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Your Secret to SEO Success

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Because Google won’t tell us exactly how their search algorithms work (come on already Google!), oftentimes the answer we get in SEO is “it depends.”

While this is an unsatisfying answer, there are many valid reasons for it – different websites, different niches, different audiences, different competition, etc.

But what if I told you there was a foolproof SEO strategy you could leverage to succeed in SEO regardless of your vertical or type of business?

That would be great, right?

Well, this is possible and the only thing you must do is… keep learning!

OK, so that might not be as cut and dry of a strategy as you were hoping for, but it’s true.

Ongoing education is essential to SEO success.

It’s how the top SEO professionals, and the brands they manage, stay on top.

SEO is an ever-changing industry and landscape. The same rule that applies to search rankings applies to SEO savvy: if you remain status quo, you’re losing ground.

What would your SEO strategy look like if you were still following best practices from 2010? 2000? 1996 when search engines rose to prominence?

You would have keyword-stuffed pages and be chasing blog comment links, and you would not be performing in search.

As an SEO, to avoid getting left behind you must constantly educate yourself to keep up with the changing times and best practices.

Just Look at 2019!

To understand how rapidly SEO changes and why continuous education is necessary, we don’t have to look any further than this current year.

In 2019 alone, we’ve seen major changes and important trends emerge that have a drastic and lasting impact on the SEO landscape. These trends include:

  • The evolution of how Google measures E-A-T and its significance in terms of search rankings.
  • And Google’s continuous push to answer queries within the SERP and the emergence of zero-result queries.

This is not the entire list of everything that happened in 2019, but it demonstrates how quickly things can move in SEO. Let’s take a quick look at each of these developments.

The Influence of E-A-T on Search & Our Understanding of It

Right off the bat, I want to explicitly state E-A-T is not a ranking factor.

However, this does not mean E-A-T doesn’t influence rankings, or rather, our understanding of and investment in E-A-T influences our ability to rank.

Ryan Jones explains this concept well in a tweet from Pubcon:

We should be working to improve the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of our site because these improvements correlate with the actual signals (content quality and backlinks) that Google is trying to measure with their algorithm.

While this all may seem somewhat ambiguous – I can hear Matt Cutts saying, “create good content!” – Lily Ray has done a great job of sharing actionable insights.

Some things you can do to improve the E-A-T of your website include:

  • Improving your online reputation via third-party review sites.
  • Minimizing ad placements on your site to avoid diminishing user experience.
  • Being transparent about who your brand is and who the people are behind it, particularly the authors of your content.
  • Citing credible sources and earning citations as a credible source.

You can see more of Lily’s helpful tips here, or check out these other helpful E-A-T resources here on Search Engine Journal:

Is Google Trying to Create an Answer Engine?

With the recent trends we’ve seen from Google, it seems that they are pushing more and more towards having an answer engine rather than a search engine – Google wants to answer queries within their platform, rather than provide links to external resources.

The idea of zero-result SERPs is a frightening prospect for SEO professionals who work to build search visibility and gain organic traffic from Google’s search results, and for some queries, this notion is already a reality.

Furthermore, there has been a rise in queries that show results but result in zero-clicks – obviously, this isn’t ideal for an SEO either.

Rand Fishkin has been conducting research into click-through-rates and how Google is trying to keep users on their platform, and I recommend you review his findings to learn more.

This type of “future-casting” is a great example of why you need to be continuously learning and experimenting in SEO – you need to identify trends to understand where the industry is heading and how you can get ahead.

For example, if you’re targeting a keyword because it has a large monthly search volume, but it’s tied to queries with zero-clicks, you’re going to struggle to earn organic traffic.

Operating based on outdated assumptions (big search volume = big opportunity) can lead to ineffective and inefficient work.

These are just some of the changes and updates that we saw this year that demonstrate how rapidly the SEO landscape can evolve. If you’re not paying attention and leveling up your skills, you will be left behind.

Staying Informed with SEO

So how do you stay informed and continually grow your knowledge base for SEO?

