The Only SEO Checklist You Will Need in 2020: 41 Best Practices

My Post.pngIf you are looking for an SEO checklist that will help you to increase your site’s organic traffic and rank on Google, you have just found it.

We have put together the ultimate checklist that you need to drive SEO success in 2020, covering 41 best practice points and tasks that you need to know about.

From the SEO basics to must-knows when analyzing your off-page signals, use this as a reference point for ensuring that your site is adhering to best-practice and that you’re not being held back by issues that you have missed.

Here are the main categories I will cover in this guide:

  • How to Use This SEO Checklist
  • SEO Basics Checklist
  • A Keyword Research Checklist
  • Technical SEO Checklist
  • On-Page SEO and Content Checklist
  • Off-Page SEO Checklist

How to Use This SEO Checklist

We’ve broken this checklist down into sections that cover the main focus areas of SEO; the basics, keyword research, technical SEO, on-page SEO, and content and off-page factors.

There’s a good chance that your site already covers many of these points, and if it does, great!

However, we also know that all websites have opportunities to improve and are confident that you will find at least some best-practice areas that you have overlooked.

Some of these points might not be relevant to you, and that is OK!

Work through the list, reference these against your site, resolve issues, and maximize opportunities where you can. SEO success doesn’t come from simply following a checklist, but to outrank your competitors; you need to make sure you are at least covering most of these points.

SEO Basics Checklist

If you haven’t got the basics covered, your site will struggle to rank for competitive terms.

The following points are very much housekeeping tasks but form the basics of implementing a successful SEO strategy.

1. Set Up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Google Search Console is an essential tool that provides you with invaluable insights into your site’s performance as well as a wealth of data that you can use to grow your site’s organic visibility and traffic.

You can learn more about why it is so important to use, how to set it up, and more in our definitive guide.

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Bing Webmaster Tools is the equivalent platform, just providing data and insights for their search engine.

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These all-important tools allow you to view the search terms and keywords that users are finding your site on the SERPs for, submit sitemaps, identify crawl errors, and much more.

If you have not got these set up, do so now, and thank us later.

2. Set Up Google Analytics

Without the right data, you can’t make the right decisions.

Google Analytics is a free analytics tool that allows you to view data and insights about how many people are visiting your site, who they are, and how they are engaging with it.

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Our definitive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the tool as a beginner, including how to set it up and the reports that you will find the most useful, but one this is for sure, and that is that you can’t run a successful SEO strategy without it.

You will also need to connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console to import data from the latter.

3. Install and Configure An SEO Plugin (If You Are Using WordPress)

If you are using WordPress as your CMS (which there is a pretty good chance that you are, given that it now powers 35% of the web), you should install and configure an SEO plugin to provide the functionality and features that you need to properly optimize your site.

In SEMrush’s recently published WordPress SEO checklist, we have SEO plugin suggestions for you. Whichever plugin you choose pretty much comes down to personal preference, but these are three great options.

If you are using a different CMS to WordPress, speak with your developer to see whether you need to install a dedicated SEO plugin or module or whether the features that you need are included out of the box.

Plug in SEO, as an example, is one of the most popular Shopify SEO apps.

4. Generate and Submit A Sitemap

The purpose of a sitemap is to help search engines decide which pages should be crawled and which the canonical version of each is.

It is simply a list of URLs that specify your site’s main content to make sure that it gets crawled and indexed.

In Google’s own words:

A sitemap tells the crawler which files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.

Google supports a number of different sitemap formats, but XML is the most commonly used. You will usually find your site’s sitemap at https://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml 

If you are using WordPress and one of the plugins mentioned above, you will find that generating a sitemap is standard functionality.

Otherwise, you can generate an XML sitemap with one of the many sitemap generator tools that are available. In fact, we recently updated our ultimate guide to sitemaps, which includes our top recommendations.

Once you have generated your sitemap, make sure that this is submitted to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

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Make sure to also reference your sitemap in your robots.txt file.

5. Create a Robots.txt File

Quite simply, your site’s robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers the pages and files that web crawlers can or can’t request from your site.

Most commonly, it is used to prevent certain sections of your site from being crawled and is not intended to be used as a way to de-index a webpage and stop it showing on Google.

You can find your site’s robots.txt file at https://www.domain.com/robots.txt

Check whether you already have one in place.

If you don’t, you need to create one – even if you are not currently needing to prevent any web pages from being crawled.

