The Best Content Optimization Articles Compiled Into One


Help Google Know Relevant Dates

Short and sweet: Google has published some guidelines on how to properly signal to the algorithm what date should be shown on a particular page:

How to specify a date on a page
To help Google to pick the right date, site owners and publishers should:

Show a clear date: Show a visible date prominently on the page.
Use structured data: Use the datePublished and dateModified schema with the correct time zone designator for AMP or non-AMP pages. When using structured data, make sure to use the ISO 8601 format for dates.

Bookmark this post and really pay attention: dates in the SERPs and freshness of a post (especially when it is relevant) can really help your rankings. This post goes into how to properly mark up a page for Google news, and further goes into general best practices.

A Study in Anchor Text

Fair warning, this post is filled with a bunch of technical math talk, but also some really interesting takeaways. So, power through…

Long case study with a brief conclusion:

Anchor text plays, at best, a very weak role in ranking sites and a very big potential role in getting penalized so play it safe.

Of course, this study is not perfect–as the author admits:

We studied 3 million random search queries and found that, on average, the top 10 ranking pages also rank for between 400 and 1,300 other queries.

So, clearly, this is a large‐scale happening that our study fails to take into account.

Still, worth your time to read through and understand more fully the takeaways and the way they arrived at that data.


A Brief Content Study of Things You Probably Already Knew

This classic Backlinko style post ticks all the boxes:
✅analyzes an absurd amount of data
✅partners with a best-in-class big business
✅lots of numbers and statistics
✅more than 50% of the content on the page is comments


The post itself is quality, but mainly serves to back up common SEOisms with data generated from articles in Buzzsumo’s database, such as:

  • Most articles generate zero backlinks
  • Long content generates more backlinks than shorter content

This post is probably of most interest if your site relies on social media more so than backlinks, but if that’s the case, you probably knew most of this anyway…

Decentralized vs Centralized Internal Linking

Interesting post from a really smart SEO about the two main ways you can approach internal linking. A bit of an advanced post, but one you shouldn’t miss.

Websites vary by the point of conversion, depending on what business model they follow. One type of site leads all users to one or a few landing pages, the other has users sign up on almost every page. Should the approach to internal link optimization be the same for both? Of course, not!

Sites that have a few points of conversion are what I call “centralized”. They don’t have scalable page templates, in most cases. Instead, they consist of landing pages, a blog, and some other pages. Centralized sites are often used by SaaS, app, and enterprise companies like Atlassian, UBER, or Salesforce.

The opposite is sites with many points of conversion, used by Ecommerce businesses, social networks, and marketplaces. They are “decentralized” sites with page templates they can scale, such as public instances, user profiles, apartment listings, products, or categories. Examples are Pinterest, Airbnb, and Amazon.


Keeping Your Content Fresh

fresh content

If you pay attention to SEO at all, you’ve probably heard that Google <3 freshness. It makes sense when you think about it: their penultimate goal is to try and serve up an absolutely relevant set of SERPs for their ultimate goal doing good in the world ad revenue.

This posts tackles the topic of decaying freshness, strategies for updating content, and this one weird trick for getting around Google showing the initial post’s published date, rather than the updated date (jk: it’s a plugin).

We had a lot of content that had been touched up over the year but still displaying the original publish date.

What will happen if we change both the displayed date and schema data of the post to focus on the last updated date and dropped any mention of the original publish date?

To implement the change, we have used the excellent Last Modified Info plugin from the WordPress repository.

Might be a good idea to keep an eye on the rankings of the example they use in their post, to see if Google continues to put up with these tweaks, or decides they’re being a bit too clever.

Update: We tested this in-house and received so-so results. Nothing definitive yet, but it’s possible that maybe it’s more niche dependent (niches that crave fresher content might be rewarded higher)


Better Page Titles

Page titles are important. Not only do they give a shot of relevancy to whatever topic you’re writing about, but they are also the shiny lure your site dangles in the water of the SERPs to try and hook a potential visitor. ?

You’re spending many hours on your content (hopefully), but just how much thought do you give to your page titles?

In this fantastic post, Ryan Stewart gives you a very tidy framework for thinking about and creating A+ page titles.

    • Main keyword = white shoelaces, secondary = flat white laces
    • Using the sizes lends a level of detail that specifically helps the searcher, which helps drive clicks
    • The numbers, ” and / draws the eye and distinguishes the results from other sites


Better Site Content

Gone are the glory days when you could throw a couple thousand words at a topic and collect traffic all the way to your #1 ranking. Now, writing content that works requires studying the competition, diving Google’s interpretation of intent, and hitting some more advanced concepts, like topic clusters.

The content game gets tougher each year:

Now, in B2B SaaS, you may actually have to invest in a “topic cluster” that consists of many slightly related blog posts if you want to have a chance ranking any of them, let alone all of them. It might require significant link building as well.

In general, the best way to gauge the content quality necessary to rank is to look at what’s currently ranking for keywords you want to go after. This can be as simple as a Google search (even better if you’ve installed Mozbar to see DA and backlinks):

This post does a great job of introducing you to, and walking you through some of those more advanced concepts. I recommend doing a deep dive if you’re interested in things like creating personas, the “cost” to rank, content audits, and more.


Don’t Forget to Optimize Your Internal Links

internal linking metaphor

It can be easy to overlook your internal links, or to half-ass a strategy where you sort of link to important pages with relevant anchor text. I get it. Internal linking is nowhere near as sexy as building backlinks. But it’s a critical part of both letting the search engines know what the most valuable pages on your site are, and in building up authority to pages that otherwise may not get a lot of natural links.

If you’ve wanted to get started with this, but haven’t, because it feels too overwhelming…Ahrefs has you covered.

In this post they go over the what, the why, and the how. Let them hold your hand and take you through the steps needed to get your site in great shape, internally.

Let’s say that you’ve published a new blog about image SEO. You want to add a few internal links to that page to give it a boost.

But how do you know where to link from? Start by searching in Google with the following search operator: “keyword or phrase related to page”


Write Better Content to Rank Better

Unless you’ve got the domain authority of, chances are, if you’re trying to rank for a keyword worth ranking for, you’re going to need some hiqh-quality, relevant content.