The SEO community, in general, is great about collaborating and sharing information.

Since nobody really knows how Google’s search algorithm works exactly, it seems to foster a “we’re in this together” mentality within the SEO space where people share their tests and findings to help move the collective understanding forward.

Some of the ways you can tap into the community to support your ongoing SEO education include:

  • Attending trade shows and industry events.
  • Staying active on social media.
  • And reading and watching online content.

Each of these channels provide opportunities to challenge your assumptions and further your SEO knowledge.

Trade Shows & Events

One of the best ways to keep tabs on what’s happening in the SEO industry is to attend trade shows and industry events.

The presentations at these events typically feature discussions and research from the bleeding-edge of SEO. These are the platforms where industry experts like to share their new studies and discoveries, and sometimes these shows even feature experts from Google sharing best practices and updates on search.

You can find a list of the top SEO events here on Search Engine Journal.

Paying for tickets and travel to these shows can get expensive.

So, If you’re unable to make it to the show itself, it’s always a good idea to follow the sponsored hashtag on Twitter and keep an eye out for recap posts.

While these options aren’t as valuable as going to the shows – you miss out on all the networking opportunities – social posts and recap blogs will keep you abreast of the biggest takeaways from the event.

Social Media

Speaking of social media, you can learn a lot about SEO via social.

Twitter, in particular, has an active SEO community.

While 280 characters may not seem like enough space to have in-depth SEO discussions, the way the platform is designed, combined with an active community, makes for a great learning environment.

Twitter is often the place where updates and major changes to search rankings are discovered.

SEO pros from across the industry can share and compare the changes they are seeing in real-time, which makes it possible to spot trends and draw conclusions about how search results are changing.

In fact, Twitter often provides an opportunity to speak directly to Google employees. Some notable accounts you should be following include:

Outside of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn groups provide great platforms for SEO discussion as well.

There are also several great SEO forums, such as:

The key is to find the right group for your knowledge level and area of interest, and of course, you want to find a group that is active and start engaging yourself – often, the best way to learn more about an SEO subject or theory is by trying to explain it to someone else.

Quora is an excellent place to answer SEO questions and demonstrate, and test, your SEO knowledge.

There are also numerous SEO experts to follow that share industry news and insights daily. Check out Search Engine Journal’s list here to find some of the best and brightest minds in SEO to learn from.

SEO Content

As mentioned before, the SEO industry is great about sharing knowledge, and as such, there is never a shortage of fresh, quality SEO content.

Whether it’s a video, podcast, or blog post, there is always new, informative content available. News sites like Search Engine Journal provide the best of both worlds with in-depth, actionable blog posts as well as analysis of the latest developments in SEO.

I’d recommend subscribing to the SEJ Today newsletter to keep a pulse on the industry as a whole and to keep an eye out for content that may provide a solution to the current challenge you’re facing. The Moz Top 10 is another great resource that curates the best SEO content from around the web every two weeks.

Again, explaining SEO concepts is often the best way to learn more and writing your own SEO content is an effective way to increase your knowledge base.

Personally, I’ve learned much of what I know about SEO from conducting the necessary research associated with the post I write.

The process of writing an in-depth guide on a new topic requires a deep understanding of that topic, so if you want to learn something new, try writing a post about that concept.

Of course, if you’re not a writer or are looking for outside perspectives, there are many great SEO blogs to follow, and Search Engine Journal has a solid list here,

Test Everything You Learn with SEO Experiments

Really, the best way to expand your knowledge and challenge SEO assumptions is by doing the actual work and experimenting.

Again, no one outside of Google search engineers – and with all the machine learning, maybe not even them at this point – knows all the intricacies of the search algorithm, so even the most widely accepted SEO theories are still just theories.

You should always be tracking the results of your SEO efforts to make sure you’re working toward your goals, but you can also leverage these opportunities for learning experiences.

Learned about a new link building tactic? Test it on a small scale within your own campaign and measure the efficacy.