Several WordPress SEO plugins allow users to create and edit their robots.txt file, but if you are using a different CMS, you might need to manually create the file using a text editor and upload it to the root of your domain.

You can learn more about how to use robots.txt files in this beginner’s guide.

6. Check Search Console For Manual Actions

In rare instances, you might find that your site has been negatively affected by having a manual action imposed upon it.

Manual actions are typically caused by a clear attempt to violate or manipulate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – this includes things like user-generated spam, structured data issues, unnatural links (both to and from your site), thin content, hidden text and even what is referred to as pure spam.

Most sites won’t be affected by a manual action and never will be.

That said, you can check for these in the manual actions tab in Google Search Console. – Read more

The Definitive Guide to eCommerce SEO for 2020

My Post (5)For any ecommerce site, ranking at the top of search engines is a high priority. While paid search can place you at the top of the SERPs you there, the long-term cost to remain there may not be sustainable. You need the number one spot, and eCommerce SEO can help you achieve this.

In this step-by-step ecommerce SEO guide, we will explain everything you need to know about SEO strategy for ecommerce websites and provide tips and strategies that will help you optimize your site effectively. Here are the main topics we will cover.

  • Why SEO Is Important for Your eCommerce Site
  • Keyword Research for eCommerce Websites
  • On-Page SEO for eCommerce Websites
  • Technical SEO for eCommerce Websites
  • How to Fix Common Technical SEO Issues on eCommerce Websites
  • Content Marketing for eCommerce Sites
  • Link Building for eCommerce Sites
  • Local SEO for eCommerce Websites
  • eCommerce SEO: Some Final Best Practice Tips

Why SEO Is Important for Your eCommerce Site

SEO is a critical necessity for e-commerce websites. Your products need to rank higher than your competitors, and they need to display the right way so potential customers can find the products they need in the SERPs and choose your site to click on.

When done right, ecommerce optimization strategies will help you rank highly, and your pages will provide the best solutions to a user’s search intent. Optimizing eCommerce sites can yield an ongoing, free source of high-converting organic traffic to your site.

This means less reliance on advertisement spending, a plus for any online business.

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In a 2017 study conducted by SEMrush on how e-commerce companies drive traffic to their sites, the results show 38% of retailer traffic comes from organic search.

SEO will help increase your organic search traffic, and help your ecommerce site rank higher in search engines. With so many users using Google to research purchasing decisions, both at home and on the go, need an optimized website and product pages.

Keyword Research for eCommerce Websites

The core of any effective eCommerce SEO optimization strategy starts with keyword research. Making sure you are targeting the right keywords is essential to your SEO efforts. Focusing on the wrong target keyword can negatively impact your impressions and bring low-converting traffic to your business.

The Initial Steps of Keyword Research

The first part of an ecommerce SEO strategy involves listing your category and product pages and then identifying and mapping, on a page-by-page basis, the keywords to target.

Product-Focused Keywords

For ecommerce keyword research, your strategy should prioritize product-focused keywords, taking into account your homepage, product categories, and blog content — this means also ensuring you are targeting keywords based on a medium to high search volume that are strongly relevant to your brand and not too difficult to rank for.

Buyer Intent

In a recent SEMrush post, Sandeep Mallya broke down search intent:

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Your focus should be on choosing transactional keywords over informational keywords. Why? Because your main priority is ranking for keywords that lead people to purchase, and transactional keywords typically lead to high conversions rates.

How do you find them?

Consider buyer intent. Buyer intent refers to the intent beyond the consumer’s keywords when searching online, which reflects where they are in the buying cycle.

For example, someone searching for a relatively broad keyword (also known as a ‘head’ term’) such as ‘men’s shoes’ is likely to be at the top of the funnel (the research stage), meaning they are still probably assessing the options available, and not ready to buy yet.

Someone looking for ‘black men’s running shoes, size 42’ strongly indicates they are ready to purchase, due to the specific, detailed nature of their keyword (and would be considered a long-tail keyword). This is what we call commercial or transactional intent, and what your eCommerce SEO keyword research should hone in on.

Keyword Research Tools for eCommerce SEO

Using keyword research tools can help dramatically simplify the process of finding keyword ideas when it comes to optimizing ecommerce sites. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly used by the SEO community.

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

The SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool provides access to a global keyword database with over 17 billion keywords and is particularly useful for finding semantically related long-tail keywords.