Notice I didn’t say “long” or “SEO Optimized” content. Being long, or written just for search engines is–for the most part–not what will get your page ranking well (from purely a content point-of-view). This is a great post from a site focused on doing well with content that it makes sense to study, and implement.

Google developed patents to understand the context from knowledge bases for more accurate results. It wants to focus more on topic-related results so the whole process works based on probabilities. For example, when a user performs a search on Google, the search engine uses a system to return landing pages with topics related to the query by looking at the text on that page.

It’s a great beginning-to-intermediate guide to follow, so I recommend checking it out (though be prepared for an annoying user experience, from “shaking” buttons to get your attention to a full-page pop up).

When it Comes to Content, Do What Google Says, Not What They Say

On a recent Google webmaster hangout, John “J-Mu” Mueller said the he and Google engineers have conflicting views on how to handle low-quality content:

In a Google hangout from the other day, John Mueller of Google explained that while he believes and has seen case studies that removing content helps a site rank better in Google that the engineers at Google tell him and his team to tell webmasters to not remove the content but rather improve it. But John said, sometimes it is not practical for a webmaster to improve content and removing the content is a more practical strategy.


Thanks, Google.


The State of the SERPs in 2018: Content Creators Lose

Have you noticed your organic traffic decreasing despite your rankings staying the same?

Sparktoro has a solid, data-backed post on the increase-over-time of Google grabbing content from your optimized site to display right there in the SERPs, with no need for the searcher to visit your site.

Good deal for Google!

In the last two and a half years, mobile “no-click” (or “zero click”) searches have grown 11%. Desktop no-click searches have grown 9.5%. That’s less steep than it could be, especially considering how aggressive Google’s become with their rich results and attempts to answer queries prior to anyone leaving the search engine. Search marketers should, in my opinion, breathe a sigh of relief at the relatively slow growth of no-click searches. It’s bad, it’s getting worse, but it’s not yet cannibalized so much as to make anyone in SEO or paid search worry about their jobs.

You can see the blue in this image–organic clicks–going down.

Your best strategy at the moment is probably to try and win the featured snippet spots (also… see the next story).


On Disavowing Links

To disavow or not to disavow…

I find there are a lot of misconceptions around Google’s link disavow tool.

Ahrefs recently did a great post talking about what the purpose of disavowing is, the risks of disavowing, and how to go about disavowing links.

It’s a long post that you should definitely bookmark for some time in the future when you start wondering whether or not you should be disavowing some of your more regretful links.

If you have a manual action, you need to clean up or disavow the links. For algorithmic things, up to you.

— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) October 25, 2017

^ Should probably just follow that advice if in doubt…


How to Reclaim Omitted Search Engine Results

You build a website or a page, only to find that your website only shows up in the omitted results.

Well, it might just be that your content is either very similar to the other ones that are already ranking, or that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

“But if the content is very similar, why is this happening to me? Why aren’t other websites shown in the omitted results and mine in the real results?”

Well, this has probably something to do with the domain age. Being a pioneer has always been hard, but when you make it, you succeed big time.

I don’t want to be dull, but the truth is you’ll have to provide a lot more value in order to get out of the omitted results.

That’s the heart of the problem.

Google’s advice on the subject essentially boils down to “just have unique meta tags on pages that are related, but omitted.”

Surprisingly, it’s more complicated than that.

This post goes on to give some suggestions on how to actually fix the problem. I can’t personally attest that they work, but it seems a better strategy than just trying to do what Google suggests.

Click on through to see how they suggest fixing this issue.


Identify and Fix Keyword Cannibalization Issues

Keyword cannibilization is when your site dunks on itself in the SERPs. You have two pages ranking for the same keyword. It’s a good strategy to try and own as many SERP spots as you can, but if you’re getting half-as-good rankings by competing instead of going hard on just one page, well… that’s obviously not the best strategy.

So what can you do to ensure you don’t do this to your site?

This post is a great resource. You’ll get five ways to identify keyword cannibalization situations, and three ways to fix them. As Matt says:

not every cannibalization issue is caused by the same problem and not every website will benefit from the same solution


Making Old Content Work For You

This is a pretty interesting case study where Spencer Haws edits some old content with some pretty amazing results:

That’s a 120% increase in traffic.

He saw similar results across several different pieces of content.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but if you’ve got a lot of old content and you’re looking for some easy-ish wins, you’ll probably have good luck going through this post and following along.

One thing to note: a big portion of these fixes happen when using a content-optimization tool called Marketing Muse. I’ve never used this tool, but have used a similar one from

Why updating content works (probably):

  • Adding depth to content SHOULD be what ranks better in the first place. If you are giving people what they really want (better content) Google is smart enough to rank that content higher.
  • Improving time on site and reducing bounce rate. These are strong signals to Google that you are doing something right.
  • Better keyword targeting. If you didn’t probably target keywords your first time around, an update can really improve what Google is ranking your content for.
  • More links. By adding additional internal links, this is boosts the authority of that particular page. Yes, even if those links are coming from the same site.
  • Fresh Publish Date. Google tends to give a boost to newer content. So, by updating the publish date when you’ve actually updated your content can help improve your rankings.

So if you’re looking for a project to help improve your site’s SEO, and you’ve got link building already taken care of with our RankBOSS service, then using this case study on your own site will probably be a worth your time.

Rankings Stagnating? Do a Quick Content Check

It’s easy to fall into a routine with running your site. You’ve got so many things to focus on that, eventually, you’re just going by on muscle memory.

Draft a post, add an image, hit publish, push on social media, repeat.

Suddenly six months have gone and your rankings aren’t what they once were or what you want them to be. What happened?

It’s a scenario I’ve seen happen many times. So what can you do about it?

This post from RankXL gives one possible solution to one specific problem:

Maybe it’s your content, bro.

This is by far the biggest reason I have such a hard time finding long-term writers: Unnecessary filler content. Even expensive writers have this problem, and it’s a huge pain in the behind.

Every time I order a longer article of 2000 to 3000 words from a writer I’ve never worked with, I will end up having to cut 30% to 40% of it. It’s full of unnecessary information and add-on sentences.

If you haven’t done anything like this in a while, maybe take a minute to run through and see if any of these issues may be impacting your site’s performance.


