German / Google Webmaster Central Sprechstunden-Hangout auf Deutsch

German / Google Webmaster Central Sprechstunden-Hangout auf Deutsch

*Donnerstag gibt’s hier wieder ein Google Webmaster Central Hangout auf Deutsch* *Thema:* Fragen könnt ihr hier auf der Event-Seite erfassen. Ich bin offen für alles Google/Webmaster-bezogene, z.B. Google’s Crawling & Indexing, Duplicate Content, Sitemaps, Search Console, Mehrsprachige & internationale Websites, usw.  *Wo:* Hier auf Google+. Mehr über Hangouts findet ihr unter http://ift.tt/LuiD5I  — eine Webcam ist praktisch, aber nicht notwendig.

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The 3 Layer Approach Of Pyramid White-Hat Linkbuilding

The 3 Layer Approach Of Pyramid White-Hat Linkbuilding

white-hat-linkbuidling-pyramid 

It seems to be absolutely clear what white-hat link-building is. But it’s not always that easy. It is hard to build links in the most natural way.

Struggling and looking for a balance in my backlink profiles, I finally build a structure that guides me really well. I’m happy to share it with you.

pyramid

 

The Layers

1. Get one really cool link! Sites like Forbes, HuffingtonPost, Entrepreneur, Inc etc. It’s really hard to get one but it’s definitely worth it!

Note: after Step 1 you’ll see many organic links, but don’t stop there —  you still need to do some work!

2. Gain 5 nice links from more niche-specific or young sites. Their Domain Authority can be high but their traffic is usually significantly lower.

3. These ones are much easier to get, but still, I don’t recommend to buy trash links for this purpose. It’s better to build some yourself and make sure your donors are trustful and not spammy.

Why This Works

Let’s look at how links emerge in the real world.

I’m going to walk you through how backlinks are supposed to appear organically, without any efforts from marketers or SEO gurus.

This will help you understand how to imitate this process and make Google and other search engine believe your project is cool enough to rank.

The Media Event

Just imagine: some really really cool tool or service has launched. Let’s call it LinksKing: it automatically builds super links all by itself — all you need to do is press the “OK” button and pay $10 per year. What would happen next?

The founders might go to ProductHunt and other similar outlets to kick off their relations with the audience.

  • Notice: Both the launch and submission to ProductHunt are media events.
    You too can also have such events, like being ranked in some list by Forbes or starting a free education program. You can even create a really cool infographic or checklist – not as resounding events as the others but they will work as well .

Getting Featured

After hearing about your incredible product, Forbes, Entrepreneur and Inc follow up with reviews and coverage. Smaller and more niche resources like Tech.co, Noobpreneur,  and others make their posts. And we’re not talking about guest posting here – in the ideal world these posts show up themselves.

  • Notice:but what you, as an SEO master, should do is definitely guest post. Also reach out to independent bloggers and ask for a review. Compose a really good non-advertising pitch, asking for an honest review. (This covers how to do that the right way)

Going Social

So you’re reading an article on Forbes and you get really excited about LinksKing. What luck! There are the social buttons! The article is shared on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. Some send the link directly to some of the closest friends and colleagues.

  • Notice: there is no magic advise here… just start social activity and don’t get shy of advertising on Twitter and Facebook – it’s an unknown field for many of us, but it doesn’t mean we should neglect the opportunities it provides.

Discussions & Comments

In the appropriate sub-reddits people are talking about LinksKing. Questions about it appear on Quora. Elsewhere there are forum discussions. It’s mentioned in several comments on blog posts about link building tools.

  • Notice: this is where “spam” comments, forum replies,  discussion seeders, etc. come in.

Conclusion

That’s it! This where the pyramid comes from! When you are done with the first run of the pyramid, you can create much more.

Good luck and feel free to post your questions and remarks in the comments!

Hand-Picked Related Articles:

* Adapted lead image: Public Domain Dedication (CC0) Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com

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Making a Business More Complaint Receptive

Making a Business More Complaint Receptive
I have just published the last (at least for now) article on complaints:  13 Ideas to Make Your Business More Complaint Friendly. In the article I came up with a number of ways to set your business up for success from both an operational point of view as well as a process one. But I … Continue reading Making a Business More Complaint Receptive

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The Anemic State Of Content And News

The Anemic State Of Content And News

You’re probably not reading this.

Still, there is a very strong likelihood that you have already shared this article. Even if you haven’t read anything but the headline. Sure, we all know the countless times that people share things like celebrity death hoaxes or an article of an event that took place years ago, but somehow made its way back into a Facebook newsfeed. Let’s not even begin to discuss how often "news" items are shared that are, in fact, articles from the parody site The Onion. It’s not that you can’t trust anybody, it’s that the vast majority of people that you follow – and that they’re connected to – have no kind of media training/knowledge, so they’re quick to hit the share button in an effort to be first, to look smart or… to simply share something/anything in a world where if you’re not sharing, you don’t exist.

Everything is moving faster and there’s much more of everything. 

Content marketing professionals would lead you to believe that the "cream always rises to the top," and that the truly great brands who are leading the charge in content as media, are the ones who are creating the best, most valuable and utilitarian content (and, that you should do the same). When, if you really dig deep into the research, you will be faced with the sad reality that:

  1. It’s not always the best content that rises to the top, but rather the content that is boosted and supported with both paid media and hours upon hours of promotional push behind it. This doesn’t make it the best content, it makes it the content that the best efforts were laid against to push it.
  2. 60% of content that is shared is done by people who have not actually read the piece. So, always judge a book by it’s cover… or the headline, because that’s what gets the share, not the guts of the content.

6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new depressing study says.

That was the headline of a piece in the Chicago Tribune about ten days ago. Did you read the article? Did you share the article without reading it? Have you stopped to think about it? Did you speak to your marketing team about it? You should. It’s troubling. It speaks to a much bigger problem. From the article: "According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it. Worse, the study finds that these sort of blind peer-to-peer shares are really important in determining what news gets circulated and what just fades off the public radar. So your thoughtless retweets, and those of your friends, are actually shaping our shared political and cultural agendas." You really need to read the article to understand just how bad this is. These researchers wrote super-compelling headlines and filled articles with "lore ipsum" text (i.e.: nothing), and it got more shares and clicks than most of the stuff that you actually found interesting and worthy of a share. And yes, it makes everything you read in an algorithm-based world skewed, blurred and less… real. 

You can control your content. You can’t control who does what with it. 

There are so many new (and frustrating) barriers to getting content to work (throttling of pages on Facebook, driving traffic to a corporate blog versus posting directly on LinkedIn, and much more). With that, it’s hard to make any content work in a world where people share (and don’t read) so blindly. It’s one thing to live in a world where twenty percent of your clicks are coming from those who don’t take the time to read the article, but sixty percent? Wow. That’s a hard number to swallow. What’s most interesting is that the news item above hit the feeds, and was nowhere to be found/discussed a few hours later. So, put that in your pipe and smoke it as well: even if you made it to the other forty percent, the half-life of your effort is also super slim. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more bullish than ever on brands that create content over screaming in a traditional advertising mindset. Brands are allocating more and more effort and budgets to this medium as well.