These are important to target, as they represent keywords with less competition than broader terms, and they have potentially a higher click-through rate thanks to the intent behind them. – Read more

How to Perform an SEO Audit in 2020 (a Step-by-Step Guide)

My Post (13)One of the hardest parts of performing an SEO audit is knowing where to start.

Even when audits are completed, the actions often take a long time to implement.  In fact, the actions from some audits never get implemented at all.

Audits don’t need to be hundreds of pages long, nor should they only be accessible and understood by the most technical of people.

A great SEO audit should effectively communicate a prioritized list of actions and justifications that clearly lays out the steps that need to be taken to improve organic search performance.

It is as simple as that.

In this guide, we are going to walk you, step by step, through the process of performing an audit.

We will teach you everything you need to do to audit your site and find and prioritize issues that could be holding back your site’s performance and help you understand the steps you need to take to grow your organic traffic.

What this guide will cover:

  • What is an SEO Audit and Why is it So Important?
  • The SEO Audit Tools You Need
  • Starting Your SEO Audit
  • SEO Audit Basics — The Things You 100% Must-Check
  • SEO Audit Quick Wins
  • What Are The Next Steps After an SEO Audit?

What is an SEO Audit, and Why is it So Important?

Before we dive deep into auditing your site, let’s first take a look at what an SEO audit actually is and why it is so important.

To put it simply, an SEO audit is the process of identifying issues that could prevent your site from ranking on Google and other search engines.

If there are issues that mean that your site cannot be properly crawled and indexed, your content doesn’t stand up against your competitors, or you have toxic links (just a few common issues that an audit could highlight), you will be missing out on organic traffic.

Sales and Competition

When you are missing out on traffic, that also means you are missing out on sales. It will be your competitors who enjoy this traffic and these conversions.

If there is any motivator to encourage you to go and audit your site, it is knowing that your competitors could be taking traffic and conversions that you could otherwise be reaping the benefits of.

If you are not auditing your site on a regular basis, it is easy to miss opportunities for growth, accidental issues that arose in the latest development roll-out, or simply things you could have done better.

Some of the most common reasons why you need to audit your site include:

  • You just landed a new SEO client and are putting together a growth strategy.
  • You started a new job and, like the above, are putting together a strategy.
  • You bought a website and want to figure out your next steps.
  • You experienced a drop in organic traffic and need to discover why.
  • Part of your ongoing SEO strategy includes regular audits to allow you to find and fix issues quickly (we recommend quarterly).

The SEO Audit Tools You Need

We are all about keeping things simple. You absolutely don’t need a large number of tools to successfully perform an SEO audit.

Throughout the audit process, we will be using just 4 core tools:

  1. SEMrush Site Audit Tool
  2. Google Analytics
  3. Google Search Console
  4. Google PageSpeed Insights

Starting Your SEO Audit

Before you start working through the audit process, go ahead and run a site crawl with the SEMrush Site Audit tool.

We will be referring to insights from this report as we work through each step, and depending upon the size of your site, it can take a bit of time to complete.

  • Head to the Site Audit tool.
  • Click ‘New Site Audit’ (top right of your screen).
  • You will now be asked to create a new project.
  • Enter your domain name and project name:
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  • You shouldn’t need to edit any settings except the limit of checked pages — this will depend upon the size of your site. In some instances, you may need to remove URL parameters, bypass restrictions, or allow or disallow certain URLs.https://cdn.semrush.com/blog/static/media/7f/e5/7fe53a9f388156ce6741a0fa84a74e9b/site-audit-settings.png” data-source-height=”1172″ data-source-width=”1764″ data-gtm-vis-has-fired-9025619_57=”1″ />
  • Start your site audit and let the crawler run; we will come back to this shortly.

If you haven’t already done so, you also need to make sure that your website is verified in Google Search Console.

Once your site crawl has finished, you will see a dashboard that displays the findings:

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SEO Audit Basics — The Things You 100% Must-Check

Let’s kick off the audit with those things that you absolutely must check.

Those potential areas of issue that could prevent your site from being properly crawled and indexed or serious issues that could be causing areas of concern. – Read more

9 SEO Best Practices That You Should Follow in 2020

My Post (8)Here is the harsh truth, if you are not ranking in Google’s top 10 results for your target keywords, your website might as well be invisible on Google.