An SOP for Optimizing Metas

If you want to get your hands dirty and optimize your page Leslie Knope style, this post is gonna rock your socks.

This post takes you through the process of optimizing your meta titles/descriptions using data and a solid process.

One thing I do like about what they have to say here, in addition to some really smart steps to optimize your metas, is the examples they provide of good vs. bad. Here’s one:


WordPress, Tumblr, Medium or …? 8 Best Blogging Platforms Reviewed

X Keyword is at the end
X No parenthesis or brackets
X Asks a rhetorical question
✓ Contains the keyword “blogging platform”
✓ Contains a power phrase
✓ Has a number


8 Best Blogging Platforms Reviewed (Updated 2018)

✓ Keyword is at the beginning
✓ Contains parenthesis
✓ Contains the keyword “blogging platform”
✓ Contains a power phrase
✓ Has a number


Going After Branded Long Tail Keywords

get it?! They’re BUILDING a brand. ???

We’ve talked before about the value of going after long tail keywords more specific to your product or service than general keyword, and we’ve discussed going after buying-intent keywords.

Today, I want to recommend reading this article on branded long tail keywords.

The idea of optimizing for brand-related long tail keywords ticks several SEO boxes:

  1. increasing brand presence (and authority) for Google
  2. giving visitors a positive experience
  3. increasing SERP CTR


what do all these examples have in common? They are all about customer experience. Google’s search results are finding faster ways to give consumers the information they want directly in the SERP. Brands can miss out if they don’t control this information, and aren’t seen as the best source of information to Google. Gone are the days when brands can rely on loyalty bringing consumers to scroll through their sites for the information, and now they must adapt to providing the details in the format suitable for Google and consumers.

Covered in this post is optimizing for price, reviews, competitor comparison, special/holiday hours.

You want to make sure your brand owns the top spots in the SERPs for these and related queries, as it’s better for your brand, better for customer experience, and all-around better for your SEO.

You’re welcome.

Meta Description Gets More Characters in SERPs

Updated Yoast plugins coming to a WordPress install near you…

SERP snippets (the bit under the title/website) are getting the Twitter treatment and getting a character limit upgrade to just under 230.

Some webmasters and SEOs may consider updating their meta descriptions, but I don’t believe Google would recommend doing so. The snippets are more often dynamically generated based on the user query and content found in both the meta description and the content visible on the page. If Google is going to go with a longer snippet, it likely will pull that content from the page.


SEO Tip: Some Crappy Pages are Hurting Your Overall Quality

Have your rankings been raked over the coals from the end of summer to now? Every week or two, your keywords look like this:

I’ve said it a bunch, but it’s so critical I’ma post about it again:

Google’s John Mueller has explained a number of times that if you are seeing a decrease in rankings during algorithm updates, and over the long-term, then it could mean that Google’s quality algorithms might not be convinced that your site is the best possible result for users. I would even go a step further and say it also includes user experience.

But that’s not the real point of the post, I just want to really make sure you get how important quality has become!

No, this is about how ALL the pages on your site (not just those balla “write epic shit” posts) contribute to your site’s quality score.

So from what we’ve been told, Panda is still a site-level score, which then can impact specific pieces of content based on query. That means site-level quality is still evaluated, which also means that all content on the site is evaluated. And remember, John has said that ALL pages indexed are taken into account by Google’s quality algorithms.


NoFollow Links: Part of a Balanced SEO Profile

I often talk to people who are pretty down on NoFollow links.

I understand not wanting to work your ass off, produce 3,000 words of Moz-approved copy, only to get a NoFollow link.

But if your backlink profile is ONLY made up of… non-nofollow-links, well, that starts to look a bit unnatural doesn’t it?

This article does a good job of going through and explaining the value of NoFollow links, and you should read and internalize this, if you’re inclined to argue with me (spoiler alert: I’m right).

A no-follow link on Inc. might drive 1,000 visitors to your site and several conversions. Is that worth something? Of course it is! A forum link might be no-follow but it can introduce your business to a whole new audience, and also attract traffic and sales. The same can be said for blog comment links. Look, if you are buying links to game the system (everyone does) then you also need to add in no-follow links to your profile, so build ones that are going to give you all the added value.

(^ photo credit:

Last but certainly not least…


a tribute to Eric Ward

The Late Eric Ward

We wanted to give a take off our {white|black|grey} hat to give credit to the late Eric Ward, lovingly known in the SEO community as Link Moses. He was one of the grandfathers of the SEO industry who passed away this week. His guidance helped develop the industry as a whole, and he will be missed.

The Presence of Low Quality Content Affects Overall Site Quality

One bad apple spoils the bunch, right?

According to John Mueller on a recent webmaster hangout, that is most likely true for your site’s quality rating:

QUESTION – Is it possible that if the algorithm doesn’t particularly like our blog articles as much that it could affect our ranking and quality score on the core content?”

ANSWER: JOHN MUELLER: Theoretically, that’s possible. I mean it’s kind of like we look at your web site overall. And if there’s this big chunk of content here or this big chunk kind of important wise of your content, there that looks really iffy, then that kind of reflects across the overall picture of your website. But I don’t know in your case, if it’s really a situation that your blog is really terrible.

So now I will remind you:

1. Content is important–do a good job.

2. Get rid of that crappy content you wrote 5 years ago when you were in your “spun content” phase (but do it in a way that doesn’t skyrocket the number of 404 errors your site has).

This post has a few more quotes that expand on this answer/concept, so I def. recommend checking it out.


Things You Might Be Wrong About

SEO can be a complicated subject to tackle, mostly because there’s SO MANY things that change so frequently, and partly because a lot of it relates closely to coding (you know, technical SEO).

This post clears up a few commonly misunderstood concepts, so you can be THAT PERSON the next time it comes up at work…

Canonicalization is what you need.

Rel=canonical is what you do when you can’t achieve perfect canonicalization.

Canonicalization means ensuring that all things have a single, standard, canonical form. In SEO terms, that means no duplicate content.

Rel=canonical is a spit and bailing wire fix for impossible duplication problems. Rel canonical is a mixed bag at best.

Fix duplication first. Use rel=canonical to reduce duplication only as a last resort.


On Implementing a Long Tail Strategy

I know you want to take your brand new site to the top of the SERPs for “Best Travel Insurance,” but I’ve got some bad news.