I’m just left wondering if they know, exactly, what they’re getting themselves into?

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Citation Building is How Customers Find Local Businesses by @DholakiyaPratik

Citation Building is How Customers Find Local Businesses by @DholakiyaPratik

Finding local businesses is rapidly becoming what the internet is for. Four out of five mobile phone and tablet owners use their devices to search for local business information, and 80% of those searches result in a purchase.

Further, according to data from Google, 50% of consumers who made a search by mobile made a purchase in store within 24 hours:

That’s great, right?

Yes, it is. But it works a little differently than traditional SEO. “Long distance” SEO is increasingly about content optimization and integration, while local SEO is far more about citation building – getting your name and address mentioned by local sites with authority. David Daniels, in an article on Search Engine Watch, calls citation building “the new link building.”

Citations and prominence have a huge impact on whether your local business shows up in SERPs or not. And since search is how customers find a local business, you need to leverage citation building to win at local search.

What is a Citation?

Citations are online references to your business NAP – your Name, Address, and Phone Number. Citations are the local SEO equivalent of links, pointing to your bricks and mortar location instead of your website. And just like links, they pass on the juice: “Like links to your website, Google uses them when evaluating the online authority of your business,” says UK-based local SEO pro Mark Walters.

Google uses relevance, distance and prominence to ascribe this local ranking juice. You have some say in relevance, which Google says is simply about how close a match you are. You can’t control distance. But you certainly can control prominence. That’s where citation building comes in.

And just like links, they’re useful for people, too. It’s not just search engines that browse through local business directories, looking for a plumber, cafe, carpet retailer, chiropractor or other business in their area. That’s how a lot of businesses get found these days.

Unlike links, citations can be in plain text – Google doesn’t care whether they link to our website, just as long as they reference your business name, address and phone number.

Structured and Unstructured Citations

Structured citations are what you’ll find in local business directories. You’ll often have control over the form in which they appear so you can change them to suit you. Any Yelp listing page is a good example of a structured citation.

Unstructured citations are mentions of your business name or contact details on sites that aren’t directories. If you get into a local newspaper article about how Main Street is really picking up, or a blogger talks about how good your Coq au Vin is, you’ll have an unstructured citation. Often it will be incomplete – mentioning your name and address but not phone number, for instance.

How Do You Build Citations?

That leads us to the most important question – what are the different ways you can amass these citations?

[Disclaimer: None of the tools/agencies I mention here are a client of my company. I have used them first hand, and cite from experience.]

1. Use Citation Building Services

Specialist local SEO service providers like Whitespark and BrightLocal will build citations for you. They’ll have access to thousands or sometimes hundreds of thousands of sites that will accept citations, and the building itself is done by hand by professional citation builders in good agencies. The best thing about Whitespark is that they built the popular Local Citation Finder tool, so they know best how it works.

Typically, about a quarter of your citations will go live right away, with the rest taking a few weeks to catch up, but if you want to just hand over some bills and get it done, this might be your best bet.

2. Do It Yourself: Manual Citation Building

You can do what those companies do, but for yourself, manually. Moz keeps a list of places you can have citations from – scroll through it and use that to build out your own citations.

Building citations are fairly simple. Start your search for places to enter citations with the major places for SEO juice: Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and whatever the big review sites are in your space or industry. Then move on to the four main aggregators, which supply data to all major search engines. In the USA these are Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual.

You just have to make sure that your listing is identical each time. You only earn search juice from citations that use your NAP the same way: the exact way it appears on your Google+ Local page and your website.

What does that mean? It means you have to pick one format and stick with it. If you’re:

Kat’s Cradles, 17, Pine Street, West, Texas TX 76691

in one directory, and

Kats Cradles LLC, 17 Pine St, West TX 76691

in another, you’re not getting the benefits of citations – these are like links where you typed the URL wrong, they’re not going to get you anywhere.

The good news is, even if your citations aren’t consistent, you can fix them. Just round up the citations you already have using a tool like Moz Local. Then go through site by site and update them.

You can also use tools to track which of your competitors are listed on which sites, so you can cover all the bases. Covering what your competitors are doing is important. It lets you take advantage of their research and piggyback your way into some quick wins, and can be built into a longer term strategy if you’ve decided to oversee that yourself.

Pro tip: While you’re at it, take a look at competitors’ ad copies using SEMrush; these will give you some ideas on what to write on the descriptions in your business listings.

To learn more and get some ideas on who to approach to carry your citations, check out Moz’s guide to the local search ecosystem as well as your own results from your competitor searches.

3. Hire a Digital Agency

Another alternative is to turn to a full-service digital agency for a complete solution. Many digital agencies are either location specific or industry specific, sometimes both. That means they know how to present your brand to the local world or to your consumers, as well as how to make citations reinforce other areas of local digital marketing. They’ll tie citations into a broader SEO and digital strategy and leverage them to the best advantage.

While it’s tempting to think of your website and citations carried by review sites as unconnected, nothing could be further from the truth. Gerrid Smith, CEO of digital agency Black Fin, which specializes in local SEO in the legal niche, categorically said, “To be brutally honest, the things we do on a client’s website will typically only account for about 30% of the SEO effects we’ll generate. The other 70% happens offsite.”

This means taking into account developments not only in your industry or niche, but also those in search itself, such as new algorithmic features (e.g. RankBrain) or search behavior options (e.g. voice search), analyzing their impact on local SEO and charting an appropriate course of adjustment for your strategy.

Building a solid local digital strategy is a job for pros, so this third option is often the most successful.

In Conclusion

Citation building is overwhelmingly the most effective single tactic for generating local SEO juice. But we’ve seen what’s happened to link building. It’s more effective to implement citation building as part of a cohesive local digital strategy, and the rewards of doing this well are going to grow as the world becomes more connected and more mobile.

Featured Image Credit: www.futureatlas.com (modified and used under CC license)

 

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Stay safe and informed in case of an earthquake

Stay safe and informed in case of an earthquake
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that approximately 500,000 earthquakes occur around the globe each year, 100,000 of which can be felt. Now people who feel the effects of an earthquake can ask Google directly about the disaster and get timely information to help them stay safe.

In the event of an earthquake, searches for “earthquake,” “earthquakes near me” or similar queries will give you an at-a-glance summary about the quake, right at the top of the search page.

Information will include a summary of the size of the quake, a map of the affected areas, and tips to safely navigate the aftermath. Oftentimes, you really want to know whether you just felt a small earthquake nearby, or a larger earthquake farther away. The map will show areas that shook with various intensities (known as a shakemap), so you’ll be able to quickly assess the reach of the earthquake as well as its epicenter.

You’ll also find clearly displayed tips on what to do next to stay safe from damaged buildings and during potential earthquake aftershocks. To give you the ability to confirm aftershocks in the hours and days after the event, we’ll also show information about other recent earthquakes to put the tremors into context.

We hope that by displaying this result directly in Search, people will have fast and easy access to the information they need to stay safe in the face of an earthquake.

Posted by Chris Keitel, Software Engineer

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How To Use Interactivity to Increase Engagement (and Conversions)

How To Use Interactivity to Increase Engagement (and Conversions)

Interactivity tends to lead to better engagement, and it’s thought that better user engagement equals more conversions and more long term satisfaction with a brand.