According to HubSpot, 75% of searchers never go past the first page of search results — this is why it is so essential to rank on the first page of Google.

There are several strategies and techniques you can follow to rank higher on Google, but if you don’t get the basics right, your chances of ranking on page 1 of Google are minimal.

By following SEO best practices, you will be laying the groundwork for your site to increase its visibility in search. Once you have laid the groundwork, you can move on to more advanced keyword research and link building strategies.

In this article, I will be sharing the 9 SEO best practices that you should follow to achieve higher search rankings in 2020.

  • 1. Align Your Content with Search Intent
  • 2. Write a Compelling Title Tag and Meta Description
  • 3. Optimize Your Images
  • 4. Optimize Your Page Speed
  • 5. Use Internal Linking
  • 6. Improve the User Experience on Your Website
  • 7. Include Keywords in Your URL
  • 8. Focus on Getting More Authoritative Backlinks
  • 9. Publish Long-form Content

Let’s get started.

1. Align Your Content with Search Intent

Search intent (also called “user intent”) is the purpose behind every search query. Understanding and satisfying search intent is Google’s ultimate priority. Pages that rank on the first page of Google have all passed Google’s litmus test on search intent.

For instance, take a look at the search results for “how to make oatmeal cookies.”

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The top search results are blog posts or videos, not eCommerce pages selling oatmeal cookies. Google understands that people who are giving this specific search are looking to learn, not to buy.

On the other hand, top search results for a query like “buy oatmeal cookies” are eCommerce pages. Because in this case, Google understands that people are in buy mode. Therefore, the top results don’t include links to oatmeal cookie recipes.

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For that reason, if you would like to rank your pages on page 1 of Google in 2020, you need to understand the concept of search intent and create content that aligns with user intent.

There are four common types of search intent:

  1. Informational: A search falls under informational intent when the user is looking for specific information. It can be a simple search like “what’s the weather today?” that provides instant results or something complex like “best SEO strategies” that requires a more in-depth explanation.
  2. Navigational: In this case, the searcher is looking for a specific website or app. Common examples of navigational searches include “Facebook login,” “SEMrush,” and “Amazon.”
  3. Commercial: The intent behind a search is commercial when the user is looking for a specific product but hasn’t made the final decision yet. For example, searches such as “best SEO tools” and “best DSLR cameras” are all commercial searches.
  4. Transactional: Here, the intent is to buy. The searcher has already made a decision to buy a specific product or tool. Examples include searches such as “buy Nikon d500,” “buy Macbook Air,” and “buy groceries online.”

An SEO best practice is to always keep the search intent in mind while creating content for your website.

For instance, if you would like to rank for the keywords “best DSLR cameras,” you need to realize that the search intent here is commercial, not transactional. The user is still undecided on which DSLR brand to choose.

There is no point in optimizing your DSLR landing page with those specific keywords. Google understands what users want when the search query is “best DSLR cameras.” They are looking for options. They are looking for a blog post or video which lists down the best DSLR cameras, not product pages or eCommerce pages.

Bottom line: Create content that aligns with the search intent of your target audience.

2. Write a Compelling Title Tag and Meta Description

Your page title and meta description are two of the most important meta tags on your page. Let’s cover title tags first.

Title Tags

Title tags are clickable headlines that appear in search results and are extremely critical from an SEO perspective.

According to Google:

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

Search engines like Google typically display the first 50-60 characters of a title. Google will display the full title to your page as long as you keep your title tag under 60 characters.

Here are some other best practices to keep in mind while creating title tags:

  • Include your target keywords.
  • Write a title that matches search intent.
  • Avoid creating duplicate title tags.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Keep it descriptive but concise.

Meta Descriptions

The second most important meta tag on a page is the meta description. A meta description is a brief summary of a page in SERPs it displayed below the title tag.

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Meta descriptions do not directly impact search rankings, but they can influence click-through rates.

Google explains it best:

“A meta description tag should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about. They are like a pitch that convince the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

Google typically truncates meta descriptions to 155–160 characters, so make sure you provide an accurate summary of your content while keeping it under 160 characters. – Read more

Why SEO Should Be The Foundation Of Any Small Business’s Digital Marketing Strategy

My PostIn my line of work, I’m often asked, “What is this SEO thing I’ve been hearing a lot about, and why should I care about it?” These days, businesses already have to worry about website design and social media, so most business owners may not even be aware that search engine optimization (SEO) is a thing. If this sounds like you, then this guide might be of some help.