Heard about a new best practice for on-page SEO?

Implement the change on a subset of your pages and track the results.

The best way to learn is by doing, and it’s no different with SEO.

There are so many mitigating factors in SEO (different business models, different niches, different websites, etc.) that you need to take any best practice with a grain of salt anyway, so testing on your own site is necessary.

The key with SEO testing and experiments is to contain your test to a small sample size and then scale up as you see positive results.

Through continual learning (and testing of what you learn), you’ll ensure that you’re always following SEO best practices and implementing changes that improve the performance of your site in search.

While there is no “magic bullet” in SEO that will guarantee you success, through ongoing education, you can hone in on what has the largest impact on your website, overcome any challenges or obstacles, outmaneuver your competition, and the results will feel like magic!

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SEO

The anatomy of a negative SEO attack

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30-second summary:

  • SEO can just as easily destroy websites’ rankings as it can build them up.
  • Newer websites or startups with smaller backlink profiles are the most vulnerable to negative SEO attacks.
  • Webmasters need to regularly monitor their backlink profile to make sure their site is not keeping company with any questionable web properties.
  • Negative SEO can be remediated through manual outreach or Google’s disavow tool, but high-quality link building campaigns are the best way to minimize the impact of low-quality links.

In the early days of search engine optimization, a variety of black-hat techniques allowed SEOs to dominate the first page of search. Cloaking, keyword stuffing, backlink spam, and other strategies could catapult websites to the first page. But those days are long gone. Google’s algorithms are extremely powerful and can easily result in a negative SEO attack. Not only will black-hat strategies no longer work – they will destroy your site’s rankings and even prevent your domain from ranking permanently. 

So for those out there on the internet who are not interested in seeing your domain move up the first page, black hat SEO is an easy way to harm your website. Many new site owners are so eager to get any backlinks that they can, they allow low-quality links to populate their profile without ever thinking about where those links are coming from, or why those other site owners linked to them in the first place. 

Negative SEO attacks are real. I’ve helped many clients recover from them. They can come from competitors, hackers, or seemingly out of nowhere, but without a quick response, a website’s reputation with search engines can be permanently harmed. 

Although Google algorithm updates or technical issues with your website can impact your keyword rankings, an unexpected drop could be a sign of negative SEO. The good news is, the anatomy of a negative SEO attack is clearly recognizable. If you take quick action, you can protect your website and minimize the damage.

The websites that are most vulnerable to SEO 

The reality is, every time your site moves up a spot in the SERPs, you knock another site down. It’s not fun to imagine that other people would use negative SEO to harm your efforts, but if you offer great service or product that could take business or traffic away from someone else, then your site is at risk.

Any website can experience a negative SEO attack, but local businesses and startups with less than 300 referring domains are the most vulnerable. The smaller your backlink profile, the more impactful any low-quality or unnatural links will be. If 50% of your links are spammy and you’re a brand new site, Google crawlers are going to look at your backlink profile and assume your site is trying to cheat your way to the top. 

For new webmasters, in particular, it’s critical to pay close attention to every backlink you acquire. This is also true when you pay for the services of a link building company. Some site owners are hesitant to pursue link building because they have had negative experiences with SEOs in the past who engaged in these spammy techniques that ended up tearing their site down rather than building it up. 

As your backlink profile grows, spammy links will not have as much of an impact on your domain authority or rankings. Still, it’s good to keep an eye on the referring domains and anchor text diversity of your backlink profile.

How to identify a negative SEO attack

There are a variety of common negative SEO techniques that people may use to harm your website. After handling negative SEO attacks with my own clients, these are the most common types I’ve come across and that I encourage webmasters to be on the lookout for.

1. Toxic backlinks

Backlinks from low-quality sites that have low domain authority, little relevance to your industry, or very little site traffic should always be suspect. If you receive a large influx of these low-quality links, they may be coming from a link farm that has the infrastructure to build a massive amount of links quickly. If you’re a new site with a large percentage of toxic links, Google will likely assume you’ve been participating in black hat manipulation.