The web is an inherently interactive medium, so there are infinite ways to implement interactivity onto your site.

Of course, it’s not a silver bullet strategy. Just because something is cool or popular – or just because it looks cool – doesn’t mean it works on the bottom line. There are some pros, cons, and uncertainties to this strategy, just as there are any others.

This article will explore the effectiveness of interactivity and will put the strategy into context so you can better execute it (if you choose to at all).

Why We Love Interactivity

People like to be engaged in what they’re doing.

Remember back in school, when your favorite classes were the ones where you played games, or at least got to participate in some meaningful or creative way? I certainly much preferred creative projects and hands-on work rather than passive lectures.

Well it turns out that interactive education is not only more fun, but also more effective.

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This is something online courses sometimes struggle with, as they lack the in-person components and the benefits that come with that. Though, online education is certainly innovating to make it much more interactive.

Interactivity works online, for your business, too. Done right, it increases user engagement, and user engagement, as heuristic, tends to correlate higher conversions (though not always – sometimes it distracts from the desired action).

Generally, interactivity makes us feel involved in the process, not simply a passive observer.

Interactive elements draw a user in and allow them to feel like they’re part of the process, instead of a passive user to be sold to. And we know that because of the principles of Commitment and Sunk Costs, if someone expends energy or puts time into something, they’re more likely to complete said task.

This is essentially the strategy at play when a company, like Upworthy, asks you a no brainer question before asking for your email:

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We published an academic insight that showed consumers were generally more drawn to interactive photos than static ones. In addition, it showed that the positive emotions registered were due more to hedonic information (fun) than instrumental information (userful).

There’s been a lot of research about interactivity in different realms – education, entertainment, etc. – but online it appears the broadest implication of interactive elements is that they can increase user engagement.

A History of Interactivity in Marketing

Interactive marketing is not new. Something that is interactive is simply a “two-way flow of information.” Therefore it could take the form of a sales call, a live chat conversation, a game, or literally an infinite amount of other iterations.

As a marketing concept, interactive marketing sort of began as an antithesis to mass marketing. While it wasn’t necessarily personalization at the scale we see today (or will in the future), interactive advertising was another iteration where that famous phrase, “one-to-one marketing,” echoed everywhere.

In fact, it seems that the early roots of interactive marketing have blossomed into what we know as personalization or marketing automation today. According to a 1996 HBR article, interactive marketing included “the ability to address an individual and the ability to gather and remember the response of that individual.”

Then, according to the article, you are afforded a third opportunity: you can reach out to customers based on this interaction to provide a tailored experience.

Reading the discourse on interactive marketing from the past few decades made me realize there are many similarities with how we talk about personalization and targeting today. Both ideas are about narrowing their experiences to one person (ideally), both emphasize a two way interaction that feeds into creating a unique experience as an output, and both ideas are generally misunderstood and mis-measured by the people implementing them.

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No one knows what success even looks like (Image Source)

(By the way, read the HBR article. It’s got some hilarious predictions about the internet’s effects on marketing, like, “But don’t assume that [your] Web site is going to be one of your key marketing venues.”)

Anyway, interactive advertising evolved as a method in attempt to bridge the dichotomy between new media and traditional advertising. It sought (and still does online, by the way) to stand out from the noise of passive advertising.

You’ve undoubtedly seen an example of advertising in a traditional medium, for example…

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Here are some more examples in more traditional marketing channels…

Interactive print ads

Not all print ads are bland and solely brand focused. Aside from QR codes, there are infinite ways to spur interactivity with print (for the creative, at least).

For instance, Motorola and Wired found a way to customize a phone design within the magazine:

Or take Nivea, who helped parents supervise their children at the beach with a tracking wristband and app:

Interactive Banner Ads

Remember interactive banner ads? The ones where you could play those stupid little games? I loved those. Banner ads don’t have to suck. Take it from these examples:

Volkswagen – Like a Rabbit

The World’s Toughest PC

Interactive direct mail

Interactive direct mail, in the flashy way like the examples above, probably isn’t as common, if only because of the costs associated with the scale of direct mail. Though of course, the best direct mail is all interactive – asking you to write in or scan a QR code or whatever.

But you can also get creative to generate more awareness for the brand message:

brilliant-dm-12
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Of course, the web offers a much greater opportunity to implement interactivity. It is, by nature, an interactive environment (we’re pretty much always interactive with content in some way – hence the term human-computer interaction).

5 Ways to Implement Interactivity On Your Site

While filling out a lead gen form is technically interactivity, for this article I’m going to focus on the more creative iterations of that idea. There are plenty of examples, many effective and some not.

1. Interactive Content Marketing and Lead Gen

Content marketing is an effective but increasingly crowded channel. Interactive content is a way to break through that noise.

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Again, depending on your goals and resources, there are infinite iterations of interactivity in content marketing. But here are a few popular and effective ways people are doing it today…

Interactive Infographics

Instead of just hoping for the backlinks to roll in, with interactive infographics you can:

  • Collect leads with Google Forms integration.
  • Gain new insights by implementing polls.
  • Simply create better visualization and engagement

Here’s an example of an interactive infographic:

Interactive Ebooks

You can also add interactivity to ebooks, which are traditionally thought of as quite static (and some would say not so effective).

Aniruddh Jain wrote on our blog a while back about a few different ways you could add interactivity within the ebook itself:

  • Add live chat
  • Add contact forms
  • Add landing pages
  • Add video

Not only does this make the content more engaging, but it decreases friction while you have your prospect’s attention and eases them into a higher value conversion.

Screen-Shot-2016-03-03-at-2.45.31-PM-1

You can implement cool stuff as well as A/B test different elements with a tool like Sales Patron.

Quizzes and Surveys (lead gen or otherwise)

Buzzfeed started the trend (but Clickhole perfected it), and now lots of content marketers are introducing quizzes into their creative mix – either as a complement to their article or standalone.

Some are using it as a lead gen tactic (gating the results), and some are simply using it to increase engagement, shares, or whatever else you’re measuring.

Here Copyhackers uses a quiz as a bonus at the end of a long form article:

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Marketizator uses a quiz as a standalone piece of content:

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By the way, all that talk about customer personas? If you’ve done your quantitative clustering, these interactive quizzes or surveys can help you segment your personas by self-selection.

An example is Craft Coffee, who personalizes the web experience based on your answers to a survey:

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Interactivity helps customize the experience for customers on websites like Trunk Club:

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According to a whitepaper by Oracle and SnapApp, these types of interactive elements help during the Awareness stage, when a customer is first discovering your brand.

2. Interactive tools, calculators, spreadsheets, etc.

In Traction, they refer to it as Engineering as Marketing, but it’s really just creating interactive tools for people to use. Turns out, adding value (especially the kind that is related to your core offer) is good for business and makes people happy.

It’s talked about a ton, but HubSpot’s Website Grader is a good example of this.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 11.29.19 AM

Neil Patel also runs the ‘interactive marketing tool’ tactic, though his appears to be total BS based on the outputs (they’re the same for any inputs you try – the screenshot below is for google.com):

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That’s a dark pattern. Don’t do that.