What is SEO?

Simply put, SEO is the process of optimizing your website in order to get organic or unpaid traffic from search engines like Google or Bing. It increases both the quality and the quantity of traffic to your site.

This means making changes to your website’s content and design that will make it rank highly on different search engine results pages. But why should you care about your website being the top result on Google? Why is generating organic traffic better than paying for ads?

The Internet’s Librarians

Imagine that you are one of the librarians for the most complete repository of knowledge and data that humanity has ever created. Imagine that millions of people come to you every day looking for information on a specific subject—for example, on Nietzsche or the Oscars or how to cook the perfect steak.

In order to help each person find the information they are looking for in a fast, efficient manner, you will need to know a bit about what each book in your library is about. You also need to arrange all the books according to some type of system—perhaps alphabetically, year of publication or by topic or keywords.

Search engines act like the internet’s librarians. They try to match the user’s search terms with the most relevant information in their database, and we need to understand how they do this in order to understand why SEO is so important.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines work in three steps. First, they send crawlers through all available content on the internet—webpages, images, audio, video and so on. Crawlers are bots that send snapshots of all accessible content back to the search engine’s servers.

Next, the information is organized into a searchable list. This huge list is called a search index and can serve as the basis for a raw keyword search. But good search engines like Google and Bing go one step further.

These search engines rank all the pieces of content relevant to a searcher’s query, using an algorithm to order the generated list from most relevant to least relevant. These algorithms are always changing, with Google, in particular, making constant adjustments.

Search engines that consistently deliver relevant results gain repeat users. These loyal users learn to depend on that search engine above all others. Recent data shows that Google and Bing make up almost 85% of all internet searches. This indicates a high level of user trust in these search engines. – Read more

The 3-Step SEO Process That Grew Organic Traffic 200%

My Post (4)First things first, I am going to promise you that this is not another post about including your target keyword in heading tags. 

In this article, I will cover the main tactics I use to write this content, which helped an ecommerce retail client grow their organic traffic +202% Y/Y.

To create satisfying and comprehensive content Google is looking for, you have to put in real effort. But it can be challenging to know where to start.

This 3-step process includes:

  • 1. Find Your “Gimme” Keywords
  • 2. 4 Free Content Analysis Tools
  • 3. Source Authoritative Input

Now let’s see how each of these steps work.


1. Find Your “Gimme” Keywords

In golf, a “gimme” is a shot that other players agree can count automatically — basically, a near-guaranteed victory. We can apply similar logic to keyword research by targeting keywords your organic competitors rank well for, but you could write about better.

Here is how to create a list of “gimme” keywords to influence your new content:

  1. Go to SEMrush’s Competitive Research Toolkit and then the Keyword Gap tool.
  2. Plug in your root domain and click Add Competitor — your top 4 organic competitors will autofill. Choose the first result and click “Compare”.
  3. To only view keywords in the top 10 results, select Position  > Competitors > Top 10. You can also filter Volume to only see keywords above or below a specific search volume.
  4. Scroll down to All Keyword Details and select “Missing” to see the list of keywords you don’t rank for, but your competitor is ranking #1-10.
  5. Document keywords by adding them to your Keyword Manager, or exporting to Excel or CSV.

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Complete this analysis with several of your close competitors until you have a list of keywords you feel confident in. This list is a great starting point, but there is one more crucial step in determining a true “gimme” keyword — looking at the search engine results pages (SERPs) manually.

Google’s algorithm prioritizes relevancy, so you need to make sure your site’s content and expertise will make sense for each keyword.

Starting with your highest-priority keywords, do an incognito Google search on desktop (Ctrl or ⌘ + Shift + n) and mobile. You can also use Mobile Moxie’s awesome SERPerator tool to check mobile results from your desktop.

Analyze the first page of results by answering a few questions:

What Is the Keyword’s Intent?

Search intent is bucketed into 4 different types: informational, transactional, navigational, and commercial investigation. Before deciding to target a keyword, make sure your content matches what users are looking for. Determining intent in the SERPs is fairly straightforward:

  • Informational: Users are looking for generic information about a topic.
    • “What is kombucha?”
  • Transactional: Users are looking for categories or products.
    • “Kombucha kits”
  • Navigational: Users are looking for a specific website.
    • “Kombucha Retailer”
  • Commercial investigation: Users are in the research phase before purchasing.
    • “Kombucha reviews”

Sometimes, results can be mixed intent. For example, a search for just “kombucha” shows informational articles, a product feed, and a local map pack. In this case, it is up to you to determine if your content fits the intent.

