Complete SEO Course for Beginners: Learn to Rank #1 in Google


Hey everyone, my name is Sam Oh and welcometo the SEO fundamentals course by Ahrefs. In this course, I’ll be teaching you the fundamentalsof SEO with a heavy focus on execution. And while it’s a beginner’s SEO course, I don’twant you to be fooled by the word “beginner.” Even for an 8-figure business like ours, we don’tdo anything crazy technical or complicated. Right from the start, we’ve stuck withthe fundamentals of SEO that led to compounded growth.And today, our site gets over a million monthlyvisits from Google search alone, making SEO one of our most effective strategiesto get traffic to our site. So the course is broken down into fourmodules plus this video, which is more of an introduction to the courseas well as an SEO 101. In this video, we’ll go over the basics ofSEO and cover things like what it is, why it’s important and how it works. You’ll then move on to module 1which is on keyword research. Throughout these lessons, I’ll show youhow to find keywords to target that can benefit your business. It’ll also set the foundation for the nextmodule, which is on-page SEO. In this module, we’ll talk about optimizingyour pages to rank for those keywords. The next module will be on link building. This is one of Google’s most prominentranking signals which has proven to contribute to higher rankings in search. Finally, we’ll finish off the course withthe basics of technical SEO, which will mostly be about your websiteand its maintenance. Alright, let’s kick things offwith the SEO basics.We’ll talk about what search engine optimizationis, why it’s important and how Google works. SEO stands for search engine optimization. And it’s the process of optimizing contentto be discovered through a search engine’s organic search results. Now, let’s talk a bit about how they work. If you’re completely new to SEO, then it’seasiest to think of search engines as libraries. But instead of storing books, they storecopies of websites and web pages. So when you search for a query, the searchengine will then look through all pages in its index and try to returnthe most relevant results. And SEO helps demonstrate to searchengines that your page is that result.Now, you might be thinking: why should Ifocus on SEO when there are so many other marketing mediums? Well, there are three major things that attractmarketers to search engine optimization and in my opinion, these three things makeSEO the best traffic source. #1. Unlike paying for ads, search traffic is free. #2. Organic traffic is typically consistentonce you’re ranking high. Whereas other mediums like social media andemail marketing often result in traffic spikes that usually end up fading to nothing. And it makes sense because socialmedia networks are designed to surface fresh content. Emails often get marked as read,forgotten, or land in the spam box. Whereas search traffic is a result of usersactively searching for information. And the number of searches for a given topicis typically consistent month to month. And #3. You have the opportunity to reach massiveaudiences you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. In fact, as of October 2019 there were nearly4.39 billion internet users around the world.And almost 4 billion of those peopleare Google users. This is why search engine optimization isan 80 billion dollar industry and why marketers from all walks of life are adoptingand pursuing it today. Everyone wants their business to get discoveredand SEO is the perfect way to do that. Now, let’s briefly talk about how Google works. And there are two parts to this. The first is crawling and indexation. And these two things are what actually allowsGoogle to discover web pages and create their search index. So to actually attain information, Googleuses crawlers, also known as spiders, which gather publicly available informationfrom all over the web. The spiders will start crawling froma list of known URLs called seeds. They then follow the hyperlinks on those pagesand crawl those newly discovered pages. And this process goes on and on, allowingthem to collect a ton of information. They then take all of this data back to Google’sservers to be added to their “search index.” And that’s what people like you and I aresearching through when we key in a query in Google.Now, if you were to search for something andGoogle returned every result that mentioned your words on the page, then you’dend up with really bad results. This brings us to the second part,which is Google’s ranking algorithm. Google has hundreds of ranking signals andthey make tweaks to their algorithm 500 to 600 times per year. So to be frank, no one knows exactlyhow their algorithms work. But they’ve given us clues and someguidelines to better understand the factors that are most important. In addition, third party companies like ourshave done studies to test and better understand these factors. Now, I won’t bore you with over 200 rankingsignals, many which are just speculation at best, but I do want to cover a few of themost important factors that you’ll need to understand from a fundamental standpoint.First are backlinks. Backlinks are links from a pageon one website to another. And Google has said on their How SearchWorks page that if other prominent websites link to a page, that’s proof to be a goodsign that information is well trusted. The easiest way to understand the value ofa backlink is to think of them as votes. When a page receives a backlink, it’sessentially another website vouching for the content on the page. And the more “votes,” you get fromcredible sources, the higher the trust. And we also studied the effect of backlinkson search traffic and found a clear positive correlation between backlinks from uniquewebsites and a page’s organic traffic. Second is search intent, which representsthe reason behind a searcher’s query. And if you think of Google’s goal for search,their job is to return the most relevant results for any given query. So with that said, you can discover searchintent simply by looking at the top ranking pages for the query you want to rank for. For example, if you search for “slow cookerrecipes,” you’ll see that the search results are mostly blog posts with a listof slow cooker recipes.So if you try and rank a product page whereyou’re selling a slow cooker, you won’t be matching search intent andtherefore, you won’t rank. Now, if we change the query to just “slowcooker,” you’ll see that the dominant types of pages are ecommerce category pages. So if you try and rank your blog post of slowcooker recipes, then you probably won’t rank because you’re not matching search intent. This is a critical concept to understand andI’ll share a simple 3-step checklist you can use to determine search intentfor any query in the next module. And third is content depth. Search engines are made upof computer programs. So they can’t actually read andunderstand text like you and I would. Nevertheless, Google has poured billions ofdollars into creating sophisticated technology that understands content to a certain degree. But it’s your job as a content creator toprovide context about the subject.For example, if you look at the top rankingpages for the query “how to drive a car,” you’ll find that they talk about things like,fastening your seatbelt, familiarizing yourself with the gas and brake pedals, adjustingyour seat and mirrors, and other things that a first-time driver may not know. Basically, you want to be able to answerthe searcher’s query the best that you possibly can. And naturally, it should lead tocontent that has depth. Now, it’s important to note that depthdoesn’t always translate to length. For example, a topic like “how to turn offiPhone 12” doesn’t need to and shouldn’t be long.In fact, the top ranking page isonly 185 words. But the content itself solves theuser’s query from start to finish. Alright, so the basics are in the bookand it’s time to move on to the keyword research module. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the firstmodule which is on keyword research. In this first lesson, we’re going to talkabout what keywords are and how to choose them using a simple4-point checklist. Let’s get started. So what are keywords in the context of SEO? They’re simply just words and phrases thatpeople type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. For example, if you were shopping for runningshoes, you might search for keywords like “men’s running shoes” or simplyjust “running shoes.” Now, keywords are actually super-importantin SEO because it sets the entire foundation for search engine optimization. The basic goal of SEO is to rank your pagesfor keywords that your target audience or customers are searching for. And if you’re not ranking for keywords thatactually get searched, then your SEO efforts are kind of meaningless.For example, we rank #1 forthe query “SEO checklist.” And this keyword is responsible for drivingaround 1,500 monthly visitors from Google. And that’s just in the US. So keyword research is the process offfinding keywords that people are inputting into search engines. And we’ll get into this processin the upcoming lessons. So how do you actually choosekeywords that are worth targeting? Let’s run through a checklist that shouldhelp you choose keywords effectively. The first thing to check is if yourkeyword has search demand. Search demand represents the volume ofmonthly searches made for a keyword. And this is measurable with a keywordmetric that we call “search volume.” You can find the search volume for a keywordby using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs Keywords Explorer. For example, the query, “km to miles” getssearched around 478,000 times per month in the US alone. But as you can see here in Ahrefs KeywordsExplorer, 80% of searches go without a click to a page.And that’s because Google has a handy calculatorhere that’ll solve the searcher’s problem. So search volume alone can actuallybe a bit misleading. Which is why it’s worth looking at the secondcheckpoint which is to check the traffic potential of the topic. Traffic potential represents the total searchtraffic you could get if you were to rank at the top of Google for your keyword. Let’s look at the stats for our SEO checklistpage in Ahrefs Site Explorer. So again, we rank #1 for the query, “SEO checklist,”and it sends us approximately 1,500 monthly search visits from the US.But if we look at the total global organictraffic to the page, you’ll see that we get approximately 3,000 monthly visitsfrom Google every single month. And that’s because this page ranksfor over 200 keywords! And this page isn’t an outlier. In our study of 3 million keywords, we foundthat on average, the top-ranking page ranks for nearly a thousand otherkeywords in the top 10. So while you may be optimizing your pagesfor a main keyword, your page will likely rank for hundreds or even thousand ofother relevant keywords. And because of that, the monthly searchtraffic potential of the topic “SEO checklist” is actually higher than its monthly search volume.This is what makes traffic potential a muchmore reliable metric than search volume. And the way you determine traffic potentialis by looking at how much traffic the top- ranking pages are getting. For example, if we go to Ahrefs KeywordsExplorer and search for, “submit website to search engines,” you’ll see that it hasa search volume of 1,100 monthly searches in the US. Now, if I scroll to the bottom of the pageyou’ll see a SERP overview, which shows you the top 10 ranking pagesfor that keyword.And SERP just stands for searchengine results page. And as you can see, our page gets an estimated5,300 monthly search visits from the US alone. And we rank for over 1,300 keywords makingtraffic potential of this keyword higher than its search volume! Now, it doesn’t always work out this way. For example, the query “keyword cannibalization”has a search volume of 150 monthly searches. But the traffic potential is well under 100. So it becomes more of a business decisionwhether you want to tackle the topic or not. Now, choosing keywords based onmetrics alone is not a good idea. Which is why the rest of the checkpointsare meant to ground you. The next point on our checklist is to assessthe business potential of the keyword or topic.Business potential simply represents thevalue a keyword has to your business. And “value” really comes down to yourniche as well as your business model. So an easy way to do this is by assigning scoresbetween 1-3 to keywords you’re researching. The higher the number, the more importantthe topic is to your business. So let’s say you have a site about golf. And the way you make money isby selling used golf clubs. Bringing this back to business potential,that means topics where you can organically recommend products to visitors wouldhold the highest business value. For example, people searching for somethinglike “buy used golf clubs” are likely ready to make a purchase here and now.So in my books, this would havea business value of 3. Now, a keyword like “best golf clubs”would also be relevant to your site. People are likely ready to make a purchasesoon but just don’t know which clubs to buy. But it’s actually quite easy toplug your products. Because for the golf clubs you recommend,you can easily link back to your product pages leading visitors closer to making a purchase.So I’d give this a business value of 2. Now, a keyword like “what is a handicap ingolf” would be really tough to organically recommend your products. But nevertheless, it’s a way to attractrelevant traffic to your site. So I’d give this a business value of 1. So these would hold the lowest priority. And anything that has a score of 0 is probablyworth ignoring because it’s not going to impact your bottom line.So something like “happy gilmore review”would have a business value of 0 because it has nothing to do with your businessother than the fact that it’s a fantastic movie about golf. Alright, the next point on this checklistis to see if you can match searcher intent. This is a concept that we covered in thefirst lesson of this course, but it’s something that I’m going to keep talking aboutbecause it’s super-important. So again, search intent representsthe reason behind a searcher’s query. And the way we determine that is by lookingat the top-ranking pages for the keyword we want to rank for. For example, let’s say you have a recipesblog and you wanted to rank for “toaster oven.” Looking at the top ranking pages, you’ll seethat almost all of the pages are ecommerce category pages. This tells us that the intent of the searcheris likely to buy or at least to shop around for different toaster ovens.So unless you can actually satisfy the intentof the searcher, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to rank high for this query. And we’ll dig deeper into searchintent in the next lesson. The final point on this keyword checklistis to determine whether you can rank for your keyword. Search volume, traffic potential, and businesspotential mean absolutely nothing if you can’t rank for your keyword in the notso distant future. And understanding the level of difficultyto rank for a given keyword takes a bit of analysis and practice. This is why I’ve created an entire lessonon assessing ranking difficulty because mastering this process will help youget predictable results in SEO. So I’ll save that for a later lesson. Now, actually choosing keywords comesdown to finding a balance in this checklist.You have to ask yourself Does the topic drive enough traffic and havebusiness value to make it worth the effort? And this is the question you should askyourself before you create pages with the intent to rank in search. And these 5 points in the checklist are exactlywhat we’re going to dive deeper into throughout the rest of this module. