Adobe, The Guardian, Techcrunch, IBM, and Wall Street Journal.

3. They’re linking to a linkable asset

Page One Power linked to a data-driven blog post on the law firm’s site.

Perfect!

This link placement is a great example of why domain-level relevance isn’t always critical. A link can be high-quality as long as it’s placed on website with a strong link profile and the content is somewhat topically relevant.

Placement #2 (3/5)

  • Total cost: $550
  • Domain Rating (DR): 69
  • Ahrefs Rank: 10,8155
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 2,411
  • Total Keywords: 7,381
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 995
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 3/5
  • Grammarly Score: 93%
  • Word Count: 626

This link placement had some good qualities such as:

  • It is indexed
  • The content is readable and high-quality
  • The content is linking out to other quality sources and does have internal links
  • It has a legit author

But it also has a few issues.

The website is extremely general and it covers sports, lifestyle, culture, women, money, and pretty much every topic under the sun.

The content the link was placed in is loosely relevant (and that’s a stretch).

The client is a personal injury lawyer and the article is about “The Best Natural Teeth-Whitening Methods”.

It is linking to a linkable asset about “chemical burns from defective whitening products” on the client’s site.

This is good. But overall, it’s quite the stretch.

However, the biggest issue I found was with the link profile. What I’m about to show you were a common trend among poorly-rated links in this case study.

It is the presence of public blog network links.

I believe that these links are built by the people who paid for the links.

I don’t believe the host website built them in most cases. There are always exceptions to the rule.

However, this type of tier two link building is used to increase page authority. Which in theory, makes the link “stronger”.

Placement #3 (1/5)

Remember when I said I would show the good and the bad?

Well, this placement was an example of the bad (but probably not why you think). You see this placement has great metrics, good content, and a solid link profile.

So, what’s missing?

The client’s link was removed!

I’m not sure whether or not this link was replaced by Page One Power.

But if it wasn’t, that’s $550 flushed down the toilet and missed opportunity for a link to age.

This was the only “bad” link I analyzed from Page One Power.

Page One Power Review

Page One Power is the real deal. So, if you have the budget, you should consider working with them. They understand how to build links in a natural and safe way. They clearly vet every link opportunity and they’re doing great work.

My only recommendation for them is to watch out for author footprints.

I noticed that the same author was used for a large percentage of the links they were placing. These leave a big footprint.

2. Fat Joe

Fat Joe offers a popular blogger outreach service. The service is priced based on Domain Authority (DA) from Moz and it ranges from DA 10 – DA 40.

In most cases, I would avoid websites in the DA 10 + range because they’re A) too weak and B) not high-quality.

Hence the reason why they’re low authority. You can, however, use lower authority links to grow the authority of tier one placements.

Link Placement #1 (5/5)

  • Total cost: $253
  • Domain Rating (DR): 16
  • Ahrefs Rank: 10,523,902
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 163
  • Total Keywords: 2,518
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 463
  • Domain Relevance: 4/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 66%
  • Word Count: 1,351

We purchased a DA 30 + placement and was quite impressed by the quality and results. The link went live around May 3rd:

The target site was in a very linkable niche, but we liked several key parts of this placement.

1. It has a natural and relevant link profile

2. The content was great

The content was long and was filled with quality external and internal links. It also had a strong readability score and was topically relevant to the target site.

3. The site is active and relevant

There aren’t many links on our list that received a 4 or 5/5 on site-level relevancy. This one scored a 4. It wasn’t 100% relevant, but it was a closely related niche.

Link Placement #2 (1/5)

  • Total cost: $60
  • Domain Rating (DR): 25
  • Ahrefs Rank: 6,041,323
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 398
  • Total Keywords: 237
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 33
  • Domain Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Relevance: 4/5
  • Content Readability: 2/5
  • Grammarly Score: 78%
  • Word Count: 560

This placement received a poor rating for several reasons.

1. The page isn’t indexed

Always copy and paste the page hosting your link into Google. If it doesn’t show up (as long as you give it a few weeks to be crawled), then there’s a problem. If the page isn’t indexed, then your link is worthless.

Plain and simple.

2. The site isn’t secure

It’s a pretty well-known fact that Google cares about security.

That’s why they’re labeling websites without SSL certificates as “Not Secure” on Google Chrome.

3. The content has outbound links, but they look like other paid links

I don’t whether this vendor placed these links or the host website did. Either way, it looks like a link farm.

4. The site has turned into a hub for paid links

Every new blog post is thin and crammed with paid links. It’s safe to assume that getting a link on this site is practically worthless.

5. The link profile is weak

The link profile has barely (if any) editorial links and is filled with the directory, profile, and web 2.0 links.

Fat Joe Review

Fat Joe is a solid link building service as long as you use it the right way. I would stay away from the DA 10 + on tier one (but it’s probably safe to be used on tier two).

I also recommend upgrading the content length when you order. Most people likely purchase the default word count and this leaves a footprint.

Lastly, promote linkable assets instead of transactional pages.

3. The Hoth

The Hoth is one of the most well-known link building company’s in the SEO industry.

They have a very successful company, but how’s the quality of their link building strategy? Keep reading to find out.