Which Publishers Are Ranking?

Take a look at the publishers ranking on the first page for your keyword. Would your website fit in alongside these results?

Say you are a food blogger interested in writing about the “benefits of kombucha.” Currently, the top 10 results showcase sites like Healthline, Medical News Today, and WebMD. Google is prioritizing authoritative health sites, not food blogs, to rank for this keyword.

Yet, search for “ginger kombucha”, and you will find a variety of food blogs dominating the SERPs. Though this keyword is lower volume than “benefits of kombucha”, you will be much more likely to rank.

What Does the On-Page Content Look Like?

Finally, click into the top 3-5 search results to analyze each page. The key sign of a “gimme” keyword is when the top results show missed opportunities. You can usually tell this just by skimming:

  • Does the page lack a sensible heading structure?
  • Is it difficult to read or flooded with ads and pop-ups?
  • Does the content seem too thin (or unnecessarily long)?

This technique may involve a bit more leg work on the front end, but you will avoid wasting countless hours targeting irrelevant or high-difficulty keywords.

If you have done your keyword research and the search landscape seems conquerable, go forth and conquer it.

2. 4 Free Content Analysis Tools

Once you have your list of “gimme” keywords, the next step is to look even closer at the first page of results to understand what content may be good to include.

However, this manual process can be time-consuming. These 4 free tools will streamline your analysis, so you can reinvest that time into writing great content: – Read more

Brand Building 101: How to Build a Brand

My Post (3)The terms “brand” and “business” are often used interchangeably. While the dictionary definitions might be similar, I don’t think this is a fair swap.

Anyone can create a business. But building a brand goes far and beyond filing your LLC paperwork and opening a business checking account. A brand is more than just a company logo or slogan. It’s how people feel when they see your logo or hear your name.

Branding is the most powerful marketing tool in the world. For individuals and businesses alike, establishing your brand can the difference between success, mediocrity, and failure.

Whether you’re launching a startup or rebranding your existing business, this beginner’s guide to branding will help you establish a successful brand that will stand the test of time.

What is a Brand Identity?

Brand identity is essentially your company’s reputation. It’s not what you tell people about yourself; it’s what people tell each other about you.

Brand identity is not one specific aspect of a business. It’s comprised of multiple factors, such as company values, communication style, product offerings, logos, color palettes, and more. All of these elements help portray your brand to the outside world. But the world’s perception of those factors ultimately becomes your brand identity.

Here’s an example of brand identity—McDonald’s.

The McDonald’s identity starts with the golden arches. But it’s much more than that. What do you think of when you see that logo or hear the name? Some of you might think of Ronald McDonald. Others imagine the tastes and smell of a Big Mac and fries.

Regardless of what you think of, specifically, McDonald’s has established a global brand. Everyone knows exactly what to expect from this company; they are the epitome of a fast food chain.

Why Put Effort Into Building a Brand?

Your brand is essentially the face of your business. Without a face, you can’t stand out from the crowd. Companies need a brand to differentiate themselves in crowded markets.

Branding builds credibility and establishes trust between businesses and consumers. It’s what entices people to buy from you in the first place, and keeps them coming back for more in the future.

Your brand can even impact your pricing strategy. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for brands they trust. Starbucks is an excellent example of this. – Read more

Link Building for SEO: Which Strategies Work in 2020 (and Which Don’t)

My Post (25)If you want to rank a website on Google in 2020, you can’t ignore the importance of link building and the need to put together a solid strategy that will help you earn high-quality links. In fact, links remain one of the top three most important ranking factors out there.

That said, whether you are a total SEO beginner and are learning how to build links for the first time or have been doing it for years and just want to find new tactics that still work, there are literally dozens of approaches you can take.

In this guide, you will learn how to build links with strategies and tactics that are still effective and that will help you to earn those top-ranking positions, as well as knowing those that will see you wasting time and resources and that could potentially have a negative impact on your organic visibility.

We will share quick win tactics alongside those that need a little more time and planning, but that can truly help you to get those ‘can’t buy’ links.

If you want to learn how to build better links than your competitors, then read on…

What is Link Building?