A negative SEO attack can be cause by toxic poor quality backlinks

2. Comment spam links

One way SEOs used to manipulate their site authority was by leaving backlinks in the comment section of blogs or forum sites. If you suddenly receive backlinks in the comment section of older blogs with no relevance or traffic, someone might have placed them there maliciously. If it’s an SEO agency that placed the link and you paid for it, fire them immediately. Google indexes those links in the comment section, and it will not look favorably upon your site if you have a lot of these unnatural backlinks.

Spam comments could cause a negative SEO attack

3. Exact match or unnatural anchor text

Natural anchor text will most often include your brand name, the services or products your business offers, or more generic wording like, “Click Here.” If all of your anchor text has the exact keyword you’re trying to rank for, that will come across as manipulation to Google. If the anchor text is irrelevant, it will confuse Google bots about the content of your site. It’s important to pay attention to the most common ways that other sites link to yours so if new links don’t share at least some similarity, you can investigate them accordingly.

4. Fake negative reviews

Although negative reviews don’t have as drastic of an impact on your site authority as your backlink profile, Google does crawl and render those sites when considering whether to rank web pages. Local and small businesses with bad reviews, in particular, will not rank, so in addition to reviewing your backlink profile on a regular basis, site owners should also be monitoring the important review sites in their industry. Most major review sites allow you to report reviews if you have reason to believe they are fake.

There are other types of negative SEO that I haven’t listed here such as content scraping, links hidden in images, and more, but the above are very easily identified using Google Search Console or any type of backlink analyzer. Familiarizing yourself with the many ways that others may try to link to your site in a harmful way will help you be able to identify those problematic links right after they show up in your backlink profile.

How to perform negative SEO remediation

Digging yourself out of a negative SEO attack is never fun, but it can be done. If you’re being a responsible webmaster and monitoring your backlink profile regularly, you should have a solid understanding of what a healthy backlink profile for your website looks like, and will therefore be able to recognize the moment that something appears off.

If you believe that the influx of links is indeed the result of nefarious intentions, you have a few options to repair the damage, and hopefully, before Google penalizes your site. Some of these options are more expensive than others, but if you’re not an experienced webmaster, it is probably best to get the guidance of an SEO expert. If you remove the wrong links, you can end up performing negative SEO on your own website by mistake.

1. Request removal

The first step with any link is to reach out to the webmaster to ask for the link to be removed. Admittedly, this is not always successful. However, before you move on to option two, you want to make sure you have exhausted every effort to have the link removed before requesting Google to get involved. If the link was the result of comment spam, the owner of the blog may be willing to moderate or delete the comment. There have been webmasters who have charged my clients a fee to have links removed. Depending on the price you’re willing to pay, you can choose to do so or move on to other options.

2. Disavow file

In 2012, Google added the disavow tool in Google Search Console to give webmasters more agency in their off-site SEO. The reality is, no one can fully control the websites that choose to link to theirs in a harmful way, so it’s not really fair for search engines to penalize your site as a result. Google recognized this and created the disavow tool, however, they still advise site owners to use it sparingly.

A disavow file is essentially a list of links that you want invalidated on your domain, or that you don’t want Google to consider when evaluating the quality of your website. There are detailed instructions on how to submit a disavow file in the Google Search Console help center. Take note though that these links aren’t actually removed, Google just no longer takes them into consideration the next time they are crawled and indexed. If you’re using an SEO software that measures the quality of your backlink profile, you will likely have to submit the disavow file there as well if you want their metrics to accurately reflect how Google understands your site.

3. Link building campaigns

High-quality, contextual link building is different from black-hat SEO in that it uses original content to earn links on relevant, industry-specific publications. The best SEO agencies will increase site authority the right way, through techniques that are Google compliant and don’t harm your rankings in the long-term. If you are not actively trying to earn high-quality links for your website, not only are you missing out on the opportunity to improve your overall keyword rankings, you place your site in a more vulnerable position. If you pursue consistent link acquisition and build up a healthy backlink profile before a negative SEO attack occurs, you are more well-positioned to avoid a Google penalty.

