How to generate links that drive traffic, not just ranking

Many people see link building as a way to drive rankings. But, when done correctly, it can (and should) also drive traffic.
Driving traffic has a lot of benefits beyond the obvious potential increase in leads and sales. More website traffic can provide valuable analytics data about what users are looking for and what confuses them. It can also help grow engagement and potentially referral links on social media as others begin to share our content.
In this column, I’ll explain how to identify sources of links that drive actual traffic and how to evaluate your progress so that you can focus your efforts where they will have the greatest impact.
Identifying link partners
In order to find good sources for traffic-driving links, there are a few ways you can go: competitor research, rankings and influencers.
First, find the publications driving traffic to your competitors by using tools like SimilarWeb to find their top referral sources. Not only do these tools tell

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Four brand-building activities that lay the foundation for SEO

At Google’s inception, one innovation differentiated it as a search engine: It used information gained from off-site sources to inform its estimation of the relevance, importance and quality of pages in its index. Originally, this source of off-site information was the network of links found by crawling the web.
Nearly two decades later, in 2017, with countless other rich data sources at its disposal, Google uses a more diverse and sophisticated set of data to determine just how big a deal you really are in the marketplace. In my experience over the past 10 years working in SEO, Google has always been pretty good at making this determination, and the signals have become harder and harder to fake over time.
At this point, the most efficient and sustainable path to making your company look like it is a significant player in the marketplace is to become a significant player in the marketplace. What does that mean for SEO folks?

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The changing SERP: Understanding and adapting to dynamic search results

Consumer search behaviors are changing rapidly. According to a recent report from BrightEdge (disclaimer: my employer), 57 percent of searches now begin with a mobile device, and last year Google revealed that voice search has increased to about 20 percent of all Google mobile search queries.
And of course, Google is constantly adjusting their SERP layout in order to better align with a searcher’s context and expectations. Consumers now expect to see rich content in SERPs that includes not just standard text listings, but video, images, local map results, featured snippets and more. The standard organic listings themselves also sometimes feature rich snippets, which enhance the listing by presenting information in a way that is easy to scan and often visually appealing.
Paid search ads have changed as well — in 2015, Google doubled the size of its highly visual product listing ads (PLAs), and last year they announced that up to four search ads could appear for “highly commercial queries,”

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SEO + UX = Success

In the good old days, SEO was simple. You stuffed a page full of keywords, and you ranked number one. Oh, if only it were that simple today! Now, Google (and the other search engines) literally take hundreds of factors into account when determining which pages rank high in search engine results pages (SERPs).
This new reality means that elements of user experience (UX) have been rolled into SEO best practices. How easy is your site to navigate? Do you have quality content that makes visitors want to stay and engage? Is your site secure, fast and mobile-friendly?
Think of the partnership of SEO and UX this way: SEO targets search engines, and UX targets your website’s visitors. Both share a common goal of giving users the best experience.
Here are some common website elements that impact both SEO and user experience.
Headings
Just as the headings of a printed work make it easier to find information, the headings of a web

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3 steps to overcoming site issues that impact performance

Over the past two decades, as the online world has experienced exponential growth, websites have become increasingly complex. Web pages have evolved from simple HTML pages with a few graphics to responsive, personalized pages that focus on the user experience. In tandem with the growing sophistication of websites, customers’ quality standards have also matured.
For example, customers have come to expect that websites load quickly, regardless of the device they are using. In 2009, a mere 5 percent of people expected load times of one second or less on e-commerce sites. Six years later, in 2015, a survey found that this number had increased to nearly a third of all customers, with 30 percent expecting pages to load in one second or less.
As web pages have evolved, however, the potential for problems has increased. Even seemingly small issues can drastically impact site performance, hindering visitors’ ability to find the content and information they want. Such site issues can quickly damage the reputation

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Study shows search terms with the very worst (and best) click-through rates

Not all searches are created equal — when it comes to click-through rate (CTR), that is. A new study from Seige Media uncovers the top 42 keyword terms, along with their average CTRs. This exercise examined the top 50 keyword “stems” to find what terms helped spur clicks and, more importantly, what terms didn’t.
A variety of these terms with the worst click-through rates are geared toward knowledge graph answers like “translation,”  “population,” “definition” (which happen to be the number 1, 2 and 3 least-clicked terms across the board). That is to to be expected for many of these terms, as Google is trying to specifically answer questions directly.