Link building is a key part of any successful SEO strategy that involves getting other websites to link to yours — a simple hyperlink from one site to another. It is also agreed by many that it is one of the hardest parts of ranking a website, whilst one of the most rewarding when you get it right.

Not familiar with how links work?

When website A links to website B, it s a strong hint to Google’s algorithm that it deserves to rank higher for relevant keywords, and you might hear these referred to as inbound links, backlinks, external links, or, quite simply, just links.

You can think of links from other websites like votes.

The more high quality links that point to your website (and form part of your backlink profile), the higher you should rank on Google, and, therefore, the higher level of organic traffic you should receive.

However, links aren’t all created equal, and some can even cause your website to decrease in visibility, something that we will cover shortly.

There are many different tactics that you can use to build links, some easier to execute than others, and knowing where to get started can sometimes be difficult, especially when you are aware that some can do more harm than good.

Why is Link Building Important For SEO?

Link building takes time and effort. There is no hiding from that fact.

It is also hard to get right, meaning that those who can successfully execute tactics to build better links than their competitors typically see significant growth in organic traffic and revenue.

And that is why you need to understand why links are so important and should account for a considerable portion of your SEO campaigns’ resources.

We delved deep into the importance of link building for SEO in our guide to backlinks, which you should check out for a detailed introduction to the what and the why behind this key pillar of any successful campaign.

However, the main reasons why you need to make sure you are placing a strong focus on link building as an SEO are:

  • You will rank higher on Google and other search engines.
  • Google will find new pages on your site faster.
  • You’ll enjoy increased credibility and trustworthiness as a business.
  • You could benefit from targeted referral traffic.

You can’t ignore link building, and you need to make sure you are rolling out tactics that give you a competitive advantage, something that we will show you how to do in this guide.

What Are the Key Elements of a Successful Link Building Strategy?

There is more to link building than it may seem, and not just in terms of the complexity of those tactics that deliver the best results and impact.

When planning a link building strategy, you need to remember that not all links are equal and that there are key elements that drive forward success.

You shouldn’t be building links blindly.

By that, we mean that you need to know what a great link looks like for you and fully understand that the more effort you put into getting the right links, the better impact you will see.

Here are some of the key components that you need to focus on that make up a great link building strategy to help you understand what a great link profile looks like.

1. Contextual Links

Links on a page that are more likely to be clicked are typically those that hold the most value and can have the biggest impact on rankings and the way that Google measures the value of a link is with PageRank, and its ‘reasonable surfer model‘ parent indicates that different features associated with links change how this flows.
Bill Slawski explains this as:

If a link is in the main content area of a page, uses a font and color that might make it stand out, and uses text that may make it something likely that someone might click upon it, then it could pass along a fair amount of PageRank. On the other hand, if it combines features that make it less likely to be clicked upon, such as being in the footer of a page, in the same color text as the rest of the text on that page, and the same font type, and uses anchor text that doesn’t interest people, it may not pass along a lot of PageRank.

— Bill Slawski

Contextual links, those placed in the body of a web page’s content as opposed to the footer or sidebar, as an example, are typically higher quality links and are key to a successful strategy.

2. A High Percentage of ‘Followed’ Links

Not all links pass PageRank and impact a site’s rankings.

Links can have different attributes applied, with the main ones you need to know to be nofollow, sponsored, and UGC links.

Links that have a rel=”nofollow” attribute give a hint that Google should not crawl them and that they should not associate the two sites from a ranking perspective.

Rel=”sponsored” attributes indicate that a link has been paid for (and therefore should not pass PageRank).

Rel=”UGC” showcases links that come from user-generated content such as forums and comments and indicates that these links are not editorially placed and may be manipulative.

If a link is referred to as a ‘followed’ link (or sometimes, a ‘dofollow’ link – even though this is technically not the right terminology), it means that there are no attributes in place that prevent PageRank from being passed and a great link profile should contain a high percentage of these, so long as they come from quality sources.

3. Editorially Placed Links

Editorially placed links are simply those that exist because a third-party has taken the decision to add a link from their website to yours, rather than because of payment, some other incentive, or that you were the one responsible for placing it and did so to increase your rankings.