It’s gonna take some time (and a whole lot of money).

I’ve started a lot of sites myself, and I understand the desire to get to the top like yesterday, man. Unfortunately, SEO is a long game, and to make the best of your money in time investment, you should definitely have a plan.

good point

Here’s one way to have a very solid plan for your content creation/keyword targeting:

Focus on long tail keywords at the start, and increase targets to more competitive and valuable keywords as you get traction.

It has been known that long-tail keywords are essential when you want to optimize for semantic search. Since today is a time of technological advancements, the use of voice search and talking to bots are commonplace. Whenever a user performs queries through these platforms, more often than not, they use long-tail keyword phrases such as questions and commands with specific intent.

This post provides a good starting point.


Increasing Organic Traffic By Targeting Long Tails

This post is definitely trying to sell you a keyword research tool. I have not used it personally, so I make no recommendations or guarantees. But there’s some interest info in this case study that does not explicitly rely on the tool, so I’m sharing.

Basically, the author did some semantic/keyword research to re-optimize some under-performing pages, and then did a few things to make those pages work to help overall site SEO:

I’ve built new internal (contextual) links pointing to the optimized versions of the pages from other topically related content to pass more link equity and ensure we’ll be sending more new signals to crawlers. Use the fresh content as an internal link for other recent posts to strengthen your sales funnel.

I’ve said before: content doesn’t JUST help rank your site by providing authority and a good user experience. It can help in other ways, like this post shows.


Evergreen Reminder: Good Content Leads to Good Rankings

You may not have heard this before, so it’s a good thing we’re finally writing about it here!

JK. This is post number 1,857 about write good content.

There are really just two steps to creating a search-optimized article:

Step 1: Pick a keyphrase that meets two criteria: Your audience searches for it, and you have a chance of ranking for it.
Step 2: Make the best page on the internet for the topic.

It’s that second step that people find difficult.

It’s something I see again and again. Here’s a beautiful flow chart I made to help you decice whether or not you should write good content for your site:

From a better click-through-rate, to more social shares, this post goes through WHY you should write great content.


How to Write Great Content

stock photography FTW

This is a good post. It’s uh… coming down a little heavy on PBNs–and that’s OK. We’ll agree to disagree, I guess?

But passionate anti-PBN rant notwithstanding, this is a great little post on writing good content.

Me, in every TWS post: Write good content 😀

You, probably: WTF does that even mean? What is “good?”

Fair question. Here’s a pretty tidy summary that goes a long way toward answering that:

  • Your content needs to be different and unique
  • You need to avoid the rabbit hole of trying to create better guides and better “how tos”
  • Unique data, unique positions, and unique strategies will always dominate regurgitated guides.

There’s a lot more to writing content that ranks well… length, keyword density, semantic phrases… but following those points will take you most of the way.


Smart Content Strategy

Hey, did you know that content is a super-important part of ranking well?

You did? It’s probably because I talk about at LEAST every other week.

So this post lays out a pretty decent guide on strategizing a solid content strategy.

If you’re already crushing it content-wise, this post won’t tell you much you don’t know. But if you’ve been putting it off, prioritizing your logo or your ecommerce site-structure or something, this will really help you get going.

For a new site, the more often you publish, the higher your chances of building and piling on your traffic in the second year. When your site has less than 100 pages, content matters. Each piece of content you publish will affect your search traffic.


Content Syndication FTW

If you’re not really keen to write thousands of words per week yourself, or you have a team of writers but are not sure quite how to utilize them for the most good, this post focuses on different content creation streams.

This post doesn’t really dig in to anything particularly deep, but if you’re new to the idea of content syndication, it’s a good jumping off point:

In our multi-screen, multi-channel world, thinking about content from a syndication standpoint can make content marketing a more streamlined and simplistic endeavor. From the ideation phase, you are thinking about all the ways your audience will encounter and meet your content.

Let me sum it up for you in terms of building links and ranking well:

1. Create good content.
2. Deliver that content across different mediums (image/video/slideshares/audio/text)
3. Put that content on platforms well suited to each (images > pinterest, video > vimeo, and so on).
4. Link back to your site from each.



How to Win Google Images

Last week we brought you a post on how to rank your videos within Youtube.

This week, conveniently, we’re bringing you a post on how to rank well in Google images.

Ranking images in Google is very similar to ranking a Youtube video.

In fact ranking images is actually easier because the competition is lower (not many people are intentionally aiming to rank photos).

What follows is a series of steps–pretty straightforward.

There can be some nice branding benefits to ranking well in Google images, so worth looking into if all your other SEO is taken care of.

Completely unrelated: we can take care of all your other SEO.


Keyword-Targeting Decisions

This dilemma, I am sure, has come across your desk at least once. Which keywords go together, which should you write completely different articles for?

This is a good rule-of-thumb for creating content you’re trying to rank well:

The key is to write about the topic, not just a specific phrase. When you cover a topic more broadly, you’re naturally targeting many of the phrases related to that topic. If successful, the page will rank for many phrases, all related to your topic.

kw targeting


Case Study: Content Cleanup

Does your site have a ton of low-engagement, thin pages that don’t get a lot of love from Google or site visitors?

Did Fred kick your site’s ass back in February?

This case study could be a ton of help, then.

The author calls these posts “cruft” posts (which is a real word–I Googled it) and went about doing a case study of the clean-up efforts.

Tl;DR — the results:


It is really hard to quantify results here because there were so many moving parts over several months. I was really, really happy with the end results of our content cleanup efforts. Overall, we saw a massive increase in organic traffic, which was really great. There were several other factors involved as well. For instance there were a few confirmed and unconfirmed updates during these months (interstitial, Fred, etc) so the boost we saw could definitely be due in part to those updates.

? Good stuff! Definitely follow the example here if a) you know what you are doing, and b) your site can relate to the examnple site.


Long Article About Long Tail Keywords

Ahrefs: the only thing they do better than writing great content is messing up my ability to write the HTML code for a link…

a href

Here is a recent article they posted that should answer all of your long tail questions, like:

How do I use to discover long tail traffic?

Ok, the post is a little… biased. Here are some things you will really discover, though:

What exactly is a long tail keyword? Isn’t it a keyword of 3+ words?