Some more good examples of interactive tools include:

3. Interactive Feedback and Support

As you know, a large part of conversion optimization is gathering data – both qualitative and quantitative – to gather insights that leader to better A/B tests.

Interactive elements help you with that, too. Notably, they allow you to collect data in a conversational way. Two types of interactive insight tools you can use:

  • Live chat
  • User feedback tools

Live chat

First off, live chat is a great strategy to increase conversions (if you can make it work on an operational level). Research shows that live chat works best in younger demographics and for lower-level transactions (clothes shopping), but it’s a customer service strategy worth exploring for any business really. For example, I hate going to my bank or talking to them on the phone, so I use live chat all the time:

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It’s usually better than a static FAQ page (though no one says you can’t have both).

You can also gather great qualitative (and sometimes quantitative) feedback with live chat. You can gather quantitative data by tagging people based on complaints, problems, desires, or anything else you have the analysis power to discover. This can help quantify common issues to figure out what’s important to fix/test.

Live chat is also a great way, along with other feedback tools, to gather voice of customer data.

Feedback tools

It’s a best practice in customer success to give customers an outlet (many outlets) to complain before they feel the need to do so public. That way you can perform damage control and possibly even flip that person into a promoter. As Lincoln Murphy, Growth Architect at Winning By Design, said:

Lincoln Murphy:
“Make sure you give the customer other places to provide feedback ad hoc: feature requests, bug reports, open support tickets, chat with your team, etc.

Don’t let the NPS survey be the only way – or the only time – they can feedback to you.

Continually remind them that those other feedback modalities are there for them to use.

This way, when you do get a detractor you know it’s probably legit and not venting all of the pent up – and not even entirely negative but it becomes so with no outlet – sentiment.”

For non-customers, you can use:

  • Interactive chat or surveys on high touch sales pages (whichever drives more response)
  • Interactive surveys on category pages (help refine your content strategy by category)

For customers, you can also add in-app interactive chat (like Intercom), and you can also open up easy and fast email communication.

Then, of course, you should be using this feedback to form better test hypotheses. Tools you can use for this (in different facets) include:

There are tons of tools. The important part is the strategy, so don’t get too bogged down in the differences between tools.

So far, the interactive elements explored have been fairly straightforward. The next two are a bit more innovating (and therefore risky).

4. Interactive product photos

As mentioned above, an academic insight published on ConversionXL Institute showed consumers were generally more drawn to interactive photos than static ones. In addition, it showed that the positive emotions registered were due more to hedonic information (fun) than instrumental information (userful).

A big drawback of online shopping, especially for something tactile like clothing, is that you can’t see or feel the item in person. Any strategy that can bridge the gap between the virtual and the tangible has a good chance of being effective.

In practice, try testing interactive product photos for products that are primarily experience-driven (artwork, clothing, fabrics, jewelry.)

sunglasses

Shoogleit is a free website that helps create interactive product pictures.

5. Page flipping

ConversionXL Institute also published an academic insight on page flipping as an interactivity tactic. Their findings were mixed. People liked it better, but seemed to be worse at retaining the information.

page flipping

So it goes for most ‘cool’ design features. While it gathers attention, some of it is novelty, and some of it is distracting.

Our recommendation: think about where you’re using interaction techniques. In particular, try to use them only on pages that don’t require full cognitive effort (brand catalogues are probably a good use, but maybe not sales pages or informational articles).

If interested, you can use a tool like Flipping Book to create page flipping.

Where Interactivity Could Fall Short

No matter what purchase funnel model you’re looking at, they all usually start with some sort of “attention” or “awareness” metric. Somewhere after attention is “engagement” and so on until users funnel down into purchases and repeat purchases, etc.

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For instance, with the popular AIDA framework, attention and interest might be peaked, but desire and (especially) action, haven’t necessarily been taken into account.

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Interactive content seems to be especially powerful at the attention and engagement phases. But just like cute design elements, they can be distracting to the final conversion. Especially if you’re running fairly prototypical eCommerce business.

Sometimes, people just want to accomplish their shit and move on.

So it’s a balancing act. Of course you want user/customer engagement, not at the cost of distraction and missed conversions.

How do you solve for this? Think about Fogg’s behavior model, notably portion of it. While designing interactive elements, make sure the task is always completable and the user experience is always effortless. Don’t make your users think too much in order to buy stuff.

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Absolutely the biggest threat of something like interactive design elements is that you’re just adding them because they’re cool or hip. Marketers do that with all kinds of tactics. There’s an amazing quote from that HBR article I cited earlier, and this comes way back from 1996:

Frederick E. Webster, Jr:

“As managers become enchanted with the potential of the Internet and the interactive marketplace, many show evidence of forgetting some basic lessons of marketing strategy that they learned the hard way over the past several decades.

The most central of these are the importance of defining and understanding the customer, the essential efficiency of market segmentation and targeting, and the life-or-death importance of product positioning and the value proposition.

Simply put, there is a real and persistent danger that, caught up in the excitement and hype of a new technology, marketers will once again let attention to the short-term and tactical overwhelm consideration of the long-term and strategic. In the new world of interactive marketing, tactics often precede strategy.”

Think about that, not just with interactivity, but with any trendy features or tactics you’re planning on implementing.

Conclusion

Interactivity in marketing is not new. Marketers are always trying to break through the noise, and making traditional advertising interactive is a way many do so.

We’re seeing the same thing with websites today – whether in the form of interactive content, quizzes for lead gen, interactive product photos, or other creative elements.

While you may see trends like this and think you should jump on, always stop to think about the end goal. Just because something generates more attention or engagement doesn’t mean that translates to sales.

So if you’re planning on implementing creative interactivity tactics, think first of what you’re hoping to accomplish with it. Then use A/B testing to empirically decide if it’s actually working towards that goal.

Feature image source

The post How To Use Interactivity to Increase Engagement (and Conversions) appeared first on ConversionXL.

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How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

As SEOs, there are certain tasks that we should all be able to do for our clients. Sure, sometimes these tasks don’t always sound as exciting as creating a content strategy or developing a piece of 10x content, but they are essential to any SEO strategy. I’m talking about tasks like technical audits, analytics implementation, keyword research, site migrations, and link audits. These are all tasks that SEOs should be familiar with. In fact, these are all tasks that we should be doing for our clients regardless of how mundane they may seem.

I’m going to focus solely on link audits in this article because they don’t get the attention they deserve. Also, this is a task that seems extremely time consuming at first, but becomes more automated as you practice.

It is true that there are tools that can perform link audits for you, however it’s important to know how to do this manually. Additionally, not everyone has the luxury to spend extra money on another tool. If you are considering a tool for this process, I would highly recommend Kerboo (previously called LinkRisk).

Let’s dive in.

The goal of a link audit

With link audits your goal should be to identify all of the links that are pointing to your client’s domain and categorize them by health. In other words, which links could negatively impact the domain, which links are ok, and which links you definitely want to keep (and hopefully increase over time). We want to do this to prevent penalties in the future or fix any penalties that a domain has previously gotten.