Link Placement #1 (5/5)

  • Total cost: $300
  • Domain Rating (DR): 90
  • Ahrefs Rank: 735
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 27,951
  • Total Keywords: 200,828
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 39,414
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 5/5
  • Content Readability: 4/5
  • Grammarly Score: 91%
  • Word Count: 630

We ordered from The Hoth GP link building agency and for the criteria type, we select “Traffic” and 10,000. I know a lot of people have opinions about The Hoth, but this placement was excellent for our backlink profile.

Not only did the link building campaign meet our criteria, but it’s actually already producing results in our search engine rankings.

There were a few elements I loved about this backlink building:

1. It’s on extremely authoritative quality websites and web pages

The metrics on this placement are nutty (as you can see above). This is definitely an over-delivery of what I ordered. That’s a good thing.

For a website to be this authoritative, it’s guaranteed to have a strong link profile.

2. It’s very editorial

The article is topically relevant, professional, and well-edited. This link building partner definitely bid on quality content creation. The target link anchor text is also surrounded by other relevant links.

Link Placement #3 (3/5)

  • Total cost: $180
  • Domain Rating (DR): 34
  • Ahrefs Rank: 2,361,323
  • Referring Domains (DoFollow): 955
  • Total Keywords: 6,349
  • Estimated Organic Search Traffic/mo: 1,110
  • Domain Relevance: 1/5
  • Content Relevance: 3/5
  • Content Readability: 3/5
  • Grammarly Score: 74%
  • Word Count: 596

The Hoth was in a tough situation with this client because they are in the legal space. It would have been much easier for them to land a relevant link if the client was promoting a linkable asset (instead of their homepage).

That said: their link-building tactics were decent, but it had some issues.

Here’s the good:

  • The link is indexed
  • The link is surrounded by external and internal links
  • The content is topically relevant
  • The content quality is decent
  • It’s a real website
  • The site has real traffic

It has some quality links:

But the bad part about this link placement is the other part of this site’s link profile. It’s littered with public blog network links:

The biggest giveaway of network links is when a website has a ton of homepage links. It’s extremely rare to have homepage links, so when you see it, it’s a red flag.

Here’s what the network site looks like:

The other negative side of this guest posting placement is that it’s not relevant on the domain side.

Link Placement #3 (1/5)

Where do I start with this one?

The client ordered a link from The Hoth’s guest post service and they received a link on a web 2.0 (Weebly).

Just so you’re aware, web 2.0s are not editorial links. Anyone can create a free account on Weebly and create what you see above.

These links worked well several years ago, but now they’re practically worthless.

Plus… that’s not what the client ordered.

The Hoth Review

Everyone in the SEO community has an opinion about The Hoth, but the links I analyzed were pretty solid.

I recommend selecting “traffic” as your criteria when you purchase links from them. And like Fat Joe, avoid low authority placements (DA 10 +).

Honorable Mention (Future Top 3?)

This section is dedicated to link building services that we believe have potential. However, we haven’t invested enough capital to make a fair assessment of their link quality.

RhinoRank

RhinoRank offer two different types of link building services: guest posts and curated links. Their curated links service will get you placements within existing content.

I’ve seen mixed results with their curated links. Some are great, some are really low-quality. I’ll report back soon.

Audience Bloom

Audience Bloom (now SEO.co) was founded by the prolific online writer, Jayson DeMers. They used to only provide link building services, but now they offer a wide array of services.

That said, we have a lot of link data from them and I’ll let you know how they are soon.

Authority Builders

I’ve tested and analyzed a few links from these guys. It’s a great service because you get to select what website your link will be placed on.

Authority Builders is also operated by a standup guy, Matt Diggity.

Loganix

Most of my experience with Loganix is with their local services. However, we’re currently testing their links. They let you pre-approve their placements and the company is run by Adam Steele.

Adam deeply cares about customer experience, so I’m sure their services are great. I’ll report back soon.

There are few other services that we’re looking into such as Click Intelligence, Love to Link, and SEO Butler as well.

Big Takeaways

Analyzing these link building services was fun, thought-provoking, and grueling at the same. Through the process, I realized a few things.

1. There are no perfect link building services (and that’s fine)

Getting perfectly relevant links with impeccable link profiles is nearly impossible.

The point of a link building service is to help you offload one of the most time-consuming tasks in SEO.

So, you have to ask yourself:

Is a 4-star link acceptable if you don’t have to think about doing the work?

The answer is “yes” for me personally.

Sure.

In a perfect world, you would only have impeccable links in your profile.

But that’s not even natural.

A “natural” link profile will have a wide array of websites.

Some strong. Some weak. Some amazing. Some terrible.

THAT’S NATURAL.

2. If you’re going to use link building services, then do this:

  • Create and promote linkable assets instead of transactional pages. Watch this:

  • Only invest in higher authority opportunities (generally avoid the DA 10 – DA 19)
  • Less is more
  • Invest more to get deeper content/higher word counts
  • Use natural anchor text
  • Recommend the external links you want your link to be surrounded by

3. Your niche really matters…

You can’t expect to get 100% relevant links when you’re in a narrow niche. That’s why creating linkable assets is so important.

4. You (usually) get what you pay for

More expensive placements are usually better while cheap placements are worse. Common sense here.

That’s All (and What’s Next)

We’re going to continually update this list to keep it fresh. That means that some vendors may fall and others may enter the top 3.

I hope this was helpful and please share it if it was!

Thanks for reading.

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