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to thesecond lesson which is on search intent. And I touched on this in the first lesson onSEO basics, but I really want to take some time to unpack what it is and howto use it in keyword research. Reason being, if you can’t match searcherintent, then you probably aren’t going to rank for your target keywords.So again, search intent representsthe reason behind a searcher’s query. And matching search intent is one of those”must do” things to show search engines that your page will fulfill their goal – to deliverthe most relevant results for any given query. And while it might sound like you’re tryingto satisfy Google, what you’re actually doing is learning what you need to doto satisfy the searcher’s intent. Identifying search intent isusually quite easy. All you have to do is search for the keywordyou want to rank for and then analyze the top-ranking results. And the top-ranking results are a great proxyto understand search intent because Google understands what searchers want,probably more than anyone else. Now, “analyzing” is kind of a jargonyword, but I have a simple 3-prong formula you can use. It’s called the 3 C’s of search intent. The first C is content type. Content type can usually be categorizedinto blog posts, videos, product, category, and landing pages. For example, the dominant type of pages forthe query “best golf shoes” are blog posts.The second C is content format. And this applies more to blog postsand landing pages. A few common blog formats you’ll see are”how-tos,” step-by-step tutorials, list posts, and opinion editorials. For a landing page, that might besomething like a tool or calculator. Again for the query “best golf shoes,” you’llsee that all of the top results are listicles, which makes sense because the word “best”implies that a comparison needs to be made. And the third C is content angle,which often depicts the “benefit.” It’s basically your hook as to why someoneshould click and visit your page. For “best golf shoes,” you’ll see that everypost has gone with the “freshness angle,” which is evident based on thecurrent year being in the titles.In my opinion, this is the least importantand often least consistent among top- ranking pages. Now, this is just one example ofsearch intent for a keyword. Let’s go through a few more examplesto really drill in this concept. The first example is for the query”how to swing a golf club.” The dominant content type isclearly blog posts. But you’ll also notice that a YouTube videois ranking ahead of the blog posts. So this tells us that it may be worth creatingboth a blog post and video to potentially get two different spots in the search results.As for content format, they’reclearly all how-tos. And seeing as the nature of the topic wouldrequire a step-by-step procedure, that’s probably the route you’d want to go too. And you can confirm this by actually visitingsome of the top-ranking pages. Now, with content angle, it appears asthough “for beginners” or “basic” seems to be the right way to approach the topic . The second example is forthe query “golf clubs.” Looking at the SERP, you’ll see that they’reall ecommerce category pages. Which tells us that when people search forthis query, they’re likely in shopping mode. Now, seeing as content format applies mostlyto blog posts and landing pages, it wouldn’t be applicable here since we’re lookingat ecommerce category pages. As for content angle, it seems to be mostlyabout deals — so saving money on golf clubs. Alright, the final example is forsomething like “golf bags.” Looking at the SERP, you’ll seesomething a bit different.We have a mixed SERP. Content type for the top ranking pageis an ecommerce category page. Then we have a couple of blog postson “the best golf bags.” And we also have an outlier onhow to buy golf bags. And towards the bottom half of the results,we have more ecommerce category pages. So what do you do? Well, in order to make an educated decision,we still need to lay some foundation work. So we’ll revisit this example in a later lesson. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the thirdlesson in our keyword research module.In this lesson, I’m going to show you howto find keywords for your website based on the things you learned in lesson 1and 2 of this module. Let’s get started. So keyword research is the process offfinding keywords that people are searching for in search engines. And the general process can bedivided into two macro steps. Step 1 is to generate keyword ideas. And step 2 is to validate whetherthose keywords are worth going after. Now, this lesson is mostly about step 1:generating keyword ideas for your website. And in order to do that, you needa keyword research tool.Keyword research tools show you informationon keywords like their search volume, keyword difficulty scores and other SEO metrics. Plus, they should help you discoverpotential topics worth going after. There are a lot of tools out there and you’refree to use whichever ones you want. But for this course, I’ll be usingAhrefs Keywords Explorer. Now, I also understand that some people maynot be in a place to purchase SEO software right now. If that’s you, then we also have a free toolcalled Ahrefs Keyword Generator, which is a good place to start.I’ll leave links to both tools in the description. Alright, so we’re going to be doing some keywordresearch for the rest of this lesson. So let’s say that the website we’re doingkeyword research for is a golf blog. And the way this blog generates revenue isthrough affiliate commissions, meaning they promote other people’s products and whensomeone clicks on one of the links and makes a purchase, you’re compensatedwith a commission. So the first step is to come upwith a list of seed keywords. And a seed keyword is just a broadkeyword related to your niche. So I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorerand add a few seeds for our golf site. So that might be “golf balls,” “golfclubs,” and “golf hats” to name a few. Next, I’ll go to the Phrase match reportwhich will show us keywords that include any of these phrases.And just like that, we have around 125,000keyword ideas with search volumes and a ton of other helpful metrics, someof which we’ll touch on later. Now, 125,000 keywords is just waytoo much to filter through. So before we continue, let’s take a secondand revisit the 5-point checklist from the first lesson in this module. Again, the five things we’re looking forwhen it comes to choosing keywords are: 1.We want keywords that have search demand. 2. Keywords with traffic potential. 3. Keywords with business potential. 4. We need to be able to match search intent. And 5. We want to know how hard it’ll be torank at the top of Google for that keyword. So when we’re generating keyword ideas,we’ll be able to check off the first 4 points. As for the fifth, we’ll tackle thatin the next lesson. Alright, let’s look back at our list ofkeyword ideas and start checking off some of these boxes. So first, we need to find keywordsthat have search demand. To do that, you can set a search volume filterto show keywords with a minimum volume of at least 300 monthly searches. And now that list has just shrunk to 351keyword ideas which will be easy to manually filter through.The next point on this list is tosee if they have traffic potential. Again, traffic potential is a more reliablemetric than search volume because not all searches result in clicks. And at the end of the day, wewant traffic, not searches. To check the traffic potential of a topic,you need to look at the top ranking pages and see how much traffic they’re getting. To do that, you can click on the SERPbutton beside any of these keywords. So if we do that for the query, “golf clubs,”you’ll see that the top page gets around 16,000 monthly search visits from the US. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account,you can get a free version of the SERP using Ahrefs SERP checker tool. Next up is business potential. Again, business potential is simply thevalue a keyword has to your business. And while 16,000 monthly search visits seemsgreat, you need to consider the fourth point on the checklist which is to ask yourselfif you can match search intent. As you can see, almost all of the top-rankingpages are ecommerce category pages.So searchers are probably in shopping mode. But we have a golf affiliate blog, sothe site probably isn’t selling golf clubs. Meaning, we can’t create an ecommerce categorypage and therefore, we won’t be able to match search intent. So seeing as this query doesn’t fulfillthe points on our checklist, we wouldn’t go after this keyword. Now, looking further down the list,you’ll see the query “best golf balls.” It has high search volume and if I click onthe SERP button, you’ll see that the traffic potential is around 5,000 monthlyvisits from the US. Pretty good. Now, in terms of business potential, this keywordwould have a value of 3 because our site makes money by reviewing and recommending products. So it would be super-easy to organicallyrecommend products in a “best of” post, which I assume would lead to a fairamount of affiliate commissions. As for search intent, these are blog postsin the listicle format with the freshness content angle as you can see fromtitles of the top-ranking pages.So this query checks all boxes andpassed our initial sniff test. So I’ll click on the checkbox and addit to my “golf” keyword list. Now, checking the SERP for all of thesekeywords would be pretty time consuming. So there’s a quick technique youcan use to find relevant keywords. And that’s to use keyword modifiers. A modifier is an-add-on to a base keyword. For example, if our base keyword is “golfhats,” we can modify this keyword by adding “best,” “top”, or the current year.And modifiers tell us a lot about search intent. A word like “best,” again, tells us thata comparison needs to be made. So searchers are probably looking forlisticle blog posts with various different product recommendations. Now, if a word like “how” or “what” is inthe keyword, then it tells us that the top pages will likely be blog posts or videoswith step-by-step tutorials, or some other informational content. So with this knowledge, we can actuallyfilter this keyword list down to a) keywords that likely have business potential, and b) keywords where we canmatch searcher intent. For example, since we’re doing keywordresearch for an affiliate site, modifiers like “best,” “top”, “vs” and “review” would likelybring up topics where we can organically recommend products. So if we go back to the keyword list, wecan click on the Include filter and paste this list there. Next, I’ll hit the Any word tab since wewant to find keywords that include any of these modifiers as well as oneof our seed keywords.Hit Apply, and we now have a list of around30 keywords that are most likely going to have high business potential. Plus, we know that 99% of the time, theresults for any “best” type keyword will be listicle blog posts. And we know that we can matchsearcher intent with our affiliate blog. Now, if we switch the modifiers in the Includefilter to words like “how,” “what,” “who,” “where,” “why,” “guide,” and “tutorial,” then we canapply the list to find informational topics that we could write about on our blog. And pretty much all of these keywords wouldbe fair game for our hypothetical golf blog. Now, if you plan to use a list of modifiers,then it’s worth noting that you should probably do it with much broader seeds.For example, you’ll see that we only have10 keywords when using the search volume filter paired with our list of informational modifiers. Now, if I change the seed to just “golf,”set the volume filter to a minimum of 300 monthly searches, and then paste in my listof informational modifiers, hit the Any tab, and click Apply, then you’ll see we havea lot more topics that we could potentially create content around. So if this is a method you want to try, thentake a screenshot of this list of modifiers and feel free to use them inyour keyword research.Now, after doing keyword research forexactly 33 minutes and 14 seconds, I was able to compile a list of over 190 keywordideas in my golf keyword list. Now, one downside to using keyword researchtools is that the list of keyword ideas will usually be limited to words and phrasesthat include your seeds. But there are other great keywords thatwon’t necessarily include your seeds. So how do you find them? Well, the best way to find these keywordsis to look at pages that drive the most search traffic to your competitors’ sites. Because if your competitors are rankingfor keywords that are sending them a ton of search traffic, then I’m sure you’dwant to get in on the action, right? Now, by competitor, I’m not necessarily talkingabout your direct business competitors. I’m referring to your organic search competitors,which are websites that rank for keywords that you’d want to rank for. So to find these competitors, I’ll go backto Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, but this time, I’ll click on my golf keyword list.Next, I’ll go to the Traffic Share by Domainsreport, which will show you the websites that get the most search traffic based onyour keyword input; in this case, our golf keyword list. So as you can see, sites like golf digest,golf.com, and golfwrx are getting the most search traffic from the keywords thatI want to hypothetically rank for. But we already know these keywordssince we created the list. So what you can do is click on the caret besidea domain you want to research further, and then click Top Pages, which will show youthe pages that send the most search traffic to a website. And check this out. Golf Digest’s page on game improvementirons gets around 7,700 monthly search visits from the US. This page that ranks for “what degree is a sandwedge” gets around 5,600 monthly search visits. And we wouldn’t have seen these in thekeyword ideas report because they don’t contain our seeds. So you can just skim through this list, lookfor potential topics, then go through those four points in the checklist forkeywords that are interesting to you.Add them to your keyword list and once you’veexhausted a website’s top pages, rinse and repeat for the other organic search competitorsuntil you’re satisfied with your list. And if you’re still unhappy with yourlist, you can try and find other seeds within this report. The two that stand out to me right awayare “sand wedge” and “fairway woods.” So I’ll go back to Keywords Explorerand type those into the search box. And seeing as both of these are differenttypes of golf clubs, you can add “pitching wedge,” “putter,” “putting,” and soon and so forth. Bottomline: there should be no shortage ofkeyword ideas and you should be able to use these two methods to build a solid listof topics to keep you busy for years.But here’s the thing: even if you’ve checkedoff these 4 boxes on the checklist, there’s still one left. And it won’t matter if you don’trank for your keywords. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourthlesson in our keyword research module. Today, I’m going to show you how todetermine ranking difficulty for a keyword. This will help you understand how hardit’ll be to rank high in Google for your target keywords. Let’s get started. So when it comes to ranking in Google, youneed to understand who you’ll be up against before you target a keyword. Otherwise, you could be enteringa battle you won’t be able to win. From an SEO perspective, competitors arepages and websites that rank at the top of Google for your target keywords. So that means your competitors can bedifferent for every single keyword you target. So there are three main things you’ll want toconsider before you decide to pick a fight.And those are: Search intent; Metrics of the top-ranking pages and websites; And topical authority of the top-rankingwebsites. Now, as we go through these points, we’regoing to create a list of self-check questions which should help you make informeddecisions in your keyword targeting. Also, in order to see things like metricsof top ranking pages, you need an SEO tool since Google won’t showyou data on other pages.So I’ll be using Ahrefs’ KeywordsExplorer throughout this lesson. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account,you can use our free SERP checker tool which will give you data on the top three pages. Alright, let’s start with search intent. The first thing you need to do is lookat the SERP and ask yourself: “Do some of the top-ranking pages failto closely match search intent?” To find this out, you can go through the 3C’s of search intent as we discussed in lesson 2 of this module. And by the looks of it, they’re all listicleblog posts using the freshness angle.So they do match it. Also, pay close attention to the titlesand URLs of the ranking pages. In general, if the top pages include the primarykeyword or a variation of it in the title and/or URL, they’re likely targetingthat keyword. For example, all of the top-ranking pagesfor the query, “how to save money” are exaclty about that. Whereas a query like “best convertiblecar seat for small cars” is a bit mixed.As you can see, some pages have gonespecifically with the angle “for small cars.” As a result, it’s probably matching searcherintent better than the more broad posts about the best convertible car seats for any car. This is a sign of weakness in the SERP becauseit means there’s probably a lack of rank-worthy content out there about the bestconvertible car seats for small cars. Now, I don’t want you to take this as advicethat you must include the exact keyword phrase in your titles and/or URLs. With this example, finding convertible carseats for small cars is actually a very specific need for a specific person. Alright, let’s talk about the metrics. The first metric to look at is the numberof websites that are linking to the page. At Ahrefs, we call this “referring domains.” As I mentioned in module one, backlinks areone of Google’s most prominent ranking signals. So if a page has a lot of quality links pointingat it, then it’ll be more competitive to rank.So before choosing a keyword, youneed to ask yourself: “Can I get more quality backlinksthan the top-ranking pages?” The second metric is website authority. At Ahrefs, we call this Domain Rating, whichrepresents the overall strength of a website’s backlink profile. Very generally speaking, you should be goingafter keywords where your website’s DR is in a similar ballpark range asthe top-ranking pages. Or at the very least, one of the top-rankingpages should be in the same range as your website. For example, if all of the websites thatrank in the top 10 have high DRs and you have a DR of let’s say, 10, then you maywant to consider competing when you’re at a similar level. So let’s add that question to our checklist: “Is my website in a similar DR range orhigher than the top-ranking websites?” Again, this is a very general recommendationbut still a decent one to follow if you’re a beginner to SEO.To see the Domain Rating of your own site,you can enter your domain in Site Explorer and see it here on the Overview page. Or you can enter your domain in ourfree Website Authority Checker. I’ll be leaving links to all of thesetools in the description. Alright, let’s move on to the third part whichis topical authority of the top-ranking websites. Google wants to rank pages fromauthoritative sources. And this goes beyond backlinks. For example, if we look at the SERP for”how to unclog a toilet,” you’ll see that this DR 42 site is outranking much morepowerful websites with significantly more referring domains.Well, this page comes from a websitethat’s just about plumbing so it’s likely more authoritative on the topic. So the question you need to ask yourself is: “Is my website equally or more topicallyauthoritative than the top-ranking websites” If the answer is yes, then that’sa positive thing for you. The easiest and quickest way to find outis to just look at the domain names and use some common sense. For example, looking at the SERP for “bestconvertible car seat for small cars,” you’ll see sites like Experienced mommy, Babycenter, Parenting pod, Babylist, and other relevant sites that talk about productsfor children. And for domains that aren’t as easilydistinguishable, like 800bucklup.org, you can just visit the site, hit the About pageand get a general idea of what the site is about. In this case, you’ll see that they talk aboutcar seat recalls and review car seat brands. So yes, it is topically authoritativeon car seats. Alright, let’s look at our full list of”yes or no” questions. As a very general rule of thumb, the moreyeses you can check off, the better your chances of ranking.Again, very general because SEO isquite nuanced. With that said, let’s go through a coupleof hypothetical examples for our golf site. To set the scene, let’s say you have a websitethat’s about golf instruction and you also review golf equipment. And your website’s Domain Ratingis low at around 15. Alright, so the first example is forthe query “best golf grips.” Let’s start with the first question: “Do some of the top-ranking pages failto closely match search intent?” From the looks of it they all lookdecent, so I’ll check the no box. Next up. “Can I get more quality backlinks thanthe top-ranking pages?” Again, we haven’t covered anythingabout “quality” backlinks yet. So for now, let’s just look at quantity. Most of the sites have veryfew referring domains.So I’d say this is a “yes.” Next question: “Is my website in a similar DRrange or higher than the top-ranking websites?” Based on the SERP, there are a few siteswith similar website authority, so let’s give this a “yes” as well. And finally, “Is my website equally ormore topically authoritative than the top-ranking websites?” Well, all of the top pages are from golfsites and so is mine, so let’s give this a “yes” as well. So based on our analysis, it looks likethis would be a topic worth going after. Alright, the next analysis is forthe keyword “best putters.” Looking at search intent, overall, it lookslike the majority of pages are good so I’ll check the “no” box.But, I do want to touch on this pageon the “best blade putters.” This is more of a focused post and they’relikely ranking high for this because of all of the other factors like – high website authority,lots of referring domains and topical authority. So I would actually exclude themfrom the rest of this analysis. Alright, next up, can I get more qualitybacklinks than the top-ranking pages. Again, just looking at the quantity of linksto these pages, the answer would likely be a “yes,” seeing as we’re still looking atabout a dozen referring domains. But it’s important to realize that gettingmore links than the #1 page probably won’t happen in the near future. Meaning, getting the top-rankingspot will be tough. Next, is my website in a similar DR rangeor higher than the top-ranking websites? The answer is “no.” And finally my website is topicallyauthoritative so I’ll give this a “yes.” Now, it looks like we’re at a tiebetween “yeses” and “noes.” And this is exactly why I said: “As a very general rule of thumb, the moreyeses you can check off, the better your chances of ranking.” Again, SEO is nuanced.Plus, you need to weigh out some of the otherprinciples we discussed like traffic potential and business value. And the best way to make sound judgementcalls is through experience. So it will take time to hone your skills andgain a better grasp of keyword analysis. So as you can see, understanding how hardit’ll be to rank in Google will be a key skill to your success in search. Why? Because it’s the first step to gettingpredictable results. Afterall, if you know what it’ll take to rankahead of your competition, then it all comes down to execution. And that’s what the next two modules are all about.Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the secondmodule which is about on-page SEO. If you haven’t seen the introduction to SEOvideo and the module on keyword research, then I highly recommend watching those first. They’ll help you get the foundational knowledgeyou’ll need to get the most out of this module. I’ll leave links in the description. Alright, so what is on-page SEO? It’s simply the practice of optimizing webpages to rank higher in search engines. It revolves heavily around optimizingpages for search intent. But on-page optimizations also involvecreating and optimizing HTML tags like titles and meta descriptions. Now, if you’ve been exposed to the practiceof on-page SEO, then it’s quite likely that you’ve heard conflicting advice. And for that reason, we’re going to discussboth what on-page SEO is and what it is not. Let’s talk about common advice you might seeon on-page SEO best practices which just aren’t true today. And while there are many old school tacticsthat are still being recommended, I want to focus on just 3 points to help younavigate the noise.#1. On-page SEO is not about stuffingexact match keywords. It used to be common practice to include theexact keyword you wanted to rank for in your title, URL, and content. For example, if you wanted to rank for “cardealer San Diego” you would stuff that keyword throughout your page despite the factit doesn’t make sense – grammatically speaking. Google is smart enough to understand thingslike connecting words, synonyms, and closely related words and phrases.In fact, for all of these queries, the top10 pages are nearly identical. Unfortunately, stuffing exact match keywordsis still being practiced today which can lead to poor user experience and poor readability;all things that on-page SEO should not do. The second thing is that on-page SEO is notabout using your keyword a specific number of times on the page. In our study of 3 million search queries, wefound that on average, the top-ranking page ranks for around 1,000 other relevantkeywords in the top 10. Now, can you imagine what it would be likeif a top-ranking page had to mention all 1,000 of those keywords at least three times? It makes no sense.The content would be unnecessarily lengthyand create an awful user experience for visitors. Here’s an example. Look at the SERP for the query “diet plan.” You’ll see that Healthline’s article on”how to lose weight” ranks #1. And there’s no mention of a “diet plan”in their title or URL. In fact, there’s only one fleetingmention of it on the page. Not even a subheading. Here’s another example. GQ ranks in the top spot for “classiest watch.” But if we look at the page, you’ll see thatthe word “classiest” isn’t there. And neither is the word “classy.” The third point is that on-page SEO isn’tabout meeting a minimum word count.Some studies have shown that the averagecontent length of the top 10 results is over 2,000 words. As a result, many SEOs have recommended thatyou create pages that are at least that length. But that isn’t exactly sound advice. For example, our Backlink Checker is 628words, yet we rank #1 for our target keyword and the page generates around 130,000monthly visits from Google search alone. Here’s another example. This page only has 76 words on it. The majority of content are images. According to Ahrefs Site Explorer, the pagegets over 170,000 monthly search visits. Now, let’s talk about what on-page SEOis today in 2021 and beyond. Looking at the definition again, on-page SEOis the practice of optimizing web pages to rank higher in search engines. And as I mentioned, this revolves heavilyaround optimizing pages for search intent. The keyword here is “search intent.” Translation: the goal of your pages shouldbe to satisfy the searcher’s intent. How? Well, we talked about the 3 C’s of searchintent which should help you get the basic stuff down like the content type,format, and angle.In addition to this, your content needs toaddress the things people expect to see. You’ll also want to nail the more “tangible”items like titles, subheadings, internal linking, readability, and of course, the actualcontent itself. These are the things we’ll be answering inpart 2 of our on-page SEO module, where we’ll get more tactical and talk about how you cancreate content that’s optimized for search. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the secondlesson in the on-page SEO module. Today, I’m going to show you how to createa page that’s optimized for search. Let’s get started. So as I showed you in the last lesson, onaverage, the top ranking page ranks for nearly 1,000 keywords. For example, Healthline’s page is clearlytargeting the query, “how to lose weight fast.” And sure enough, they’re ranking in the topspot.Now, the traffic to this page doesn’t comefrom just their target keyword. It comes from the combined effect of rankingfor thousands of queries. And when we sum up the traffic from all keywords,it makes up well over 100,000 monthly search visits just from the US. In fact, if we look at the page’s keywordrankings, you’ll see that the target query, “how to lose weight fast” only sends thema small percentage of the total monthly search traffic. Now, in order to rank for a ton of keywordsand get a ton of search traffic you need two things. The first is a page that’s optimized to rank. And the second are backlinks. In this lesson, we’ll cover how to createan optimized page and we’ll tackle links in the next module.Alright, so with on-page SEO, there are twomain things we need to cover. The first is arguably the most important andthat’s to ensure your page satisfies searcher intent. We’ve already covered the 3 C’s of searchintent which again will give you very basic guidance on the type of content to create,the format to use, and the angle to go with. But the actual content itself is what’ll leaveyour visitors satisfied or dissatisfied. So you might be wondering What exactly do I write about in order tosatisfy searchers? The short answer is to learn from your competitorspages. The top ranking pages are ranking at the topfor a reason. Google and other search engines deem themas the best candidates to satisfy a searcher’s query. So they’re clearly doing something right,at least from the perspective of a search engine. Now, while the content will vary from topicto topic, the way you research your competitors’ content will be more or less the same.Let’s go through an example. So let’s say that we want to create contentthat targets the query, “best golf club sets.” To start, I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorerand search for the query. Then, I’ll scroll down to the SERP overviewto see the top ranking pages. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account,you can use our free SERP checker tool to do everything I’m about to do. Alright, so looking at the SERP, we want topick out the top 3 or so relevant ranking results. And by relevant, I’m talking about pages thatmatch the dominant search intent based on the 3 C’s we’ve discussed SO many times now. So in this case, the majority of pages areblog posts in the listicle format with freshness as the content angle.So that means, we wouldn’t look at pages fromAmazon or Golf Galaxy because these pages are clearly ecommerce category pages, andare therefore outliers to the dominant search intent. We’ll also exclude the pages from Golf Digestand Business Insider, since it doesn’t look like they’re intentionally targeting our query. So I’ll open up these 3 pages in new tabs. And what we’re going to look for are similaritiesin their content – specifically in the subtopics. And we’ll also look to deepen our understandingof content format and content angle.Looking at the first page, you’ll see thatthey’ve created a list of categories for the best golf club sets. So there’s best selling, best game improvingirons, and so on. Looking further down, they have a subheadingwhich is the make and model of the golf club set followed by a brief review of the clubs. The next page also has a summary based onmore broad categories like “best value,” “premium pick” and “best choice.” And based on the table of contents, you’llsee that they followed a similar structure where the make and model of the clubs areused as subheadings.They also add a brief description of the clubs,as well as some skimmable bullet points. And the final page does pretty much the samething. They use subheadings as the make and modelfollowed by a short review. Now, unless you’re a golfer, you may not havecaught this minor, but perhaps important detail. All of the pages talk about sets that wouldappeal more to beginners. For example, they all talk about Callaway’sStrata set. And they all include sets from Wilson Staff. In my opinion, these wouldn’t appeal to anintermediate or advanced level golfer. Alright, so at this point, we know that weshould create a listicle blog post with freshness as the angle.We also know that the content should likelybe targeted at beginners. A couple common sets that were mentioned inall posts were the Callaway Stratas as well as a set from Wilson Staff. Now, it’s important to note that you don’thave to include these in your post, but it’s simply an observation I had made. We also saw that the top 2 out of 3 pageshad top picks for categories like “best game improvement clubs” as well as “best clubsfor the money.” Finally, we know that the subheadings shouldbe the name of the club set.Another thing I recommend before you startwriting is to do a content gap analysis at the page level. A content gap analysis at the page level willshow you common keywords that the top pages are ranking for where your page isn’t. But since we don’t have a page, we can stillfind common keyword rankings amongst a few top ranking pages using Ahrefs’ Content Gaptool. To get started, go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorerand paste in any one of the URLs. Next, head on over to the Content Gap tool. Now, I’m going to take the 3 URLs we analyzedand put them all in the top section of this tool. So what this is saying is show us keywordsthat any of THESE targets rank for where at least one of them ranks in the top 10.Now, if I run the search, you’ll be able tosee the keywords that these pages rank for and the position that they’re ranking in. As a general rule of thumb, the more URLsthat rank high for the keywords, the more relevant it’ll be to your content. So to narrow our search down a bit, I’ll clickon the “intersections” dropdown and select both 2 and 3 intersections. Meaning, only show me keywords where at least2 of our targets are ranking in Google and at least one of those targets is ranking inthe top 10. From here, just skim through the list andlook for interesting subtopics that might be worth adding to your post. In addition, you may be able to learn someinteresting things about the audience as well as the language they use.So as you can see, people who search for thisquery are mostly looking for men’s clubs. People want to know the best clubs for themoney. They want to see cheaper options. And others are looking specifically for aset of irons. These are all things you should consider asyou craft your content. Alright, so armed with this information, youshould be able to create a great post with the searcher in mind. And while the content is the most importantpart, there are also a few more “technical” on-page optimizations you should do. Let’s go through a few of the most importantones.First is to include your target keyword inyour title when it makes sense. Adding your target keyword to your title shouldcome naturally. For example, our title for this post is 45Best Free SEO Tools (Tried and Tested). And “free SEO tools” is our target keyword. Now, there’ll be times when it makes moresense to use a close variant of your target keyword. For example, this post is targeting the query,”how to get YouTube subscribers.” But our title is “9 Ways to Get More YouTubeSubscribers” because we went for the listicle angle. The next thing you can do is to use a shortand descriptive URL slug. Short and descriptive URLs help people immediatelyunderstand what the page is about before even visiting them. Just look at these two URLs. They’re on the exact same topic, but one ismuch more descriptive than the other. This part of the URL is called the slug. And the easiest way to choose your slug isto use your target keyword where spaces will be replaced with hyphens.Again, you should only do this when it makessense, so you don’t need to worry about forcing it. Now, if you’re wondering if you should usesub folders to describe categories, that’s entirely up to you. Alright, next is the meta description. The meta description is HTML code that’s meantto briefly summarize your page. And search engines often use this text rightwithin the SERP. To my best knowledge, meta descriptions aren’tused as a ranking signal, but they can influence click through rates. And for that reason, I think it’s importantto add to your pages.Now, it’s important to note that accordingto our study of 192,000 pages, we found that Google rewrote meta descriptions nearly 63%of the time. So I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on them,but you should still include them. Alright, next up is to add internal linksto and from your pages. Internal links are links from one page onthe same domain to another. And they’re super-powerful because they canpass link authority to other relevant pages and they also help search engines better understanda page’s contents.For example, if I had a site in the careersniche, and I was writing a post about how to write a cover letter, then I’d definitelywant to add internal links from other relevant pages like one on how to write a resume. More importantly, visitors who want to learnhow to write a resume would probably want to know how to write a cover letter and viceversa. To find opportunities, you can go to Googleand search for site:yourdomain.com and then add the topic you’re writing about.Then visit relevant pages and see if there’san opportunity to add an internal link to your new post. Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Audittool completely free. Just sign up for an Ahrefs Webmaster Toolsaccount, verify your site and then run a crawl. Then you can head over to Link Explorer tofind internal linking opportunities. We have a short but helpful video on how todo this on Ahrefs’ Product Updates YouTube channel, so I’ll link that video up in thedescription. Alright, next up is to optimize your images. In the last 28 days, we’ve had over 4,000visits to our blog from Google image search. While that pales in comparison to our 500,000monthly organic blog visits, it’s still 4,000 visits. Now, optimizing your images for SEO is 3-fold. #1. Name your image files appropriately. For example, this is a picture of a puppy. If you took the photo yourself, then chancesare, your smartphone or camera named it something like IMG_ and then a million numbers.Instead, change the filename to somethinglike puppy. Not exactly rocket science, but accordingto Google, filenames can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image. #2. Use descriptive alt text. Alt text, short for alternative text is anHTML attribute that goes in your image tag. So the syntax would look something like this,where the alt value should describe the image. Alt text helps improve accessibility for thosewho are using screen readers or if the image fails to load, visitors will be shown thealt text instead. Now, Google recommends “creating useful, information-richcontent that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.” Yes, Google explicitly says to use keywords,but they also say to avoid stuffing keywords as it results in a negative user experienceand may cause your site to be seen as spam. Meaning, don’t do something like this. Now, looking back at the syntax, our alt textisn’t exactly descriptive. So let’s change that to something like, “puppysitting on a couch.” If you use WordPress, just add your alt texthere when inserting your images and the CMS should do the rest.Alright, the third thing you’ll want to dois compress your images. Compressing images makes your image file sizessmaller, leading to faster load times. And PageSpeed is a Google ranking signal. There’s a free tool for compressing imagescalled “ShortPixel” which has both a web interface as well as a WordPress plugin. And the last thing I highly recommend is tooptimize for readability.Here are 5 simple but effective tips you canuse to improve readability: 1. Write in short sentences and short paragraphsbecause no one wants to land on a page with a HUGE wall of text. 2. Use descriptive subheadings so people whoare skimming the article can easily find the things that are important to them. 3. Use a large enough font that’s easily readableon both desktop and mobile. 4. Avoid using big words. It’s more important that people understandyour content. 5. Write as you speak. Your content will be more conversational andentertaining to read. A free tool I recommend using is called Hemingwayapp. It’ll give you some writing tips as well asa readability grade. I’d recommend trying to keep things at orbelow a sixth grade level. Now, there are other on-page optimizationsyou can do like adding open graph meta tags or OG tags for short. These will allow you to customize the titles,descriptions, images, and other information when your pages are shared on social medianetworks.There’s also schema markup, which is codethat helps search engines understand your content and better represent it in the searchresults. For example, these pages use the recipe schematype so Google is able to show things like the recipe’s rating, the number of votes,the total time to make the food, as well as nutritional information. If you have a WordPress site, then you canadd OG tags and schema with plugins like RankMath or Yoast. Now again, the most important part of yourcontent is that you’re striving to satisfy searcher intent. Yes, the technical things are important too,but they’re more like the icing on the cake. So here’s a full on-page SEO checklist. Take a screenshot and make sure to subscribeto our channel because next week, I’ll be releasing our next module on an SEO strategycalled link building. Hey it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the third modulein our SEO course for beginners. Throughout the next 5 lessons, we’ll be talkingabout arguably THE most important AND most challenging SEO strategy. It’s called link building.And to kick things off, we’re going to talkabout what it is, why it’s important, and the mindset you’ll need to have to be successfulat it. Let’s get started. So what is link building? By definition, link building is the processof getting other websites to link to a page on your website. And these hyperlinks are called backlinks. Now, while the end result might make senseconceptually and seem simple, the part that most people don’t understand and can’t seemto get right is this: THE PROCESS. And this ultimately boils down to emailingcomplete strangers and asking them to link to you.Now, let’s take a quick second to talk abouthow strange and kind of awkward this might sound. So let’s go through a few scenarios and thenwe’ll revisit this definition of link building. Scenario #1. Let’s say that you have a marketing blog andyou write about SEO and digital marketing. Now, if some random person, let’s call herSally, sent you an email and said “Hey, can you link to my post on Facebookads? It’s REALLY good.” Would you link to her? Probably not. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even replyor click the link in her email to actually check and see if her content is as good asshe claims. Now let’s flip the script a bit. Scenario #2. Let’s say that you’ve been following Ahrefs’YouTube channel and blog for some time. You’ve implemented some of the strategieswe’ve shared and gotten some great results for your site. On top of that, you’ve been using our SEOtools for 3 years. Now, an email pops up in your inbox from me,Sam Oh.A name and face you might recognize becauseyou’ve been following our channel. And in that email, I’ve asked you to linkto our free backlink checker from your page that lists the 15 best free SEO tools. Would you link to me? Maybe. Now the final scenario. Let’s say your mentor who helped you get startedin digital marketing sends you an email. And she asks you to link to a page on hersite from a relevant page on yours. Would you link to her? Definitely! She helped you get started in digital marketing,you obviously trust and respect her, and you’d be willing to bend over backwards for her. The point of these scenarios is to show youthat the PROCESS of link building is actually very relational and can sometimes take moretime than you might like. With Sally, you don’t know her.You don’t owe her anything. You don’t trust her. She’s blindly coming in, almost invading yourinbox, and asking you for a favor without offering any kind of value in return. In the second scenario when I hypotheticallyemailed you, you knew who I was, I had indirectly helped you, and you were a user of our productfor years. So while we may not have a real-life relationship,we’re still connected in some way.So the chances of linking to me are probablyhigher than linking to sally. Now, when your mentor asked you for a link,there’s a real relationship there. There’s a sense of trust, respect and gratitude. So of course you would link to her. Now while you can’t and shouldn’t try to become”friends” with everyone just to get links, you’ll find that your best links will usuallycome from relationships that are sparked from email outreach. So let’s redefine link building and set thetone for the rest of this module. [a] Link building is the process of building relationshipswith other relevant site owners who want AND will link to your content because it enhancestheirs. So this definition isn’t just about you gettingsomething. It includes relationships, relevance, anda value exchange. All things we’ll touch on later in this module. Now, since EFFECTIVE link building is tough,youneed to understand WHY it’s worth the effort. In short, backlinks are used by search engineslike Google to help rank web pages. And it’s been this way since 1998 when Googlecreated PageRank.PageRank is a mathematical formula that judgesthe “value of a page” by looking at the quantity and quality of other pages that link to it. And Google confirms the importance of backlinkson their how search works page. Under their “ranking useful pages” heading,they state: “If other prominent websites on the subjectLINK to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.” We also found a clear correlation betweenorganic traffic and backlinks from unique websites in our study of over one billionweb pages.So while getting backlinks may be harder thanlet’s say, creating a blog post, they’re absolutely critical if you want to rank for competitivephrases. And competitive phrases are usually the onesthat’ll drive the most traffic and revenue for your business. Now, we briefly touched on the main way ofgetting backlinks, but not all links can or will be obtained through outreach. So in the next lesson, we’ll talk about 3methods to get backlinks as well as the level of difficulty and effectiveness.Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the secondlesson in our link building module. In this lesson, we’ll talk about 3 link buildingstrategies to get backlinks. Now, before we get started, it’s importantto set the expectations right for this lesson and talk about the difference between a strategyand a tactic. To me, strategies are higher level in thesense that it outlines the scope of the plans. Whereas tactics are more micro and often focusedaround smaller steps. So the strategy sets you in the right directionand the tactics kind of define how you get there. And we’ll get into a few link building tacticslater on in this module. Alright, so when it comes to link building,there are 3 main strategies to get backlinks.You can create them, buy them, or earn them. Let’s talk about what each method looks like,their level of difficulty and effectiveness. The first method is to create backlinks. Creating backlinks means to manually add linkson one domain back to yours. This can be done by adding your website todirectories, leaving comments on blog posts, or adding your website’s URL to your socialmedia profile.Anyone can do this with minimal effort. So like almost all easy things in life, they’regenerally not that effective from an SEO and ranking perspective. Now, buying backlinks is exactly as it sounds. You pay webmasters or authors a fee, and inreturn, they’ll link back to a page on your site. Now, this is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelinesand can potentially result in a penalty. That might be anything from losing rankingpositions or even worse, getting your pages removed from Google’s search index. Also, buying links isn’t exactly cheap. We contacted 250 websites to ask if they selllinks. And we found that the average cost of buyingone was nearly $353. And of course, we didn’t buy any. In terms of level of ease, if you have themoney, it’s super easy to do because it’s just a transaction. Now, in terms of the effectiveness, I wouldthink that they’re highly effective unless OR until you get caught. And in my opinion, the risk isn’t worth thereward, especially if you want to build a business that’ll stand the test of time.The final way to get backlinks is to earnthem. And there are 3 common ways you can do this. The first and most common are links that areearned through email outreach. This is when you email other website ownersand editors and ask them to link to you. Another way to earn backlinks is by becominga source for an online publication or media outlet. For example, if a journalist references youin an article, they’ll often link to you and/or your social media profiles. And the final way is to earn backlinks organically. For example, if someone visits your page froma link on social media, organic search, word of mouth or wherever and decides to link toyou, then that’s an earned link. Now, even though 100% organic links may soundlike the best way to get them, I don’t want you to bank on that. These kinds of links are typically less consistentunless you’re an extremely well known brand with extremely well crafted content AND you’realready getting significant exposure.It takes time to build a reputation that’swell-trusted and for those organic links to come in on a regular basis. And if you’re just hoping and waiting, you’lllikely fall behind because your competitors will actually be busy BUILDING links by reachingout to other website owners. Generally speaking, the harder it is to obtaina link, the more valuable it’ll be. And for that reason, we’ll be focusing onstreamlined tactics so that you can build a steady stream of backlinks to your pageand get more traffic from SEO. Now, not all links are created equal. Some will help propel your pages to the topof Google, while others can actually hurt your site. So what makes a link actually good? Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the thirdlesson in the link building module.Today, we’re going to talk about the attributesthat make a backlink good or “high quality.” As I said in the last lesson, not all backlinksare created equal. For example, if you spammed forums with linksto your site, those wouldn’t and shouldn’t hold more weight than let’s say a link fromthe New York Times.Otherwise, backlinks would just be a gameof quantity and Google’s search results would reward the biggest spammers. Fortunately, ranking on Google doesn’t workthat way and quality backlinks are still a prominent ranking signal. So with that said, let’s talk about the 5attributes that make a backlink “good.” The first attribute is relevance. Imagine this for a second. You’re going to visit Greece for the firsttime next month and you need recommendations for places worth going to. Now, you have a friend that has lived in Greecefor their entire life and obviously knows every nook and cranny. You also have a friend in the US who hatestravelling and has never been outside of the states. Who’s opinion would you hold higher? Obviously your Greek friend.In the same way, links from a website abouttravel or Greece would hold more weight than links from sites about technology or marketingbecause they’re more topically relevant and authoritative. For example, you’ll see that this page isranking #1 for the query, “how to devein shrimp.” If we look at their backlinks and also filterby one link per domain, we can see their backlinks from different websites. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account,then you can still see backlinks pointing at pages using our free backlink checker tool,which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Going back to the backlinks report, you’llsee this page from Wikihow which is called “3 ways to peel and devein shrimp.” So the link is on a very relevant page. Scrolling down a bit, you’ll see this linkfrom a page called, “shrimp with garlic sauce” which again is relevant at the page level. But you can also see that it’s relevant atthe domain level too just by looking at their domain name: slim palate dot com.Both of these links are great from a relevancestandpoint, whereas a link like this one isn’t very relevant at all. The page is about firefox 3.5, which is aweb browser. It comes from a site about video games andcomputer hardware. So an ideal link would be contextually placedwithin the body of the content where someone is quite literally recommending or referencingyou. Alright, the next attribute of good qualitylinks is authoritativeness. If you’re unfamiliar with “authority” in thecontext of backlinks, it basically represents the so-called “link power” a web page has. And this relates to how Google’s PageRankworks. As we discussed before, both the quantityand quality of links matter.So the MORE quality links a page gets, themore PageRank it earns. And the more PageRank it has, the more authorityit can pass to other pages through hyperlinks. For example, let’s say that page C has twolinks: one from page A and one from page B. Page A is stronger than page B, and also hasfewer outgoing links. Feed this information into the PageRank algorithm,and you get the PageRank of page C. Now, this is obviously a simplified versionof how PageRank works, but the key point here is that getting links from high-authoritypages will likely have the greatest impact on your rankings.Now, while Google doesn’t provide PageRankor website authority scores, we have two metrics at Ahrefs that try to quantify it. Domain Rating is our website authority metricand it represents the overall strength of a website’s backlink profile. And URL rating is our page-level authoritymetric, which represents the overall strength of a page’s backlink profile. And you’ll find both of these metrics throughoutmost of our tools, giving you insights on referring pages. Now, we’ve covered two very important partsof good quality backlinks, but what we haven’t talked about yet is the actual link itself. So let’s break down the anatomy of a hyperlinkand talk about how the different parts relate to SEO.Here’s what a link looks like to your websitevisitors. And if we look at the HTML code, then it wouldlook like this. Now, there are 3 basic parts to a link thatmatter in SEO. The destination URL, anchor text, and therel attribute or lack of one. The destination URL is simply the URL theperson will visit when the link is clicked. The second part of a link is the anchor text. The anchor text is the clickable word, phrase,or image attached to the link. So in our example, Site Explorer is the anchortext, which is the name of our competitor analysis tool.Google uses anchor texts to better understandwhat a page is about and what terms it should rank for. But, building lots of links with keyword-richanchors is an example of a link scheme, and may result in a Google penalty as it looksunnatural. For example, if you had a post on the bestgolf balls and had a hundred links pointing to it where the anchor texts were all “bestgolf balls,” then it would look and be quite unnatural.People often use anchors such as the company’sbrand name, the title of the page, the URL, or phrases like “click here.” And here’s some proof. If we look at the anchors of backlinks pointingto our data study on featured snippets, you’ll see varying anchor texts like “ahrefs,” “oldstudies,” “ahrefs study,” “research,” and even specific stats like 12.3% of search queriesand 99.58% and so on. In fact, there are only 16 websites that havelinked to us using the anchor text “featured snippet.” With most earned links, you have very littleor no control over the anchor text, so over-optimization isn’t something you really need to worry about. And the last part of the link we’ll talk aboutis the rel attribute. Some links contain a rel attribute, whichis intended to tell crawlers about the relationship between the linking page and the linked page. And the 3 rel values that you should knowabout when it comes to link building are nofollow, UGC, and sponsored.Historically, nofollow links told Google thatthe linking page would rather not associate themselves with the linked page. And for that reason, Google didn’t transfer”authority” through those links. But then Google added a couple other rel values:UGC, which stands for user generated content, and sponsored, which signifies an ethicalpaid link. They also announced that going forward, theywould look at these link attributes as “hints,” meaning, they may pass value through themat their discretion. Now, if a link doesn’t have any of these relvalues, then it would be called a “followed” link. Meaning, the link can pass PageRank and helpboost your rankings. Seeing as this is still relatively new, I’drecommend focusing on building followed links, although that’s only partially within yourcontrol. Now, it’s important to note that nofollowand UGC links aren’t bad. It’s just that followed links are proven topass authority. One final thing I want to touch on is linkplacement. Prominent links are more likely to be clicked,and it’s believed that Google takes this into account when determining how much authoritya link transfers.For instance, an editorial link is more likelyto be clicked than a link in the footer. So, all else being equal, the former wouldbe better than the latter. So to summarize. An ideal link would come from a relevant andauthoritative page where the link is followed. It would have a descriptive anchor, and beplaced contextually within editorial content. But the truth is a lot of this is out ofyour control. What IS in your control is how you spend yourtime building links. By using these five attributes to help qualifyprospects – or people that are worth contacting, you’ll spend your time building links thatwill actually move the needle.Now, the easiest way for a beginner to startbuilding links is to use tried and tested tactics. And we’ll be covering a few of them in thenext lesson which will be published tomorrow. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourthlesson in the link building module. Today, we’re going to talk about the step-by-stepprocess to build backlinks as well as 3 cookie-cutter link building tactics that are tried, tested,and completely beginner friendly. Let’s get started with the general processto link building. There are 3 general stages in link building. * Prospecting* Vetting * And email outreach.When prospecting, you’re searching for relevantpages and websites that might link to you. These might be people who are linking to asimilar page as the one you’re going to create, those who have influence in your industry,or people who are passionate about the topic. The main goal isn’t to find a perfect listof people, this stage is about finding as many people as possible that fit a specificset of criteria. And this criteria is usually dictated by linkauthority metrics as well as relevance. As a result, you’ll usually be working withlarge and very unperfect sets of data. The vetting stage is where you start to refineyour list of prospects.These are the people that you’ll be contacting,so you’ll need to visit their websites and validate that they are indeed people worthcontacting. Finally is the email outreach stage.This iswhen you’ll finalize your pitches and start emailing your vetted prospects. Now, depending on the link building tacticyou use, the way you prospect, vet and craft your email pitches will differ. And this is actually quite difficult whenyou’re new to link building. Fortunately, there are a few dead simple butSUPER effective link building tactics that are completely newbie friendly.But before we can get tactical, let’s revisitour definition of link building because there are 3 main parts in it that will help youwith prospecting, vetting, and email outreach. Again, link building is the process of buildingrelationships with other relevant site owners who want AND will link to your content becauseit enhances theirs. Now, I want to highlight the 3 main partsfrom this definition: relationships, relevance, and a value exchange. We already talked about the relevance partin the last lesson. Now we’re talking about mainly the value exchangeand what that looks like in some common link building tactics. Now a quick note on the relationships part. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it againyou don’t need to try and be best friends with every person you reach out to.Relationships are often the byproduct of goodoutreach paired with good content. And these relationships often lead to morethan a one-off link. Now since this is a beginner’s course, I won’tbe covering the relational aspects of link building so much. But if you want to learn more about that,then I’ll link up some tutorials that go deeper on this in the description. So let’s dig into a few easy link buildingtactics and I’ll show you what each stage of the link building process looks like indetail. Plus, I’ll outline the value exchange foreach tactic to give you a better idea of what I mean. Alright, the first link building tactic isto get free PR using HARO. HARO or “Help a Reporter Out” is a free servicethat connects journalists with sources and sources with journalists.Just sign up as a source and select the categorieswhere you’re qualified to answer questions. You’ll then get emails from journalists fromvarious media outlets, looking for sources on specific topics. And these aren’t just your run of the millpublications. In just this SINGLE email, you’ll see publicationslike Parents.com, Popsugar, and The Houston Chronicle to name a few. Just skim through the topics and if you findsomething where you can add value, respond to the journalist with your expert opinion.And if they use you as a source, they’ll usuallylink back to your site and social media profiles. Now, the value exchange here is simple. You’re exchanging your expert knowledge fora mention and usually a link from an authoritative site. From my personal experience, I’ve gotten linksfrom places like Reader’s Digest, Inc Magazine, Forbes, and the Huffington Post to name afew. Now, looking at the 3 stages of link building,the prospecting part is as easy as it gets. You sign up for a free service and journalistsare actually looking for your help, not the other way around, which makes HARO super beginner-friendly. As for vetting, you can simply scan throughthe results on a daily basis, but that can be time consuming. A simple tip you can use is to create a gmailfilter so only relevant emails will surface in your inbox. Just login to Gmail and click on the caretto bring down the search options. Next, set the “from” field to haro@helpareporter.com.Then, you’ll want to set the subject to HAROwithin square brackets since all of their emails include that in the subject line. Finally, set the “has the words” field toany keywords you want to monitor. And you can also use the OR search operatorto include multiple keywords or phrases. Click search to see the results your searchfilters would include and check out some of the emails to ensure you’re getting relevantresults. If everything looks good, click on the caretagain and then click create filter. You’ll then have options to apply labels,mark it as important, or forward it to another team member to take care of.Now, as for the email outreach part, HAROgives you an email address which will then be forwarded to the journalist. So just respond to the given email address,and write your response. Now obviously, you’re not going to be theonly person emailing the journalist. So here are a few tips you can use to improveyour hit rate. #1. Keep your emails as short as needed. Journalists get tons of emails and if theysee a huge wall of text, they probably won’t even give your response a chance. #2. Go after topics where journalists are likelylooking for multiple sources. For example, this query from Best Life isseeking medical experts – as in the plural form of expert.These kinds of requests will usually be yourtypical listicle styled posts. So the more responses they accept, the higheryour chances of getting mentioned and linked to. #3. Respond as quickly as possible. Journalists on HARO will often give a tighterdeadline to give themselves time to actually put together a good story. Plus, some journalists believe that peoplewho respond faster are better sources. Don’t believe me? Here’s what a journalist from Reader’s Digestsaid to me: “The deadline was just to make sure I getpeople to respond in a timely manner. I actually have the rest of the month to putthe story together, which is nice. I find the tighter the deadline I attach,the better the responses because the only people who go to the effort are ones who reallyhave something relevant to offer.” Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every journalist,but it kind of makes sense.Alright tip 4 is to prioritize questions whereyou are an expert and use it as the first line in your pitch. There’ll be days where you can’t respond toevery relevant request. So prioritize the ones where you have thehighest probability of getting sourced. For example, PopSugar is looking for expertswho can talk about why cats scratch furniture and how to stop them from doing it. If you’re a vet, then you might start youremail with something like “Hi Jenna, my name is Sam Oh and I’m a veterinarianwith 12 years experience and a board member of the cat alliance.” Clearly, I’m not a vet, but you get my point. When you immediately qualify yourself, asthe right person to answer the question, you’ll likely get their attention. Of course, you should be 100% honest so Iwouldn’t claim to be a vet when I’m not. And finally, follow all directions in theirquery. For example, this one says “please be sureto include your full name, pronouns, title and credentials, and the website you’d likelinked with your name.” Alright, the next link building tactic isguest posting or guest blogging – same thing.Guest blogging is when you create contentfor another website. And the reason why this strategy works isbecause there’s a clear value exchange. They get great content for free, and almostalways, they allow you to link back to your site; whether that be within the content orin the author bio. Now, guest blogging also provides anothergreat benefit aside from a potential backlink. You get the opportunity to get exposure tosomeone else’s audience. They’ve already done the hard work in buildingthat audience, you just have to write something that’ll impress their readers.Now, when you’re prospecting, you’ll needto get a list of websites. And there are a few ways you can do that. The first way is to use Google search operators. Just go to Google and search for somethinglike intitle:”write for us” wrapped in quotes andthen a keyword that’s related to your niche. In this case, this search query will showus pages that include the phrase, “write for us” in the title and have the word golf ballssomewhere on the page.And this is a common footprint that websitesuse to attract guest writers. Now, because you’ll want to write for siteswith some kind of link authority, you can use Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar to see link authoritymetrics right within Google’s search results. And if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, youcan use our free Website Authority Checker to see the Domain Ratings for these sites. Another way to find a list of sites fast isto use Ahrefs Content Explorer. Content Explorer is a searchable databasewhere you can find pages on any topic along with both social and SEO metrics.To get started, just enter a topic that’srelated to your niche and run the search. Next, you’ll want to set some filters to ensurethat a) you’re getting relevant results and b)that you’re reaching out to websites that have some kind of link authority. So first, I’ll set the language filter to”English” since that’s the only language I’ll be able to write in. Then I’ll set a Domain Rating filter and setit to a range like 30 to 60. Now, if this is your FIRST time guest blogging,then you may want to set a lower range like 10 to 30 to get practice before pitching moreauthoritative sites. Or if you’re a seasoned guest blogger, thenyou can try something like 40-70. Alright, so next, I’ll enable this filter:one page per domain, which will narrow our results to one page per website.And this is almost a must-do kind of thingbecause there’s no point in pitching the same website numerous times. Now, with around 200,000 domains you mightbe wondering which ones allow guest posts. The truth is…you won’t know until you ask. But there’s a way to improve your hit rate. And that’s to look at websites that have previouslyaccepted guest authors. To find those sites, just click on the websitestab and make sure that your results are sorted by the number of authors. Basically, the more authors you see, the moreprobable it is that they accept guest posts. Either that or they have a big staff of writers. From here, you can export the results andthen move on to the vetting stage. At this point, you’ll want to do a quick checkto make sure that the websites don’t look spammy and that they’re actually relevantto your site.For example, golfballs.com is clearly goingto be relevant and it’s not spammy at all seeing as it’s just a regular ecommerce site. As for “metricscat.com,” the domain doesn’tlook like it’s about golf. And if you visit the site, you’ll see thatit looks like a software company. So we’d exclude this domain from our outreachlist. Now, another thing worth checking is the domain’ssitewide organic traffic. To do that, go to Site Explorer and searchfor the domain. Next, click on the organic search tab. If the site is getting consistent search trafficlike this, then it’s a good sign that the domain is in good standing with Google. Domains that have an organic traffic graphlike this is probably something you’d want to exclude when vetting sites. Reason being, the HUGE decline in search trafficis telling us that Google may have penalized the website.So you probably wouldn’t want to associateyour domain with theirs. Now, when you’re vetting, you’ll likely wantto find around 10 times the number of posts you can write in a week. For example, if you can write 2 posts perweek, then try and find 20 vetted sites. Reason being, most people won’t accept yourpost let alone respond to you. Alright, let’s move on to the next stage,which is email outreach. Now, when you’re pitching websites for a guestpost, ideally, you want to come up with a good reason as to why they should accept yourpost. Free content is great and all, but it’s notnecessarily SO convincing that everyone will accept it. So take some time to do your research on thesite. See how your expertise can be helpful fortheir audience or business. For example, if we look at the blog for golfballs.com,you’ll see that they have content on “the best golf balls for kids.” And after searching through their site, Ifound that they have another guide on the best golf balls for the longest distance.Now, they’re missing out on a lot of these”best golf balls for [blank].” And seeing as they’re in the business of sellinggolf balls, I could easily pitch them topics on something like “best golf balls forhigh handicappers,” which according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer gets searched around 800times per month globally. So I might send them an email and say somethinglike “Hey [whatever the editor’s name is], I was digging through your site and saw thatyou have a couple of posts on the best golf balls for kids and for distance. But I was pretty surprised to see that youdon’t have one for other types of players (ie. seniors). Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundredsof dollars on balls and countless hours on launch monitors to find the best ball forme. If you’re open, I’d love to write a post foryou about how to find the best golf balls for hacky golfers like myself.I’m happy to share all of the data and stats,which I think will help people make an informed decision as they shop through your store. Is that something you’d be open to? Cheers, Sam” Now, with this outreach email, I’m showingthem that I’ve done my research on their site, I’m a golfer myself, I have some unique datawhich I spent time and money to get, and I’m also showing them how my post could help themget more sales.We’ll talk quite a bit about outreach in thenext lesson, so let’s move on to the final tactic, which is the Skyscraper technique. The Skyscraper Technique is a link buildingtactic where you find content that has a lot of links, create your own version on the topicbut improve on it, and then reach out to those linking to the popular post and ask them tolink to yours. Now, as much as I’d love to say that the valueexchange is introducing people to your amazing content, that’s not exactly valuable in andof itself.With the Skyscraper Technique, you need tocraft pitches that will actually impress someone so much that they’ll want to link to you. It’s easiest if you think about it like this. Perhaps you have a friend or family memberwho always tells the same story over and over and over again. Maybe it’s at a dinner party or when you’remeeting with friends who haven’t heard that story. That story is the popular content with lotsof links. So how do you get them to stop telling thatsame story? They need to find a better story. One that’s SO good that the old story is nothingbut a vague memory.That’s your content. And the result of them sharing the NEW story,is like getting a link. Now, if we were to go through the prospecting,vetting, and outreach stages, this lesson would be extended another 7-8 minutes. So instead, I’ll link up a video which willtake you through the entire process step-by-step. In fact, we have an entire playlist dedicatedto link building tactics, strategies, and processes so I highly recommend watching thattoo. Now, prospecting and vetting are pretty straightforward. But the hardest part of link building, andthe part that makes link building challenging is outreach. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the finallesson in our link building module. Today, we’re going to cover how to do bloggeroutreach that leads to backlinks. And this may very well be the most importantlesson in this entire module because nearly ALL link building tactics require some sortof email exchange.So today, we’ll cover the primary objectiveof blogger outreach, two common approaches, and I’ll break down the anatomy of a goodquality outreach email. Let’s get started. So the primary objective of blogger outreachis to convince those with large targeted audiences to talk about you. And from the perspective of an SEO, you wantthem to link to your website. Now, outreach doesn’t mean broadcasting, meaning,you shouldn’t be sending every single person the exact same email like you would throughemail marketing. For example, this outreach email that I gotis what typical blogger outreach looks like today. First of all, I can see that they didn’t eventake a second to check what my name is when literally two thirds of all pages on my personalsite have my full name on them. Instead, they stuck with the generic “there,”used it in a mass mailing software, and broadcasted it out to hundreds maybe even thousands ofpeople.But the name thing isn’t that big of a deal. Second, this is clearly a generic templatedemail with zero consideration for the recipients. The person says “I’m writing because I sawyour post here.” Then they didn’t even take a second to proofreadthe email. And their justification for me to link tothem is because “it fits well in my post.” On top of that, the person followed up withme 3 – MORE – TIMES with nearly the exact same email all sent within the same 30 minuteperiod. This ladies and gentlemen, is called spam. And the results of these kinds of emails leadto nothing. The page the person wanted me to link to gota total of 2 backlinks and both of them are irrelevant and look like they’ve been paidfor. And those backlinks aren’t moving the needlesince the page gets zero organic search visits. These kinds of emails along with hundredsof others in my inbox are prime examples of why you need to write good quality emails.Otherwise, you’ll just blend in with the restof the spam people get on a daily basis. Afterall, these are unsolicited emails. Now to be clear, it doesn’t mean that youcan’t use SOME sort of template to send a lot of emails efficiently. For example, I literally just got this emailin my inbox and it says: “Hey Sam, I just published a roundup post about theBest Personal Blogs to Read and I featured you in it – and that’s a link to his post.” Then he explicitly says But I’m not looking for a share or anythinglike that. I just wanted to say thank you for all theinspiration you’ve brought to the blogosphere and digital marketing world. Best of luck in your endeavors and keep upthe good work on Ahrefs’ YouTube channel. This email didn’t come to my Ahrefs emailaccount. It came to the one on my personal site. So he clearly did a bit of digging beforesending the email and I’m sure he sent a similar message to all 117 people he featured.So you might be thinking: what’s the pointof this email if he’s not asking for anything? We’ll get to that later in this lesson. Now, the first email that I just showed youis one of the common approaches to blogger outreach. It’s called “the shotgun approach” where youbuild a broad list of targets, load them up into an outreach tool, and then blast outemails to anyone and everyone. The opposite approach to this is the snipermethod. This is when you choose targets carefullybased on a tight set of criteria and then send personalized emails. Of the two methods, we recommend going withthe sniper approach because shotgunning emails to anyone and everyone is a surefire way toburn bridges. Plus, no one likes spam. And for that reason, the rest of this lessonwill be centered around the sniper approach.So before we get into actually crafting youroutreach emails, let’s quickly talk about who you should be contacting and how to findtheir email addresses. In general, you’ll want to contact the authorof the post IF they work for the website. For example, this is a post written by JoshuaHardwick on the Ahrefs blog. Seeing as his profile states: Head of Content@ Ahrefs, you know he works there and controls what gets published on the Ahrefs’ blog. Now, for this post by Josh, there wouldn’tbe any use in contacting him because he doesn’t work for Sitepoint.In this case, you’d want to contact the editorof the blog. To find who that person is, you can checkplaces like the website’s about or team page, their “write for us” page if they have oneor their company’s LinkedIn profile. Now to actually find the person’s email address,the easiest way is to check contact and about pages. This works best for websites with one author. For websites that have MULTIPLE people involvedlike Sitepoint or Ahrefs, you usually won’t find individuals’ email addresses on theirsite. So to find these emails, you can use a toollike Hunter.io, go to their email finder tool, and just search for their first and last nameas well as the domain.Hunter will then give you their best guess. In this case, they’re wrong, but the successrate is generally quite high. Alright, so if you’ve done the work for thelessons in this module to this point, then you should have chosen one of the 3 tacticsI outlined, created a list of prospects, vetted your list, and found some email addresses. So it’s time to actually write the pitch. Now, while there isn’t exactly a streamlinedformula for every outreach email you send, I want to talk about the anatomy of a simpleoutreach email that has been effective for me for many years now.And there are five main parts to a typicaloutreach email. First is the subject line. The goal of the subject line is simply toget them to open the email. Otherwise, there’s no chance at getting aresponse. But you don’t want to clickbait them becausethat’ll only leave a bad impression. So when you’re writing a subject line, youwant to briefly and accurately describe why you’re emailing them and ideally, evoke curiosity. If we look back at my guest blogging outreachemail from the previous lesson, I showed you a hypothetical pitch where I asked if I couldwrite a post for a golf site and share data I have on the best golf balls for high handicappers. So I might use a subject line like: New data: best balls for high-handicappers.In my opinion, the “new data” part evokescuriosity and the rest of the subject line[t] explains the topic of the email. The next part is the introduction. And while there are numerous ways to writean intro, I think it’s best to start by telling them WHY you’re emailing them. And the goal of this part is to get them toread the next part of the email. For example, with our guest posting sampleemail, I said: I was digging through your site and saw thatyou have a couple of posts on the best golf balls for kids and for distance. But I was pretty surprised to see that youdon’t have one for other types of players (ie. seniors). Now, I will admit that the first sentencecould definitely be stronger, but I’m basically saying that you’ve done this and this…butlooks like you’re missing out an opportunity here.The next part of the email is qualificationand justification. Simply asking someone for a favor and expectingthem to see a mutual benefit is naive. You need to show them WHY you’re qualifiedand justify the pitch that we’ll get to in a second. For example, if you’re contacting someoneto guest post, then explain why they should accept your post over potentially hundredsof other submissions? If you’re asking them to add your link toa page on their site, give them an actual good reason why they should.So in our guest posting sample you’ll seethat I said Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundredsof dollars on balls and countless hours on launch monitors to find the best ball forme. So the fact that a) I mention I’m a high handicapper,and b) I’ve tested numerous balls and gotten factual data from launch monitors qualifiesAND justifies what I’m about to pitch — which again, is a guest post about the best golfballs for high handicappers. Now, to really drill in on the concept ofqualification and justification, let’s look at an example email for the Skyscraper technique. A little while back, we did some outreachto get links to our blog post on SEO statistics.So we emailed people with an email that lookedsomething like this: “Hi [name], I saw you mentioned how 93% of online experiencesbegin with a search engine on your page about how to do keyword research.” That’s our reason for contact. We then went on to say “That stat is actually 14 years old. More recent research (2019) suggests thatthis number has gone down to 68%. I think it’s lower because social and othersources now account for around 1/3 of traffic.” That’s our qualification and justificationfor what we’re about to pitch. And obviously, the next part of the emailis the pitch. The pitch essentially includes your ask aswell as your value proposition. And generally speaking, the stronger yourvalue proposition, the higher the chance of getting a link. So for our guest posting example, I said: “If you’re open, I’d love to write a postfor you about how to find the best golf balls for hacky golfers like myself.” And here’s my value proposition: “I’m happy to share all of the data and stats,which I think will help people make an informed decision as they shop through your store.” So not only do they get data for free, butI’m showing them how that can bring value to their bottom line. Now, it’s not always easy to think of a solidvalue proposition. For example, in our SEO stats email, our pitchwas: We published this and a few other fresh SEOstats here: https://ahrefs.com/blog/57-seo-statistics-for-2020/ Not sure if you’re actively editing posts,but might be worth an update if you are? No pressure 🙂 So what exactly is the value proposition? We’re helping bloggers keep their contentup to date. In fact, we didn’t even DIRECTLY ask for alink, yet we were still able to pick up 27 backlinks. We actually have a full 3-part video serieson this EXACT case study, so I’ll link that up in the description and I highly recommendchecking it out. Alright, the last part of the email is a simpleone-liner to keep the conversation rolling.Simply put, you don’t want to end your emailwith a cold hard pitch. The purpose of your first email should beto start a conversation. So you might say something like Is that something you’d be open to? Is there anything I missed? What do you think? Do you agree with our conclusion? Or whatever. Now, this is just a basic template you canuse as you start blogger outreach. But I don’t want you to limit yourself withinthis box. All you’re really doing is talking to peopleand starting to build SOME kind of relationship. Just think about it like an in person encounter. You wouldn’t go to a party and ask a completestranger to buy you a drink. You might strike up a conversation, connectwith them on a common interest, and maybe buy the first round of drinks — expectingnothing in return.And as a result, they might want to reciprocateby returning an act of kindness. Again, the goal of the VERY first email yousend is simple: start a conversation. And this brings us back to this outreach emailthat I got. The person who mentioned me on their sitespecifically told me that he’s not looking for a share or anything like that. And he literally just wants to say thank you. So what did that accomplish? #1. I actually read his email#2.I responded to him and said thanks for themention And #3, should he email me again, I’ll probablyopen it because I’ll recognize his name. So while there will be times where it makessense to ask for the link or guest posting opportunity right away, there are A LOT oftimes when it makes more sense to just start that conversation and see where it leads. The final tip I want to leave you with isto ONLY use your best work when sending email pitches. You don’t want to email anyone and everyonefor EVERY single piece of content you create. For example, if you had a golf site and youcreated a post on a topic like “what is a handicap,” there’s nothing interesting orunique about it yet it’s still a topic you would probably want to cover. Coming up with a good reason for them to linkto you on this topic would be tough. Plus, time is finite. So it’s worth doing outreach for your BESTcontent because there’s a higher probability that it’ll result in backlinks.Alright, so with everything you’ve learnedup to this point, you should be able to create content for your website that’ll get trafficfrom search engines. But there’s still one piece to the fundamentalsof SEO that we haven’t covered and that’s technical SEO. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the finalmodule in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners. Throughout the next two lessons, we’re goingto be talking about technical SEO. And technical SEO is the process of optimizingyour website to help search engines find, understand, and index your pages.Now, for beginners, technical SEO doesn’tneed to be all that technical. And for that reason, this module will be focusedon the basics so you can perform regular maintenance on your site and ensure that your pages canbe discovered and indexed by search engines. Let’s get started. Alright, so let’s talk about why technicalSEO is important at the core. Basically, if search engines can’t properlyaccess, read, understand, or index your pages, then you won’t rank or even be found for thatmatter.So to avoid innocent mistakes like removingyourself from Google’s index or diluting a page’s backlinks, I want to discuss 4 thingsthat should help you avoid that. First is the noindex meta tag. By adding this piece of code to your page,it’s telling search engines not to add it to their index. And you probably don’t want to do that. And this actually happens more often thanyou might think. For example, let’s say you hire Design Incto create or redesign a website for you.During the development phase, they may createit on a subdomain on their own site. So it actually makes sense for them to noindexthe site they’re working on. But what often happens is after you’ve approvedthe design, they’ll migrate it over to your domain. But they often forget to remove the meta noindextag. And as a result, your pages end up gettingremoved from Google’s search index or never making it in. Now, there are times when it actually makessense to noindex certain pages. For example, our authors pages are noindexedbecause from an SEO perspective, these pages provide very little value to search engines. But from a user experience standpoint, itcan be argued that it makes sense to be there. Some people may have their favorite authorson a blog and want to read just their content. Generally speaking, for small sites, you won’tneed to worry about noindexing specific pages. Just keep your eye out for noindex tags onyour pages, especially if after a redesign. The second point of discussion is robots.txt.Robots.txt is a file that usually lives onyour root domain. And you should be able to access it at yourdomain.com/robots.txt. Now, the file itself includes a set of rulesfor search engine crawlers and tells them where they can and cannot go on your site. And it’s important to note that a websitecan have multiple robots files if you’re using subdomains.For example, if you have a blog on domain.com,then you’d have a robot.txt file for just the root domain. But you might also have an ecommerce storethat lives on store.domain.com. So you could have a separate robots file foryour online store. That means that crawlers could be given twodifferent sets of rules depending on the domain they’re trying to crawl. Now, the rules are created using somethingcalled “directives.” And while you probably don’t need to knowwhat ALL of them are or what they do, there are two that you should know about from anindexing standpoint. The first is user-agent, which defines thecrawler that the rule applies to. And the value for this directive would bethe name of the crawler.For example, Google’s user-agent is namedGooglebot. And the second directive is disallow. This is a page or directory on your domainthat you don’t want the user-agent to crawl. For example, if you set the user agent toGooglebot and the disallow value to a slash, you’re telling Google not to crawl any pageson your site. Not good. Now, if you were to set the user-agent toan asterisk, that means your rule should apply to ALL crawlers. So if your robots file looks something likethis, then it’s telling all crawlers, please don’t crawl any pages on my site.While this might sound like something youwould never use, there are times when it makes sense to block certain parts of your siteor to block certain crawlers. For example, if you have a WordPress websiteand you don’t want your wp-admin folder to be crawled, then you can simply set the useragent to all crawlers and set the disallow value to /wp-admin/. Now, if you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t worrytoo much about your robots file.But if you run into any indexing issues thatneed to be troubleshooted, robots.txt is one of the first places I’d check. Alright, the next thing to discuss are sitemaps. Sitemaps are usually XML files and they listthe important URLs on your website. So these can be pages, images, videos, andother files. And sitemaps help search engines like Googleto more intelligently crawl your site. Now, creating an XML file can be complicatedif you don’t know how to code and it’s almost impossible to maintain manually.But if you’re using a CMS like WordPress,there are plugins like Yoast and Rank Math which will automatically generate sitemapsfor you. To help search engines find your sitemaps,you can use the sitemap directive in your robots file and also submit it in Google searchconsole. Next up are redirects. A redirect takes visitors and bots from oneURL to another. And their purpose is to consolidate signals. For example, let’s say you have two pageson your website on the best golf balls.An old one at domain.com/best-golf-balls-2018,and another at domain.com/best-golf-balls. Seeing as these are highly relevant to oneanother, it would make sense to redirect the 2018 version to the current version. And by consolidating these pages, you’re tellingsearch engines to pass the signals from the redirected URL to the destination URL. And the last point I want to talk about isthe canonical tag. A canonical tag is a snippet of HTML codethat looks like this. Its purpose is to tell search engines whatthe preferred URL is for a page. And this helps to solve duplicate contentissues. For example, let’s say your website is accessibleat both http://yourdomain.com and https://yourdomain.com. And for whatever reason, you weren’t ableto use a redirect. These would be exact duplicates. But by setting a canonical URL, you’re tellingsearch engines that there’s a preferred version of the page. As a result, they’ll pass signals such aslinks to the canonical URL so they’re not diluted across two different pages.Now, it’s important to note that Google maychoose to ignore your canonical tag. Looking back at the previous example, if weset the canonical tag to the unsecure HTTP page, Google would probably choose the secureHTTPS version instead. Now, if you’re running a simple WordPresssite, you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much. CMS’s are pretty good out of the box and willhandle a lot of these basic technical issues for you. So these are some of the foundational thingsthat are good to know when it comes to indexing, which is arguably the most important partin SEO. Because again, if your pages aren’t gettingindexed, nothing else really matters. Now, we won’t really dig deeper into thisbecause you’ll probably only have to worry about indexing issues if and when you runinto problems. Instead, we’ll be focusing on technical SEObest practices to keep your website in good health. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the finallesson in this module and actually, it’s the last lesson in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners.In this lesson, we’re going to go throughsome technical SEO best practices so you can keep your site in good health. Let’s get started. So the first thing you should do is ensurethat your site structure follows a logical hierarchy. Site structure is simply the way you organizecontent on your website. You can think of it like a mindmap. At the top, you’d have your homepage. Then you’d probably have main topics thatbranch out from your homepage like your services page, your blog, and about page. Then from these main topics, you’d probablyhave even more branches to other pages. These branches represent internal links, whichare just links from one page on your site to another.And they help search engines understand therelationship between these pages. Site structure also helps search engines tocrawl your pages more efficiently, which is why having a logical hierarchy is important. Now, what we’ve talked about is pretty basicstuff and you may already be doing this. But it can get more complex as you add morepages to your site like blog posts, category pages, or product pages. We have a full video on how to use internallinks to rank higher on Google, so I’ll link that up for you in the description. Alright, the second thing is to ensure yourpages don’t load slow. As you may know, Pagespeed has been a confirmedranking factor for desktop search since 2010.And in 2018, Google announced that they’dbe using page speed in mobile search rankings. Now, you don’t need to obsess over every millisecondit takes for your page to load. Google says: “The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it,will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect asmall percentage of queries.” So bottomline: you don’t want your pages toload slow. And there are two very basic things that Ithink every website should do. The first is to cache your website’s content. Caching is basically a way to temporarilystore copies of files, so it can be delivered to visitors in a more efficient way. And most web hosting companies that I’ve comeacross have caching features. And the second thing you can do is compressyour images. Compressing images makes your file sizes smallerand smaller files load faster. You can use a tool like Shortpixel which hasboth a web interface and a WordPress plugin. Now, if you wanted to take pagespeed a stepfurther, then it can get quite technical and complex. So we actually created a full tutorial onhow to speed up a WordPress website using Cloudflare and a WordPress plugin, so I’llleave a link to that in the description.And the final thing I want to talk about isto do your best to stay on top of around 50 potential SEO errors. Trust me it’s not as bad as it sounds. There are potentially hundreds of technicalSEO issues that can and some will definitely happen to your site. Some of these things include: Pages becoming broken that still have internallinks pointing at them. Orphan pages, which are pages on your sitethat have no incoming internal links. And these aren’t great because it can makeit tough for search engines to actually discover them. Duplicate content issues. And redirect chains to name a few. Now, there’s no point in me going through50 different potential issues because it’ll only matter to you if you run into them.So what I recommend you do is run scheduledwebsite audits on your site. And a website audit will give you a full analysisof potential issues that could be harming your website’s SEO performance. If you’re an Ahrefs user, you can do thatusing our Site Audit tool. And even if you don’t have an Ahrefs paidplan, you can sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account which will let you crawl upto 10,000 pages on each website you own. To get started, go to ahrefs.com/awt and signup for your free Webmaster Tools account. Then, you’ll need to verify your website,meaning, prove that you actually own it. You can do that using Google Search Consolewhich is the easiest method, or if you don’t have a Search Console account, you can doit manually. Just enter your domain and click continue. Then verify your website using one of these3 methods.And I’ll actually just go back and use theGoogle Search Console method. Next, you’ll need to import your sites. And I’ll choose to run the first audit now,schedule weekly audits, and I’ll also enable the “crawl external links” option to ensurethat we catch any broken or redirected outgoing links. Hit import, and the crawl should start running. Now, after the crawl has completed, go tothe Overview report in your Site Audit project, and you’ll immediately see things like yourHealth Score which is a percentage of URLs on your site that don’t have errors.You’ll also see the top issues we found onyour site as well as the number of URLs that had the issue. So when you run into an issue, you can clickon the caret to see a description of what it means and also a short snippet of how tofix it. And once you have an idea of what the issueis and how to fix it, just click on the number under the “crawled” column to see the affectedURLs. Then it’s just a matter of fixing them oneby one or hiring someone to help. And since you set up weekly scheduled audits,you can revisit the Overview report to see if there’s any “SEO maintenance” you can do. And that wraps up Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners. Everything you’ve learned in this course shouldbe enough to get you indexed, ranking, and to keep your site in good technical health. And I’ve linked up a playlist in the descriptionto the entire course with all 14 videos which will be free forever.Thank you for joining me and I hope you wereable to get a ton of value from the course. And make sure to like, share, and subscribefor more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. Feel free to browse around our channel andif you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get to eachone. I’ll see you in the next tutorial..

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