…our data shows that “length in words” is not necessarily a prerequisite of a “long-tail keyword.” 9.3% of keywords with a search volume over 1M have 3+ words.

What percentage of keywords searched for in Google have less than 50 searches per month?


It’s a good article, and I like how it very easily debunks commonly-repeated SEO advice (like the 3+ words = long tail) that do more harm than good for both site owners and SEO companies.


How Anchor Text Changed in Response to Penguin 4.0

Quality case study from Ahrefs on the impact Penguin 4.0 had on top-ranking-sites anchor text.

Since one of the thing Penguin targets is over-optimized anchor text, the author compared the anchor text of top-ranking sites in a Home Improvement niche before the rollout of the algorithm, and after.

The results are interesting:

anchor text comparison

In this study, “target” refers to anchor text that is the same as the keyword a site is trying to rank for.

Interesting to see that the target % decreased in favor of increased brand, URL, and LSI keywords.

Click through to read the whole case study, but the takeaway is this:

In this post-Penguin 4.0 era, anchor text matters more than ever. Don’t overdo it!


Internal Linking With a Purpose

internal linking diagram

Internal links can be a really good way to make sure your site is crawlable (see above) and architecturally sound (see below).

The best way to approach internal linking is to think of the site-visitor and ask: would an internal link here be helpful, or extraneous.

Like writing content for the sake of having content, internal links with no purpose are weak and wasteful.

Hit up this guide and create a strong site. It’s a great roadmap to follow if you’re just getting started with a site and wondering “what do I do now?”

The first step in “SEOing” a new website is to develop your content ideas and topics. Next is to organize all of those wonderful content ideas into categories or topic silos. At this point, you don’t need to think about keywords. Only after you’ve laid out the groundwork should you research, select and assign keyword groups to pages.


On Building Silos

build a silo

You could just put internal links up on your site willy-nilly.

Or you can wield internal links like a scalpel, and do things on purpose, for a reason.

This is a great article and, as the author claims, a lot of big sites don’t give this method much consideration.

Here’s what we mean by Siloing:

Organizing your website’s content, through directory structure and links, in a way that conveys subject matter expertise to search engines is an SEO methodology I devised years ago, and it’s called siloing.

Siloing is organizing a website’s content by heavily queried themes to make it clear what topics a site is about.

This post is a pretty good introduction to Siloing, and gives some great action steps to get your started.

I definitely recommend checking this one out…

A Plan for Internal Linking


Good question!

Very essential technique for getting your site to work WITH your SEO efforts, instead of against it.

This post by SEMrush is a great jumping-off point if you’re wondering where to start.

It’s got dos and don’ts, helpful tools, and a step by step process for getting everything internal linking in top shape.

Don’t install plugins that generate links

Don’t use a mega menu.

Don’t use automatic linking (to similar posts)

Don’t use automatic solution to improve your linking

Don’t have any broken links

Don’t use the “nofollow” attribute (really, it’s a patch!)

Highly recommended resource.


How to Optimize Your Shopify Store

When it comes to Shopify I’m like:


Pretty clueless…

So I can’t tell you where to change that H1 tag, or how to restructure a URL by changing the slug; but this post can!

A great guide from Portent, this site tells you what to optimize on your Shopify site and, more importantly, HOW.

Honestly, the Shopify URLs drive me a little crazy… I’ve been SEO-ing (yeah, it’s a verb) for the better part of a decade now and I have always recommended clean and simple URLs: follow a purposeful naming convention that utilizes targeted keywords, makes sense to people, denotes hierarchy, conveys relevance, etc. The Fact that you CAN NOT have a Shopify site without URLs like


Best Practices for Writing On-Page Elements

Do you like super-long, detailed posts that teach you how to do something well?


This is a really great, very in-depth post mainly focused on how to construct all the on-page elements everyone always tells you to pay attention to, like H1s, meta title/description, etc. etc.

This might also be a good time to remind you that if we’re building links for your site, be sure to read over our on-page SEO guide.

Here’s a sample–engagement as an SEO factor, best practices:

Accurately and thoroughly answer the “question” of the keyword

Use a good, easy-to-navigate theme (I prefer simple ones)

Spend time on good formatting (we have a big guide on formatting here)

Include plenty of highly relevant media (images, infographics, videos, etc.)

Use short sentences and a conversational tone (Neil Patel saw a 247% increase in users finishing content by doing this)

Write longer articles (to the extent it makes sense for your business)

Use this guide, along with our own on-page write-up, and that’s the 80/20 of on-page optimization.


Rapid-Fire SEO Insights
Clean up your curse-filled reviews, or Google may remove your site’s ability to display ANY reviews at all.

Get Your Long Tail On

Great post from AHREFs breaking down long tail keywords, and why they are so important.

One thing highlighted in the post is the wide-range of answers in response to the question “what defines a long tail keyword?”

Search volume

Low search volume, high specificity.

But why should you even care about a keyword that gets 25 searches per month?

Because, typically, combined long tail searches make up about 70% of a site’s organic traffic.

The bulk of this article, though, is about rethinking how one should approach long tail keywords. Because Google’s algorithms are a lot smarter now than their early 2000s “this-page-is-stuffed-with-keywords-it-must-be-super-relevant” algorithms.

You don’t need to have your page include a particular keyword to rank for that keyword and similar phrases (though, at this point, it’s still advised to mention the keywords you’re targeting, within reason).

Hummingbird changed the content/keyword when that algorithm came out, and keyword and content best practices are evolving to focus on in-depth explorations of a topic, vs. individually targeting keywords.

This image from the AHREFs post sums it up very nicely:


For some step-by-step instructions on how to search for and put together strong content that takes all of this into account, click through and check out the end of the post. Good stuff from, as usual.


Optimize Your Content

Good content can do so much for your SEO efforts.

  • lend your website much needed authority
  • give your website topical relevance
  • help defend against penalties

Having solid content will seriously impact your ranking efforts.

But how do you go from “we wrote 8 blog posts” to “organic traffic is up +300%“?

Optimize that sh*t, son!


15% of queries globally display featured snippets. There are 3 types of Google Answer Box results: Paragraphs (63% of all displayed featured snippets on Google search results), Lists (19%) and Tables (16% – according to the data gathered by STAT).