 
Other searches with low CTR included terms that appear to fulfill the need for information in direction or review form. Terms like “restaurants” (46.20 percent CTR) and other local terms such as “flowers” (64.37 percent) saw click-through rates on the lower side. One term on this list that was surprising was “How To,”

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Exploring a newly-granted Google patent around social signals

Disclaimer: When discussing patents, it’s important to remember that simply filing a patent does not mean a technology is in use or will ever be used. It is simply a strong indication that an idea is being considered and likely tested.
Every now and then, a patent comes across my radar that gets me excited, and one granted recently to Google fits that bill perfectly.
We’re heard repeatedly from Google that social interactions are not a search ranking signal.  In fact, you can read a Tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes in response to the statement, “Some controversy over whether Google takes social into account for SEO….” His reply:

@RicardoBlanco take a look at this video. https://t.co/zPKuZRNaoy The short version is, no, we don’t@louisgray @PRNews @JohnMu
— Gary Illyes (@methode) June 7, 2016

So the answer is “No,” right?
Maybe, and here’s where it gets interesting. Understanding that the folks at Google tend to give answers that are technically correct but not always in the spirit of

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Test points to likely influence of click-through rate on search rankings

There has been a lot written about click-through rate (CTR) as it relates to SEO. Some say that it really doesn’t matter. Others say that it is very possible it does.
Reading articles, experiments and case studies is great, but we’re always eager to test things out for ourselves. We maintain a bunch of test websites for just that purpose. And so we decided to run a CTR test on one of the websites we hadn’t touched in a long while. The hope was to gather some evidence of our own.
If you’re looking for a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled test, this ain’t it. But if you’re looking for more anecdotal evidence suggesting how the algorithm might react to clicks based on an experiment of n=1, this is it.
The site
We started by selecting a site that hadn’t had a lot of work done to it. In fact, it was one of our more neglected test sites, which made it ideal for

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Common misconceptions when measuring SEO content performance

Ranking signal studies and anecdotal feedback point toward the growing importance of user signals in search results. Historically, the link graph has been the primary mechanism for Google and other search engines to determine what content is best and most worthy of returning to users. However, the link graph does heavily favor desktop experiences, as a lot fewer people link to mobile sites.
With more people browsing on mobile devices and quality mobile listings growing in importance, Google has to reduce its dependency on the link graph. If the mobile webpage is not as strong as the desktop version it is linked to, clearly, the link-based method of assessing quality is not strong enough. The application of machine learning to ranking signals will accelerate progress, so it is only logical that user signals will be weighted more heavily as time goes on.
The message to marketers, therefore, is clear: Improve your user experience, and reap the rewards of improved positioning and

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5 ways SEO and PR should be working together

With a newly integrated and and constantly evolving digital landscape, marketing and communication channels are working together more closely than ever before. Granted, you’ll see variations in how well this is actually executed based on your business structure and the channels themselves, but the fact is: Channels can’t exist in silos.
An easy collaboration exists between PR and SEO, now that good content and outreach is an integral part of SEO success — and those two things are something PR knows all too well. So how can these two different teams help each other reach the same business goal?
Education
Let’s start with the most obvious: education.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your specialty bubble, so when you start working with folks on other teams with other specialties, it’s just as easy to forget that they don’t know what you know.
PR professionals aren’t taught about the impact that online earned media can have on SEO and keyword rankings, so before you dive in

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