It is certainly frustrating and unfair when negative SEO occurs, but there is really nothing that a webmaster can do to prevent it. So in the case of negative SEO, preparation is the best medicine. Knowing what to look for will help you be more prepared to take immediate action and minimize the damage. 

Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO, paid media, and content marketing services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, a software suite of free SEO tools. You can find Manick on Twitter @madmanick.





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7 changes make a big difference with your Digital Marketing Strategy

We know that the face of marketing has changed from past few years as people are more informed while making purchases, thanks to the information available online. These people become potential customers, and so companies prefer digital marketing over all other forms of marketing.

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We know that the face of marketing has changed from past few years as people are more informed while making purchases, thanks to the information available online. These people become potential customers, and so companies prefer digital marketing over all other forms of marketing. Businesses need a robust digital marketing strategy since they are not harnessing the full power of this online trend. For companies to be successful in 2020, digital marketing needs to be more than just posting on Facebook. They will need to improve their existing digital marketing continually.

2020-State of Digital Marketing

Online and digital media has changed – it is no longer a world of random things and what is hot now may change later. However, there are a few simple facts that we need to consider your general digital marketing efforts:

Newcomers will enter, but there will not be new social networks every other day.

Digital marketing strategy should rely on current and upcoming new data.

Why you need a robust digital marketing strategy

It will help you focus and come up with a plan to determine how many followers you want and by how much you need to increase the conversion rate

A strategy will inspire you to get your digital marketing game healthy and be in competition.

A well-written plan will regularly check in on your current methods and see if they are working as per plan. You can optimise and adapt accordingly.

A digital marketing strategy will limit the duplication of content or resources.

It will help you experiment with new approaches to gain and keep customers.

By creating a strategy, you will be able to understand what your customers want and provide services accordingly.

Let us discuss in detail some changes that can make a big difference to your Digital Marketing strategy in 2020

1) Plan new SEO friendly content

One of the best ways of improving SEO is to create new content regularly. The content should be mapped to relevant keywords . Include an SEO friendly title that will directly impact the quality score and ranking. You need to ensure that the material consists of researched keywords in the first 100 words of an article to follow best practices and get credit for your business.

2) Revamp your social media presence

One way to engage your audience and refresh your social media presence is to leverage the trends and bring your brand’s personality to life. We can do it in the following ways

Evaluate your content and ask yourself these questions: How is it different? What engaging content can I create?

Moreover, start conversations with influencers, research for relevant topics and provide insight on articles concerning your brand.

With social media, you can keep on trying to get the best content mix, and with platformance analytics, you can understand the what is working and what is not.

3) AdWords and Content Shock

AdWords is one of the most effective methods of online advertising since the business of all sizes can use it to increase leads and customers. With AdWords, you can spend less and still understand how your audience is searching. AdWords is similar to SEO which takes time to evolve your keyword research and strategy to yield results. Google will reward you with an increase in leads to your site if you stick to it. When the creation and distribution of content are costly than the ROI it generates, it is known as Content Shock. It becomes a great asset for small players since they don’t reach the big numbers from the start. Hence, it becomes the tremendous start for small players as they do not need to scale up their digital marketing strategy.

4) Use Analytics to inform A/B testing

Analytics drives digital strategy, and one of the most important things to do with analytics is to engage in A/B testing. You can use the incoming data to apply A/B testing strategy. Finally, A/B testing is the best way to understand your customers. Resources like Google Analytics, Social Media and AdWords, are the best way to improve your digital efforts.

5) Understand the changing environment

Your biggest enemy when it comes to digital marketing is complacency. Due to changing consumer views, marketers need to identify obsolete strategies and adjust accordingly. The brand now focuses on providing content when the user needs it instead of creating content hoping users will need it. This approach requires a strategy. For a full proof strategy in 2020, marketers need to focus on three main elements: Artificial Intelligence, Social Media and Customer. If you look closely at these elements, they influence all the trends like augmented reality, influencer analytics, video marketing, personalisation, native advertising and content marketing.