This is a pretty in-depth blog post, and a great resource to help you optimize your content, rank better, and get more traffic.


A Guide to Structured Data

Microdata, Schema, JSON-LD: making your data pop.

pimp your site

This is a huge guide! Very in-depth, well done guide from Built Visible. Everything you wanted to know about using structured data on your site. Definitely recommend you bookmark this one and come back to it when you need it.

Marking up content on your website can:

  • Lead to the generation of rich snippets in search engine results e.g.
  • This has the potential to enhance CTR from the search results from anywhere between 10-25%.
    Search engines and organisations are using this mark-up to develop new tools, for example Google Recipe Search, which may open up other marketing channels if not now, in the near future.
  • Provide greater information to search engines to improve their understanding of the content on your website.


Rapid-Fire SEO Insights

This week’s rapid-fire SEO segment is brought to you by CONTENT.

Does your site’s content need a bit of a boost? These articles should help:

Make the most out of the content your site already has with this smart audit.

How to write exceptional content about boring things (like deodorant).

  • A decent quality infographic
  • A share in the right place
  • An emotive topic
  • A dash of controversy
  • Incurring the wrath of a big brand

Nice juicy case study. Def. check out (but just a heads up, there’s a bunch of pictures of spiders on this post. I F-ing hate spiders, so I skipped that part.)

Long vs. Short: A Content SEO Case Study

This is a super long (get it?) look at content, and whether shorter or longer content ranks better in Google.

There’s a whole lot of words to get through to the conclusion:

The fact that the most widespread form in our analysis were actually long-form articles is no coincidence, since in-depth analysis seems to perform well consistently regardless of the source . Long-form allows you to run analyses (like the ones we’re usually posting), discuss case studies in detail and generally come up with original content.

This was a big task, trying to find a correlation between word count and rank. There’s just so much variation in the SERPs–when you find one thing that proves the point you’re trying to make, you can easily find another that’s an exception.

Here has been the (pretty oversimplified) case in my experience:

Sites with more authority need less high quality, well-written, content to rank. Sites with less authority need to kill it on content to compete.

For example, Ebay, Wal-mart, Amazon, and Costco rank for some pretty ridiculously lucrative keywords with like, 250 words of (really crappy, non-relevant) content.


Because they got authority for days, and that matters.

The less authoritative sites need more in-depth, longer content to rank with less authority/backlinks.

When a site has both in-depth content and a ton of authority, you get Wikipedia, which ranks for everything. 🙂


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Anchor Text

andy dwyer

There are a lot of guides out there on anchor text… and this is another one.

J/K — shout out to David McSweeney at Ahrefs, this is a solid guide on the subject. Five day old post, already ranking fifth for “anchor text.”

That’s the power of authority, baby.

The more sites that link with the anchor containing the phrase “dog biscuits” (exact or partial), the more certain Google will be that the linked page should rank for that query.

But of course, nothing in SEO is ever simple. At least not any more.

A really good post that covers all the basics and gets into the real meat. A must-read for an SEO rookie, and a recommended “refresher” for the experienced SEO.

301 Redirect to Less Relevant Pages Seen as Soft 404s


And with Google treating those pages as 404s, rankings and traffic began to drop quickly for the older pages that were now being redirected to less relevant pages. So the morale of the story is that you won’t be tricking Google anytime soon with 301 redirects to less-relevant pages. This is important to know for any website that will be changing urls, going through a redesign, or CMS migration.

Basically, if you 301 redirect a page to a not-very-relevant page, instead of passing along that sweet, sweet link juice, Google will treat it as a “soft 404.”

Updating Old Content, A Different Perspective

your old content

Last week we wrote about J-Mu saying there was no real SEO benefit to getting rid of your old, crusty content other than slightly making a better user experience on your site (or making yourself look better, probably. Those first 10 posts are always rough!).

But that’s very broad advice. This post hits you with some specific scenarios in which you might want to go back and check out your old content.

Here’s an example concerning out-dated content:

Outdated content = bad content. Even if your content is driving decent traffic, you should make sure all your content is up to date.

Failing to update content reflects poorly on your brand – don’t you care enough to provide your audience with accurate information? It’s also bad for the people who land on it – when you give people wrong information or answers, they’ll definitely blame you for it.

And if users aren’t happy, then eventually the search engine algorithms will catch up and take away your rankings.

The Importance of Title and URL on Rankings

Having established something you all knew, that links matter, here’s another data-backed post–this time about meta data.

Not as important as link building, meta data is still a helpful piece in the “I want to rank well” puzzle. Like losing that last bit of holiday weight, getting from position 8 to position 2 requires some focus. Good links will get you most of the way, but you’ll want to give attention to the little things.

Including the keyword in the title, domain or URL/URI of the website is not a surefire way to get to the top of search engine results. However, if all other things (in terms of SEO and content quality) are equal, it might be the thing that sets you apart.

If possible, try to be consistent and use keywords that are relevant to you in more than one place. Use them in the title, in the domain and in the URL as well. Of course, you need to be aware that this used to be a “tactic” in the old days of primitive SEO, so doing that might also make you more prone to suspicion from the search engines. If you can’t afford the luxury (or don’t want to take the risk) of placing the keyword everywhere, the domain is your best bet. It turned out to have the most predictably linear relationship between keyword presence and rank (as well as keyword presence similarity effect and rank).


Conversion Rate Optimization Tips for SEOs

stock photos, never let us down!

If you get your site ranking really well, get gobs of traffic, but poorly construct calls to actions and funnels, you’re just wasting money.

The post contains some solidly useful information about something I see a lot of people neglect: CRO.

Of all the big statements made at the conference, nothing quieted a room quicker than Harshman’s claim that the homepage is “dead”. When you pick up your jaw and digest this statement a bit more, how often do you find that your homepage drives the highest number of leads or the largest social shares? Not often.

This is probably something you want to worry about after your links, your on-page, etc. is dialed in.

Should Your Delete Your Old Content? (No)

This is hardly a killer post like the last one was, but it still addresses an important question:

Should you delete your old content to help your site’s rankings?

It’s always nice when people take the time to pull out the important bits from a Google employee’s webmaster hangout session (though it’s also a good idea to get good at consuming primary sources). But you’re busy, I get it.