By the end of the 30 minutes, we will have completed the following:

  • Extract as many links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Identify any risky links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Create a disavow file and submit it to Google for review

The #1 secret to staying sane during a link audit

The number one key to staying sane during the process is to stay organized. Since you’re going to end up with multiple spreadsheets with various degrees of information, I like to create a master spreadsheet before starting anything else. Doing things like defining your columns and headers will help in the long run — this way you won’t be stuck with a bunch of links with no way to organize them!

Here’s what my master spreadsheet looks like before anything is imported:

Once you have your master spreadsheet setup, it’s just a matter of importing your links into it in the same format.

The tools we’ll need for a link audit

Although there are various tools that can get this job done, the essential tools (according to this article) are as follows:

  • Google Search Console – In order to see your current disavow file and download your latest links.

  • Ahrefs – In order to download a CSV of links pointing to your domain.

  • SEO Tools for Excel (Windows only) – In order to pull in important data-points for specific domains. Essentially, to fill in the information we don’t have.

I would also highly recommend using a variety of link tools if you have access to them in order to get the most accurate representation of your domain’s backlink profile. Some of my favorites are:

  • Majestic – Show you links that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

  • Moz Open Site Explorer – Shows you link that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

Keep in mind that while you can perform a link audit by just using one link extracting tool, I would encourage you to use as many as possible and de-dupe. The goal is to get as much link information as possible for your client’s domain—using various tools allows us to do this.

The process

The process of performing a link audit in its simplest form is as follows:

1. Extract all external links pointing to your (or your client’s) domain

2. Get rid of duplicates, and organize links by domain

3a. Identify quality of links

3b. If you have a disavow file uploaded, download it from Google Search Console and     de-dupe with your new list of links

4. Extract poor quality links into a .txt document and create your disavow file

5. Upload your disavow file to Google Search Console

Let’s walk through these steps one-by-one.

Extract all links

The very first step of the link audit process involves using various tools to extract as many external links pointing to your site as possible. We are going to compile these links in a spreadsheet, so download CSVs from the tools you are using.

The process for extracting links will be similar no matter what tool you are using. For this post, I’m going to use Ahrefs as an example. Here are the steps on extracting your links.

  • Head to Ahrefs

  • Input your domain and hit “explore”

  • Click on “backlinks”

  • Under “link type” click on “DoFollow”

  • Click on “export” and choose “for Microsoft Excel”

  • Open the sheet in excel, adjust the formatting to match your master spreadsheet, and move the sheet into your master workbook.

In order to keep this process organized, I would recommend creating a master spreadsheet with clearly labeled headers and add each CSV file that you extract as a sheet within the master spreadsheet. It would look something like this:

Now that we have our links from Ahrefs, we can pull in additional links from Google Search Console. Once you’re logged in, follow the instructions below.

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Most Linked Content > Download Latest Links

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who Links the Most > Download Latest Links

Your sheet should look similar to this once you are done with the process of extracting links from various tools as well as Google Search Console.

Ahrefs

Google Search Console

Extract the domains

To make this process easier, we will want to judge the links on a domain-level. Typically, if a domain is risky, any link pointing from it will be risky as well. On the flip side, if a domain is high quality, for the most part, any links coming from it will be safe. There are some cases where a domain could be safe but a link coming from that domain is risky, but that is very rare

In order to extract the domain, input the following formula into A2 (assuming your spreadsheet is organized like mine).

  • =LEFT(B2,FIND("/",B2,9)-1)

Excel should fill in column A with the respective domains from column B

At this point, I typically hide the URLs list as we are going to be working off of the domain list moving forward.

The next step we will want to take is to de-dupe our domain list so we don’t have any domains represented more than once. To do this, highlight your entire workbook, head to data > remove duplicates, and then choose the domain column only. This will remove any duplicate domains you have while retaining the structure of your workbook.

So now we have a master list of links pointing to our domain, we don’t have any duplicate domains represented, and we are ready to fill in the blank spaces.

To fill out the final columns, we are going to be using SEO Tools for Excel. If you have Windows, download the tool here and follow the instructions on installing it.

Once you have SEO Tools installed, drag and drop the file onto your Excel workbook. After a quick loading screen, you should see a new tab to the right of “view” called “SEOTools”.

HTTP status

Choose your first open cell under your HTTP Status column (mine is D2). Head to SEOTools and click on Onpage > HTTPStatus. In the URL box type in the first cell in your domain column and hit OK.

The HTTP Status of the domain should appear, and you can now drag and drop this formula all the way down this column. Note: this might take some time depending on how many URLs you have in your list.

DA

SEOTools has Moz integrated within their tool. However, you have to purchase the Pro version to pull things like DA into your spreadsheet. If you don’t feel like paying for the tool, you can use a free online tool such as this one and copy/paste the results into your spreadsheet.

IP

Pulling the IP’s of your domains is similar to HTTPStatus. Highlight the first cell in your IP column, head to SEOTools > Domains > ResolveIP. Input the first domain cell and click ok. The IP of the first domain should resolve. Now copy the formula down the entire row.

Link count

For the link count, head to SEOTools > Onpage > Link count. Copy and paste the formula for the entire column.

Anchor text

If you used Ahrefs or majestic to extract your URLs, this column will already be filled out. If not, you will need to use an external tool to pull the anchor text or connect your Ahrefs or majestic account to SEOTools and pull in the information from there.

Page title

To pull the page title, head to SEOTools > Onpage > HtmlTitle. Don’t forget to copy and paste the formula for the entire column!

Your spreadsheet should look similar to this once all of these steps are completed:

Now we are ready to identify our low-quality links!

Identify low-quality links

This is a step that could cause debate because it could get difficult to identify which links are “bad” and which are not harmful. If you have a website that has a small link profile, you might be able to go through each and every link and truly judge whether or not it is a bad link. For most sites, your link profile will be quite large which means going through each link one by one is not feasible.

There are several tools that automate this process. Depending on the amount of links you have, you could use Moz’s spam score or LinkDetox to help you identify which links could harm your site.

If you would rather do this yourself, you can filter out various data-points within your master spreadsheet to identify harmful links. Some example metrics you might look at could be domains with a low domain authority, URLs with spammy title tags or anchor text, or IPs that are hosted in countries known for typically spammy content (e.g. Russia).

Keep in mind that just because a domain has a low DA doesn’t mean that it is automatically spam. However, it is much more rare to have a spammy site with a high DA.

The key here is to find a process for identifying these links that works for you and to stick with it.

Download current disavow file

The next step depends on whether or not your domain currently has a disavow file uploaded to Google Search Console. To check this, head to this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “Disavow Links”. If you (or someone else) has ever uploaded a disavow file before, you will see an option to download it. You can also see when the disavow file was submitted here. You will want to download your current disavow file, combine the links you find there with your updated list of bad links, and dedupe the two.

If you don’t currently have a disavow file, don’t worry about this step.

Creating the disavow file

Now that we have a clear list of links that we don’t want pointing to our domain, we can move forward to the next step which is creating a disavow file.

If you don’t feel like creating a disavow file (shame on you), we created a tool to help you out (you’re welcome:).