6) Encourage personalised interactions

Based on a report, 73% of customers will do business with your company if you provide a customised experience. Personalising your communication helps to engage with your customers. Sending personalised emails, modifying templates, using recipient’s name, personally responding on social media and segmenting the email list based on persona are a few ways that can work very well.

7) Build your network

Try to gain information and experience of others in your field. By building your network, you can predict and work as per changing times. The network will help you prepare for challenges in future.

Your 2020 Digital Marketing strategy needs to be like the playbook which is tailored to the team and team’s competition. A simple principle in the digital world is if you don’t establish a baseline of where your company stands concerning the competitors, you will have no idea of the areas you would need to focus on beating them. Your company will really benefit if you make little changes in your digital marketing strategy by keeping track of upcoming trends and changes in the environment. If this seems like a lot, give VajraGlobal a call.

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Why SEO is important for your online success?

A famous saying about SEO is, ‘Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first’. There are some SEO importance statistics which resonates the same.

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A famous saying about SEO is, ‘Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first’. There are some SEO importance statistics which resonates the same. According to a popular report, about 93% of online experiences commence with the search engine. But even then, for a lot of people, SEO is an afterthought, which should not be the case. Instead, SEO is the base, unlike a mere topping on the pizza. Whether you are looking at the importance of SEO for small businesses or a bigger business, the rule of the thumb is to have an SEO strategy right at the beginning. The reason is SEO is all about improving user experience. While you design your SEO strategy, do not forget that search engines measure the overall user experience and decide whether a particular site can go up the search results.

What is SEO?

Before you understand the importance of SEO for small businesses and all the hype that is created around SEO, you would like to understand more about SEO, right. Let us see if we can develop a fair idea about SEO and the important SEO factors.

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the method of optimizing your content so that a search engine likely shows it up as a top rank after users search for a specific keyword. As per Neil Patel, SEO is that magic that you must perform on your content so that Google includes it as one of the top results when someone performs a keyword search. The SEO importance statistics are enough to highlight the essence of SEO to survive in an online venture.

Why SEO is Important for Online Success?

Now that we have a fair idea about SEO let us understand why SEO is important for online success? In simple words, amateurs might say that it offers greater searchability and visibility, but the truth is it provides a lot more value than that.

SEO helps to get targeted visitors: Among important SEO factors, bringing in targeted prospects plays a critical role. With SEO, you can attract the exact audience you are looking at. Along with apt keywords, quality content, and good backlinks, SEO helps bring in the target audience to your website. The chances of conversion are higher.

Good SEO also ensures a better user experience: Most often, it is seen that businesses want more visibility and higher rankings, but they forget about optimal user experience. Google, which holds a 75% market share in the search engine market, can differentiate between a good and bad user experience. When you invest in quality SEO, you are investing in good user experience. 

SEO impacts the buying cycle: The importance of SEO for small businesses is that it affects the buying cycle. With good SEO, you can convey your messages about the great deals that you are offering to your customers or the uniqueness of the products or services that you are selling to your customers. If done right, it can have a positive impact on the entire buying cycle, thereby contributing to the online success of a business.

SEO is cost-effective: Running a business in itself is a costly affair. To add salt to the wound, marketing costs add to the daily expenses. However, if you are thinking to stretch your marketing costs a bit, then SEO is the economic way to go about it. SEO is a long-term strategy wherein you will get the results after investing the time and effort. 

SEO builds brand awareness: If you are looking at brand building, then SEO has a crucial role to play. One SEO importance statistics : 33% of the average visitors share the first organic search result that Google brings. Few go to the second and from then the numbers dwindle. Ranking high on the search engine helps you build a brand amongst your customers as well as competitors.

Are you still wondering if SEO is essential for online success? If you are, then the answer is, yes it is, Period! People need to find you first to buy your product or services, right?

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