Here’s J-Mu’s response to that question (as transcribed by SEMPost):

…just removing old content doesn’t automatically cause a ranking advantage.

If, however, you wrote a bunch of really crappy content in the past, it might make sense to remove it from a quality-user-experience standpoint.

Here’s the hour-plus video hangout if you want to watch it and boost our bounce rate (thanks, bruh):

– skip to 45:13 for the answer relating to this post.

Finding Longtail Phrases

I love seeing people come up with new names (proprietary names) for concepts that exist but don’t have a good name–it’s not as easy as it seems!

In this post, Dejan discusses what he calls “new tail” keywords. You’ve got your primary terms, your long tail, and then your new tail:

new tail keywords

Dejan thoughtfully provides a TL;DR at the beginning of the article. This will be especially of interest to eCommerce site owners:

  1. Show people a photo of your product
  2. Ask them what they would type into a search engine if they were looking for it
  3. Discover new attributes, concepts and synonyms you haven’t considered before
  4. Expand your keyword research by including all new terms
  5. Prioritize newly discovered queries by importance, relevance and volume
  6. Include top priority items in your copy, or define new landing pages if appropriate

It’s an interesting take–similar to a post we previously linked to using social media for keyword research.

Another benefit here is that your keywords will fit nicely into optimizing your site for voice search.


Repurposing Content, Yes or Yes?

Here’s a post by Neil Patel(‘s ghost writer) about repurposing content–for traffic and links.

There’s a lot of fear and confusion around things like duplicate content penalties that I think Google doesn’t exaclty discourage and benefits from…

But here’s something I agree with, from the article, and think you should consider as well:

I’ve already mentioned that there’s no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Google reserves the right to penalize your website, only if you’re excessively copying content in a manipulative manner.

When repurposing, you are only trying to increase the awareness of your brand – so you aren’t violating Google’s guidelines.

This article ends with several “case studies” (more like tweet-sized examples) of instances where someone repurposing content has seen some significant benefits.

Cannibalizing the SERPs with your original content + repurposed content?
10,000 email subscribers from Slideshare views?


Study: Keyword-rich Domains Get More Clicks

Interesting study. I know many who read the title are like…


But hey, it’s always nice when something assumed is backed up with data.

Verisign recently did a study on SERP click-through-rate for keyword rich domains vs. non keyword rich.

Results that didn’t have any matching keywords in the second level domain had a 12.44% click rate. Those with one matching term were clicked 21.79% of the time, and two or more words 25.30%.

As best I can tell, the study didn’t consider the search placement of results.

One interesting thing to consider: if you can get a keyword-rich new gTLD ranking on page one, you may win on CTR vs. a well-placed-but-poorly-named URL.

As always, click through and read the original study, not just a summary.


Publishing Content Straight to the SERPs

Google is stepping up its support for brands recently, with the introduction of an experimental feature that lets a company post new articles directly to a search feed that displays when a user queries that specific brand.

Here’s a screenshot of what the results look like for HBO’s Silicon Valley:

Google Posts Feature

Google has built a Web-based interface through which posts can be formatted and uploaded directly to its systems. The posts can be up to 14,400 characters in length and can include links and up to 10 images or videos. The pages also include options to share them via Twitter, Facebook or email.

Currently this feature is invite-only, but here’s the official Google page about it, including a waitlist you can join if you think you’ve got a shot.

Even if you don’t, consider signing up anyway. This could be very powerful–but for now it’s just an experiment. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on this.

Measuring Content

Social Metrics Content Marketing

Yes, content is important.

Yes, in many posts on Smash Digital I have said to write high-quality, in-depth content.

Content is important. But like I talked about last week, content for the sake of content is only so valuable. Once you’ve got it in your head that a super-thin site will not rank well, it’s time to start thinking one or two steps further with your content.

Matthew Barby shows us how Hubspot calculates the ROI of their content, and explains how to measure the impact of content marketing–not just as a checklist item on an SEO to-do list, but as a valuable part of a marketing strategy.

A related and simpler metric to acquire is the average time on page (available within Google Analytics). The average time spent on your webpage will give a general indication of how long your visitors are staying on the page. Combining this with ‘scroll depth’ (i.e. how far down the page has a visitor scrolled) will help paint a better picture of how ‘engaged’ your visitors are.


Updating Evergreen Content

when you don't update your content

Evergreen content is the BEST content.

In this post, Benjamin writes about how he boosted page views to a two year old post by almost 500%.


  • Rewriting sections of the article with the most up-to-date info
  • Republishing it to bump the freshness date
  • Updating your older metadata

After making these optimizations — which took a grand total of 15 minutes at most — I added the post to our usual content promotion process:

We sent an email out to our blog list, posted it on Reddit, and shared it to our social media accounts with Buffer.

And, within just 4 days, the page climbed from #8 to #3 in Google for its target keyword and traffic to that page increased by 486%.

It’s a great reminder that well-written content can continue to help your SEO game years after you wrote it, so don’t forget about it!

Growing a Site From 0 to 10,000 Visitors (With Content)

process for creating content

This post is great if you’re:
a) bad at coming up with content that will engage visitors + help build up your site’s content library, or
b) you’ve got a writer who can write well but doesn’t have a process for creating valuable content.

Now that we have all of our possible topics, we need to figure out which ones it makes sense to focus on for our site (in order to get that sweet sweet SEO traffic), and which ones are fine to give to other people as guest posts.

To do that, we’re going to rank our posts by Depth, then SEO value.

The real value here is the in-depth process for creating not only content, but content upgrades, promoting an article, guest posting, content upgrades, and more.

How to Increase Organic Traffic

This article is an all-you-can-eat buffet of content marketing advice aimed at one metric: increased organic traffic.

Increasing traffic 500k

Though a lot of the stuff talked about in this article won’t apply to your site right away, you can start putting your content together with a purpose.

Content layering is the most powerful part of this process, and one of the pieces of this strategy that many haven’t realized the power of.
If you can create content that generates links, ranks well, and layers directly on top of one of your landing pages, you’ll not only see the value of that additional traffic, there’s also a strong certainty you’ll push your more commercial landing page to #1 as well.

If your site gets a lot of traffic through the heavy use of content, definitely check this article out. It could have a big pay-off for you.