Some important things to note about the disavow file:

  • Always submit in a .txt file

  • Always save the file as “disavow.txt”

  • Each line will either represent a link you want to remove or an entire domain that you want removed from your link profile

    • If you have single URLs paste one per line into the file

    • If you want to remove an entire domain, add one domain per line in this format – “domain:exampledomain.com”

  • If you have specific comments about certain links or domains, you are encouraged to add them in your disavow file. To do this, add a line above the link or domain you are commenting on, and start the line with “#”. Google will consider your comments when reviewing your removal requests.

  • If you upload a disavow file it will override the current one in GSC. This is why you always want to combine the two.

Here is a screenshot of how a disavow file should look like when you are done:

Simply copy and paste the bad domains from your spreadsheet into your text editor and make sure it is formatted as described above.

Uploading disavow file to Google Search Console

The final step in this process is to upload your new and improved disavow file to Google Search Console. Follow this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “disavow links”, choose your .txt file, and hit “submit”.

Other comments

  • I would highly recommend saving your new disavow file and your master spreadsheet to your local machine as well as a backup hard drive. Technically, Google provides us with our latest disavow files, but if they ever take this feature away you want to make sure and have your work.

  • Per Google’s guidelines, using the disavow tool should be a final resort to removing bad links from our domains. Technically, we are supposed to contact each webmaster first and ask them to remove the links themselves. If they don’t respond or comply, we can then go ahead and use the disavow tool. This is where the comments can be helpful within the disavow file.

Rounding up

As always, feedback and questions are more than appreciated in the comments below or on Twitter. I’d really like to know other processes and tips for tasks of this nature, along with any advice on how I could streamline this particular method even further.

via Distilled Read More…

How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

As SEOs, there are certain tasks that we should all be able to do for our clients. Sure, sometimes these tasks don’t always sound as exciting as creating a content strategy or developing a piece of 10x content, but they are essential to any SEO strategy. I’m talking about tasks like technical audits, analytics implementation, keyword research, site migrations, and link audits. These are all tasks that SEOs should be familiar with. In fact, these are all tasks that we should be doing for our clients regardless of how mundane they may seem.

I’m going to focus solely on link audits in this article because they don’t get the attention they deserve. Also, this is a task that seems extremely time consuming at first, but becomes more automated as you practice.

It is true that there are tools that can perform link audits for you, however it’s important to know how to do this manually. Additionally, not everyone has the luxury to spend extra money on another tool. If you are considering a tool for this process, I would highly recommend Kerboo (previously called LinkRisk).

Let’s dive in.

The goal of a link audit

With link audits your goal should be to identify all of the links that are pointing to your client’s domain and categorize them by health. In other words, which links could negatively impact the domain, which links are ok, and which links you definitely want to keep (and hopefully increase over time). We want to do this to prevent penalties in the future or fix any penalties that a domain has previously gotten.

By the end of the 30 minutes, we will have completed the following:

  • Extract as many links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Identify any risky links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Create a disavow file and submit it to Google for review

The #1 secret to staying sane during a link audit

The number one key to staying sane during the process is to stay organized. Since you’re going to end up with multiple spreadsheets with various degrees of information, I like to create a master spreadsheet before starting anything else. Doing things like defining your columns and headers will help in the long run — this way you won’t be stuck with a bunch of links with no way to organize them!

Here’s what my master spreadsheet looks like before anything is imported:

Once you have your master spreadsheet setup, it’s just a matter of importing your links into it in the same format.

The tools we’ll need for a link audit

Although there are various tools that can get this job done, the essential tools (according to this article) are as follows:

  • Google Search Console – In order to see your current disavow file and download your latest links.

  • Ahrefs – In order to download a CSV of links pointing to your domain.

  • SEO Tools for Excel (Windows only) – In order to pull in important data-points for specific domains. Essentially, to fill in the information we don’t have.

I would also highly recommend using a variety of link tools if you have access to them in order to get the most accurate representation of your domain’s backlink profile. Some of my favorites are:

  • Majestic – Show you links that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

  • Moz Open Site Explorer – Shows you link that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

Keep in mind that while you can perform a link audit by just using one link extracting tool, I would encourage you to use as many as possible and de-dupe. The goal is to get as much link information as possible for your client’s domain—using various tools allows us to do this.

The process

The process of performing a link audit in its simplest form is as follows:

1. Extract all external links pointing to your (or your client’s) domain

2. Get rid of duplicates, and organize links by domain

3a. Identify quality of links

3b. If you have a disavow file uploaded, download it from Google Search Console and     de-dupe with your new list of links

4. Extract poor quality links into a .txt document and create your disavow file

5. Upload your disavow file to Google Search Console

Let’s walk through these steps one-by-one.

Extract all links

The very first step of the link audit process involves using various tools to extract as many external links pointing to your site as possible. We are going to compile these links in a spreadsheet, so download CSVs from the tools you are using.

The process for extracting links will be similar no matter what tool you are using. For this post, I’m going to use Ahrefs as an example. Here are the steps on extracting your links.

  • Head to Ahrefs

  • Input your domain and hit “explore”

  • Click on “backlinks”

  • Under “link type” click on “DoFollow”

  • Click on “export” and choose “for Microsoft Excel”

  • Open the sheet in excel, adjust the formatting to match your master spreadsheet, and move the sheet into your master workbook.

In order to keep this process organized, I would recommend creating a master spreadsheet with clearly labeled headers and add each CSV file that you extract as a sheet within the master spreadsheet. It would look something like this:

Now that we have our links from Ahrefs, we can pull in additional links from Google Search Console. Once you’re logged in, follow the instructions below.

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Most Linked Content > Download Latest Links

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who Links the Most > Download Latest Links

Your sheet should look similar to this once you are done with the process of extracting links from various tools as well as Google Search Console.

Ahrefs

Google Search Console

Extract the domains

To make this process easier, we will want to judge the links on a domain-level. Typically, if a domain is risky, any link pointing from it will be risky as well. On the flip side, if a domain is high quality, for the most part, any links coming from it will be safe. There are some cases where a domain could be safe but a link coming from that domain is risky, but that is very rare

In order to extract the domain, input the following formula into A2 (assuming your spreadsheet is organized like mine).

  • =LEFT(B2,FIND("/",B2,9)-1)

Excel should fill in column A with the respective domains from column B

At this point, I typically hide the URLs list as we are going to be working off of the domain list moving forward.

The next step we will want to take is to de-dupe our domain list so we don’t have any domains represented more than once. To do this, highlight your entire workbook, head to data > remove duplicates, and then choose the domain column only. This will remove any duplicate domains you have while retaining the structure of your workbook.

So now we have a master list of links pointing to our domain, we don’t have any duplicate domains represented, and we are ready to fill in the blank spaces.

To fill out the final columns, we are going to be using SEO Tools for Excel. If you have Windows, download the tool here and follow the instructions on installing it.

Once you have SEO Tools installed, drag and drop the file onto your Excel workbook. After a quick loading screen, you should see a new tab to the right of “view” called “SEOTools”.

HTTP status

Choose your first open cell under your HTTP Status column (mine is D2). Head to SEOTools and click on Onpage > HTTPStatus. In the URL box type in the first cell in your domain column and hit OK.

The HTTP Status of the domain should appear, and you can now drag and drop this formula all the way down this column. Note: this might take some time depending on how many URLs you have in your list.