The most effective links are editorially placed, and Google themselves highlight in their guidelines that links that don’t fall under this categorization can be deemed unnatural. – Read more

3 Connections Between Paid Search and CRO

My Post (1).pngWhile being with Hanapin (now Brainlabs!) for five and a half years, I can honestly say that I love my career. Recently, I began a transition between roles within the company going from a Paid Search Account Manager to a CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) Manager. This was brought on by really gaining an understanding of the connection between Paid Search and CRO and wanting to focus more on the CRO side of things after the paid click happens. With that being said, it’s been such a great experience being able to dive into my new role with the knowledge I have gained over the last 5 and a half years.

In this post, I want to walk through three valuable connections between the two roles. They truly go hand-and-hand and when utilizing both, you can have a solid strategy and really make the most of the user experience from the initial search to the time a user completes a purchase or fills out a lead form on your site.

Let’s jump right into it!

Congruency is Key

This has been the most apparent during my transition and something that may be apparent to those who have no experience in CRO or in Paid Search. From the time a user first interacts with your brand (first impression, if you will) to the moment they make the decision to purchase or submit a form, you should be speaking the same language throughout the path. If not, it can quickly lead to confusion, hesitation, and ultimately, users bouncing. Take the following two examples;

Example 1:

ad congruency example 1

Example 2:

ad congruency example 2

In both examples, I’m sure you can decide which user experience makes more sense. The second.

The goal is to ensure that what the user searches for is mimicked in the ad copy and also the landing page. This ensures that the user is met with exactly what they need, eliminating any additional steps.

Audiences Matter

There is also a valuable connection between paid search audiences and CRO. Understanding the audience that’s being sent to a website gives insight into how a site would be best structured and how it should function to meet that audience’s needs. If you have an apartment complex that rents to those who are 65 or older, your site needs to align with that. If a paid search landing page for that apartment complex focuses on workout facilities, party rooms, and transportation to the nearest college, it’s not speaking to the audience. However, if the landing page lists amenities like elevators, a lounge, handicap accessibility, and so forth, you have a better chance of connecting with the audience. – Read more

WordPress SEO Checklist: 20 Tips to Improve Your Rankings

My Post (7).pngOne of the reasons you have chosen WordPress as your website’s CMS might be because you have read that it is SEO-friendly out of the box. In fact, you only have to check out WordPress’ own list of ‘powerful features’ on their homepage to see that they are proud that the platform is SEO-friendly:

But that doesn’t mean that simply launching a WordPress website is enough to rank at the top of the search engines. You still need to understand the right SEO tactics to use and how to implement these, but the good news is that WordPress makes this easy to do and makes it easier for beginners to grow their traffic from Google.

The platform has many features that adhere to SEO best practices to make your life easier, meaning you can focus your efforts on the tasks which make a real difference to your rankings and organic visibility.

Below, you will find our top WordPress SEO tips to help you optimize your website and enjoy SEO success. But just one quick word of warning first — these tips and tricks apply to those of you running self-hosted WordPress sites, not the hosted WordPress.com version of the platform.

What Is WordPress?

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system, which runs 35% of the entire internet and powers many of the websites you likely browse every single day, including BBC America, Time.com, and TechCrunch. Even The Rolling Stones use WordPress for their official website. If it works for these global giants, you can see why it’s the go-to for many website developers.

WordPress started out as a blogging platform in 2003 but quickly pivoted to become a powerful and flexible solution to run entire websites, and in 2020, it is also capable of being used as an eCommerce solution.

But why did WordPress become so popular?

For many, it is because:

  • It s simple and easy to use. You don’t need to be a developer to launch a WordPress website, and it is extremely user-friendly, even for beginners.
  • It is flexible and adaptable. With literally thousands of themes available (including many free options), you can tailor WordPress to your needs, while also extending the core functionality with one of more than 55,000 plugins available. The platform can also host fully bespoke themes, if you are an experienced PHP developer, want to learn the language or choose to employ the services of a professional to turn a custom design into a stand-out site.
  • There is an amazing community. WordPress is open-source, and the community behind the platform is simply amazing. From support forums to easy-to-follow documentation, there is always help at hand, however simple or complex the issue may be.

Of course, it isn’t the right platform for everyone, and there are times when there may be other CMS options that are better suited to your individual needs. Commonly cited disadvantages and cons of WordPress usually relate to the need for frequent updates, potential vulnerabilities (if you are not keeping your site updated), and a little bit of a learning curve to launch bespoke themes. But for the most, it is an extremely powerful platform and one which also gives you great foundations for SEO success.  – Read more