Everything Should Not be a Blog Post

silo vs flat

This is a nice primer on the importance of silos, and how to implement them on your site. As Google’s basic aim is to categorize the internet (and present the most relevant links to a particular search), you’d be hard-pressed to find a more useful use of your time than to make sure your site is properly organized.

The more topically relevant content you cover in a silo, the more topically relevant your website will be in the eyes of Google. If you cover all of the major search queries that people use when searching for a topic — and your site shows up and is clicked on for these queries — then you are the best result, period.


Identifying Duplicate and Cannibalized Pages
blog results in the SERPs

A bit of an advanced technique here, identifying these duplicate and cannibalized pages can really improve your search presence, making sure the pages that matter get ranked, and not the less valuable pages.

The process all stems from a database export of all categories & sub categories on the domain. I could have gone through the route of getting a download from the XML sitemaps, running a crawl etc, but what we’re interested in here is the actual logging system used behind the scenes to describe each of the URLs and its relationship to other categories in its simplest form (something that cannot be achieved via a crawl for a site that features all URLs in root directories & no breadcrumb trails to scrape).

If you’re up for it, run through the steps here and tie up this loose end in your site’s SEO.

No More Deceptive Download Buttons

Google isn’t putting up with your malicious “flash is out of date, click here to update” ads served on your website anymore. Google calls these “social engineering ads.”

Tricky/deceptive download buttons will now get the OMFG DON’T VISIT THIS SITE treatment, like this:

Deceptive Site Image

Consistent with the social engineering policy we announced in November, embedded content (like ads) on a web page will be considered social engineering when they either:

Pretend to act, or look and feel, like a trusted entity — like your own device or browser, or the website itself.
Try to trick you into doing something you’d only do for a trusted entity — like sharing a password or calling tech support.

Now’s a good time to make sure your site isn’t hosting/embedding any risky “social engineering ads.”


A 19 Step Keyword Research Process

wiki keyword research

This one could accurately be called “An Introduction to Keyword Research,” because many of the ideas and steps here are pretty basic. That said, it’s always a good idea to review beginner-level content to make sure some step hasn’t worked it’s way out of your process. If you’re just starting out with SEO/Content marketing, definitely give this one a read, it’ll save you a lot of time.

Bad keyword research will have you typing 2,000 words of gold and relying on social distribution to run its two-day cycle before your page falls off the face of the internet. Failing to target the right keyword means that you might be getting irrelevant traffic or hardly any traffic at all.


Writing Noteworthy Content

This is something that we’ve been saying for a long time: QUALITY CONTENT IS IMPORTANT TO SEO. Google is not going to rank your crappy 200-word article on the best refrigerator. You’ve gotta put some sweat into writing some amazing content to really get a healthy boost from any link building you do.

This Ahrefs article gives you several ways to capitalize on well-written articles for some sweet, sweet links.

But, in the end, it all comes down to having written a good article:

Would you like to learn the proven syndication formula, that will easily get your articles published at LifeHacker, Huffington Post, Forbes, FastCompany & many other huge publications?

I definitely would.

But I’m afraid there’s no such thing.

The only way to do this is to write a piece of content that will generate some solid buzz on your own blog and then reach out to editors of these big publications with perfect reasoning of why they should republish it.


Insights From Analyzing 1,000,000 Articles

shares links

Buzzsumo and Moz got together and did a big study of the relationship in content marketing between getting shares and getting links. No surprise here, the big takeaway is that most content published online gets ignored. Publishing noteworthy content (see above story) is the best way to get shares and links. That’s probably not news to anyone, but it’s cool they have the data to back that up.

Check out the full post for a summary of the 8 key takeaways, and get the link to download the 30-page research report.

List posts and videos achieve much higher shares on average than other content formats. However, in terms of achieving links, list posts and why posts achieve a higher number of referring domain links than other content formats on average. While we may love to hate them, list posts remain a powerful content format.


How to Write Copy for Search Engines

I like Michael Martinez. He’s a smart dude and he’s straight up with his SEO knowledge. His “how to write copy for search engines” post is a nice compliment to the keyword research article, above, and very different from other posts on the subject, like the Backlinko post from last week’s update.

Michael says everyone says “don’t write for search engines, write for people,” but they suck at writing for people, and so they are still writing for search engines. Interesting. This article steps away from SEO execution to take a more focused look at the “how” and “why” of SEO and content.

The message was clear in the beginning: links help. Unfortunately, idiots took control of the message and told everyone to do whatever they could to get those links because “SEO is all about links” (only, it never was).

He ends the article with this observation:

Stop writing for people because you’re terrible at it. You’re really still writing for search engines. You should be writing first and foremost for yourself.

post bad

How Content Can Increase Rankings Without Links

number of links from content

I’m a big believer in content. I’ve bitched about people ignoring this for years now. Thin sites ranking for big-money keywords is not the future of SEO. This post is a fascinating look at the different aspects of using content as an SEO strategy. This post not only the size of a post’s wordcount, but dives deeper into how click-through-rate increases rankings, and the amount of links different kinds of content attract. Good stuff.

There is a misconception that all content is capable of attracting links. In reality, certain types of content are more likely to attract links than others and these can vary by site. For we found that news, research and entertainment content attracted the most links. “How To” or guide type content, which people are often advised to create, attracted few links by comparison.

To put that quote into Travis-esque terminology. If you’re a local plumber, no one wants to link to your boring article on drain cleaning. You have to manufacture those links yourself.

16 Actionable Copywriting Secrets That Will Drive More Traffic to Your Site

Brian Dean’s post mostly focuses on tips that will help your site with click-through-rate, engagement, and bounce rate (which we know is a ranking factor), so it’s definitely worth a read. The section on LSI (latent semantic indexing) and why it’s important to SEO is one of the best, easiest to understand explanations I’ve seen. If you check it out just for that, you’ll get your money’s worth, but it’s a great overview of ways to tweak your copy to increase rankings (and a great companion post to the Dejan post you just read about).

Today’s super-smart Google doesn’t care how many times you cram a keyword into your article. Instead, it pays close attention to Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. (LSI keywords are a fancy way of saying: “synonyms and closely related words”). And these LSI keywords help Google understand what your page is all about.”

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