DA

SEOTools has Moz integrated within their tool. However, you have to purchase the Pro version to pull things like DA into your spreadsheet. If you don’t feel like paying for the tool, you can use a free online tool such as this one and copy/paste the results into your spreadsheet.

IP

Pulling the IP’s of your domains is similar to HTTPStatus. Highlight the first cell in your IP column, head to SEOTools > Domains > ResolveIP. Input the first domain cell and click ok. The IP of the first domain should resolve. Now copy the formula down the entire row.

Link count

For the link count, head to SEOTools > Onpage > Link count. Copy and paste the formula for the entire column.

Anchor text

If you used Ahrefs or majestic to extract your URLs, this column will already be filled out. If not, you will need to use an external tool to pull the anchor text or connect your Ahrefs or majestic account to SEOTools and pull in the information from there.

Page title

To pull the page title, head to SEOTools > Onpage > HtmlTitle. Don’t forget to copy and paste the formula for the entire column!

Your spreadsheet should look similar to this once all of these steps are completed:

Now we are ready to identify our low-quality links!

Identify low-quality links

This is a step that could cause debate because it could get difficult to identify which links are “bad” and which are not harmful. If you have a website that has a small link profile, you might be able to go through each and every link and truly judge whether or not it is a bad link. For most sites, your link profile will be quite large which means going through each link one by one is not feasible.

There are several tools that automate this process. Depending on the amount of links you have, you could use Moz’s spam score or LinkDetox to help you identify which links could harm your site.

If you would rather do this yourself, you can filter out various data-points within your master spreadsheet to identify harmful links. Some example metrics you might look at could be domains with a low domain authority, URLs with spammy title tags or anchor text, or IPs that are hosted in countries known for typically spammy content (e.g. Russia).

Keep in mind that just because a domain has a low DA doesn’t mean that it is automatically spam. However, it is much more rare to have a spammy site with a high DA.

The key here is to find a process for identifying these links that works for you and to stick with it.

Download current disavow file

The next step depends on whether or not your domain currently has a disavow file uploaded to Google Search Console. To check this, head to this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “Disavow Links”. If you (or someone else) has ever uploaded a disavow file before, you will see an option to download it. You can also see when the disavow file was submitted here. You will want to download your current disavow file, combine the links you find there with your updated list of bad links, and dedupe the two.

If you don’t currently have a disavow file, don’t worry about this step.

Creating the disavow file

Now that we have a clear list of links that we don’t want pointing to our domain, we can move forward to the next step which is creating a disavow file.

If you don’t feel like creating a disavow file (shame on you), we created a tool to help you out (you’re welcome:).

Some important things to note about the disavow file:

  • Always submit in a .txt file

  • Always save the file as “disavow.txt”

  • Each line will either represent a link you want to remove or an entire domain that you want removed from your link profile

    • If you have single URLs paste one per line into the file

    • If you want to remove an entire domain, add one domain per line in this format – “domain:exampledomain.com”

  • If you have specific comments about certain links or domains, you are encouraged to add them in your disavow file. To do this, add a line above the link or domain you are commenting on, and start the line with “#”. Google will consider your comments when reviewing your removal requests.

  • If you upload a disavow file it will override the current one in GSC. This is why you always want to combine the two.

Here is a screenshot of how a disavow file should look like when you are done:

Simply copy and paste the bad domains from your spreadsheet into your text editor and make sure it is formatted as described above.

Uploading disavow file to Google Search Console

The final step in this process is to upload your new and improved disavow file to Google Search Console. Follow this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “disavow links”, choose your .txt file, and hit “submit”.

Other comments

  • I would highly recommend saving your new disavow file and your master spreadsheet to your local machine as well as a backup hard drive. Technically, Google provides us with our latest disavow files, but if they ever take this feature away you want to make sure and have your work.

  • Per Google’s guidelines, using the disavow tool should be a final resort to removing bad links from our domains. Technically, we are supposed to contact each webmaster first and ask them to remove the links themselves. If they don’t respond or comply, we can then go ahead and use the disavow tool. This is where the comments can be helpful within the disavow file.

Rounding up

As always, feedback and questions are more than appreciated in the comments below or on Twitter. I’d really like to know other processes and tips for tasks of this nature, along with any advice on how I could streamline this particular method even further.

via distilled Read More…

How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

How to Do a Link Audit in 30 Minutes

As SEOs, there are certain tasks that we should all be able to do for our clients. Sure, sometimes these tasks don’t always sound as exciting as creating a content strategy or developing a piece of 10x content, but they are essential to any SEO strategy. I’m talking about tasks like technical audits, analytics implementation, keyword research, site migrations, and link audits. These are all tasks that SEOs should be familiar with. In fact, these are all tasks that we should be doing for our clients regardless of how mundane they may seem.

I’m going to focus solely on link audits in this article because they don’t get the attention they deserve. Also, this is a task that seems extremely time consuming at first, but becomes more automated as you practice.

It is true that there are tools that can perform link audits for you, however it’s important to know how to do this manually. Additionally, not everyone has the luxury to spend extra money on another tool. If you are considering a tool for this process, I would highly recommend Kerboo (previously called LinkRisk).

Let’s dive in.

The goal of a link audit

With link audits your goal should be to identify all of the links that are pointing to your client’s domain and categorize them by health. In other words, which links could negatively impact the domain, which links are ok, and which links you definitely want to keep (and hopefully increase over time). We want to do this to prevent penalties in the future or fix any penalties that a domain has previously gotten.

By the end of the 30 minutes, we will have completed the following:

  • Extract as many links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Identify any risky links that are pointing to the domain in question

  • Create a disavow file and submit it to Google for review

The #1 secret to staying sane during a link audit

The number one key to staying sane during the process is to stay organized. Since you’re going to end up with multiple spreadsheets with various degrees of information, I like to create a master spreadsheet before starting anything else. Doing things like defining your columns and headers will help in the long run — this way you won’t be stuck with a bunch of links with no way to organize them!

Here’s what my master spreadsheet looks like before anything is imported:

Once you have your master spreadsheet setup, it’s just a matter of importing your links into it in the same format.

The tools we’ll need for a link audit

Although there are various tools that can get this job done, the essential tools (according to this article) are as follows:

  • Google Search Console – In order to see your current disavow file and download your latest links.

  • Ahrefs – In order to download a CSV of links pointing to your domain.

  • SEO Tools for Excel (Windows only) – In order to pull in important data-points for specific domains. Essentially, to fill in the information we don’t have.

I would also highly recommend using a variety of link tools if you have access to them in order to get the most accurate representation of your domain’s backlink profile. Some of my favorites are:

  • Majestic – Show you links that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

  • Moz Open Site Explorer – Shows you link that are pointing to your domain and lets you download them in a CSV file.

Keep in mind that while you can perform a link audit by just using one link extracting tool, I would encourage you to use as many as possible and de-dupe. The goal is to get as much link information as possible for your client’s domain—using various tools allows us to do this.

The process

The process of performing a link audit in its simplest form is as follows:

1. Extract all external links pointing to your (or your client’s) domain

2. Get rid of duplicates, and organize links by domain

3a. Identify quality of links

3b. If you have a disavow file uploaded, download it from Google Search Console and     de-dupe with your new list of links

4. Extract poor quality links into a .txt document and create your disavow file

5. Upload your disavow file to Google Search Console

Let’s walk through these steps one-by-one.

Extract all links

The very first step of the link audit process involves using various tools to extract as many external links pointing to your site as possible. We are going to compile these links in a spreadsheet, so download CSVs from the tools you are using.

The process for extracting links will be similar no matter what tool you are using. For this post, I’m going to use Ahrefs as an example. Here are the steps on extracting your links.

  • Head to Ahrefs

  • Input your domain and hit “explore”

  • Click on “backlinks”

  • Under “link type” click on “DoFollow”

  • Click on “export” and choose “for Microsoft Excel”

  • Open the sheet in excel, adjust the formatting to match your master spreadsheet, and move the sheet into your master workbook.

In order to keep this process organized, I would recommend creating a master spreadsheet with clearly labeled headers and add each CSV file that you extract as a sheet within the master spreadsheet. It would look something like this:

Now that we have our links from Ahrefs, we can pull in additional links from Google Search Console. Once you’re logged in, follow the instructions below.

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Most Linked Content > Download Latest Links

Head to Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Who Links the Most > Download Latest Links

Your sheet should look similar to this once you are done with the process of extracting links from various tools as well as Google Search Console.

Ahrefs

Google Search Console

Extract the domains

To make this process easier, we will want to judge the links on a domain-level. Typically, if a domain is risky, any link pointing from it will be risky as well. On the flip side, if a domain is high quality, for the most part, any links coming from it will be safe. There are some cases where a domain could be safe but a link coming from that domain is risky, but that is very rare

In order to extract the domain, input the following formula into A2 (assuming your spreadsheet is organized like mine).

  • =LEFT(B2,FIND("/",B2,9)-1)

Excel should fill in column A with the respective domains from column B

At this point, I typically hide the URLs list as we are going to be working off of the domain list moving forward.

The next step we will want to take is to de-dupe our domain list so we don’t have any domains represented more than once. To do this, highlight your entire workbook, head to data > remove duplicates, and then choose the domain column only. This will remove any duplicate domains you have while retaining the structure of your workbook.

So now we have a master list of links pointing to our domain, we don’t have any duplicate domains represented, and we are ready to fill in the blank spaces.

To fill out the final columns, we are going to be using SEO Tools for Excel. If you have Windows, download the tool here and follow the instructions on installing it.

Once you have SEO Tools installed, drag and drop the file onto your Excel workbook. After a quick loading screen, you should see a new tab to the right of “view” called “SEOTools”.

HTTP status

Choose your first open cell under your HTTP Status column (mine is D2). Head to SEOTools and click on Onpage > HTTPStatus. In the URL box type in the first cell in your domain column and hit OK.

The HTTP Status of the domain should appear, and you can now drag and drop this formula all the way down this column. Note: this might take some time depending on how many URLs you have in your list.

DA

SEOTools has Moz integrated within their tool. However, you have to purchase the Pro version to pull things like DA into your spreadsheet. If you don’t feel like paying for the tool, you can use a free online tool such as this one and copy/paste the results into your spreadsheet.

IP

Pulling the IP’s of your domains is similar to HTTPStatus. Highlight the first cell in your IP column, head to SEOTools > Domains > ResolveIP. Input the first domain cell and click ok. The IP of the first domain should resolve. Now copy the formula down the entire row.

Link count

For the link count, head to SEOTools > Onpage > Link count. Copy and paste the formula for the entire column.

Anchor text

If you used Ahrefs or majestic to extract your URLs, this column will already be filled out. If not, you will need to use an external tool to pull the anchor text or connect your Ahrefs or majestic account to SEOTools and pull in the information from there.

Page title

To pull the page title, head to SEOTools > Onpage > HtmlTitle. Don’t forget to copy and paste the formula for the entire column!

Your spreadsheet should look similar to this once all of these steps are completed:

Now we are ready to identify our low-quality links!

Identify low-quality links

This is a step that could cause debate because it could get difficult to identify which links are “bad” and which are not harmful. If you have a website that has a small link profile, you might be able to go through each and every link and truly judge whether or not it is a bad link. For most sites, your link profile will be quite large which means going through each link one by one is not feasible.

There are several tools that automate this process. Depending on the amount of links you have, you could use Moz’s spam score or LinkDetox to help you identify which links could harm your site.

If you would rather do this yourself, you can filter out various data-points within your master spreadsheet to identify harmful links. Some example metrics you might look at could be domains with a low domain authority, URLs with spammy title tags or anchor text, or IPs that are hosted in countries known for typically spammy content (e.g. Russia).

Keep in mind that just because a domain has a low DA doesn’t mean that it is automatically spam. However, it is much more rare to have a spammy site with a high DA.

The key here is to find a process for identifying these links that works for you and to stick with it.

Download current disavow file

The next step depends on whether or not your domain currently has a disavow file uploaded to Google Search Console. To check this, head to this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “Disavow Links”. If you (or someone else) has ever uploaded a disavow file before, you will see an option to download it. You can also see when the disavow file was submitted here. You will want to download your current disavow file, combine the links you find there with your updated list of bad links, and dedupe the two.

If you don’t currently have a disavow file, don’t worry about this step.

Creating the disavow file

Now that we have a clear list of links that we don’t want pointing to our domain, we can move forward to the next step which is creating a disavow file.

If you don’t feel like creating a disavow file (shame on you), we created a tool to help you out (you’re welcome:).

Some important things to note about the disavow file:

  • Always submit in a .txt file

  • Always save the file as “disavow.txt”

  • Each line will either represent a link you want to remove or an entire domain that you want removed from your link profile

    • If you have single URLs paste one per line into the file

    • If you want to remove an entire domain, add one domain per line in this format – “domain:exampledomain.com”

  • If you have specific comments about certain links or domains, you are encouraged to add them in your disavow file. To do this, add a line above the link or domain you are commenting on, and start the line with “#”. Google will consider your comments when reviewing your removal requests.

  • If you upload a disavow file it will override the current one in GSC. This is why you always want to combine the two.

Here is a screenshot of how a disavow file should look like when you are done:

Simply copy and paste the bad domains from your spreadsheet into your text editor and make sure it is formatted as described above.

Uploading disavow file to Google Search Console

The final step in this process is to upload your new and improved disavow file to Google Search Console. Follow this link, choose the domain you are working on, and click on “disavow links”, choose your .txt file, and hit “submit”.

Other comments

  • I would highly recommend saving your new disavow file and your master spreadsheet to your local machine as well as a backup hard drive. Technically, Google provides us with our latest disavow files, but if they ever take this feature away you want to make sure and have your work.

  • Per Google’s guidelines, using the disavow tool should be a final resort to removing bad links from our domains. Technically, we are supposed to contact each webmaster first and ask them to remove the links themselves. If they don’t respond or comply, we can then go ahead and use the disavow tool. This is where the comments can be helpful within the disavow file.

Rounding up

As always, feedback and questions are more than appreciated in the comments below or on Twitter. I’d really like to know other processes and tips for tasks of this nature, along with any advice on how I could streamline this particular method even further.

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