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

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Hey everyone, my name is Sam Oh and welcome
to the SEO fundamentals course by Ahrefs.

In this course, I’ll be teaching you the fundamentals
of SEO with a heavy focus on execution.

And while it’s a beginner’s SEO course, I don’t
want you to be fooled by the word “beginner.”

Even for an 8-figure business like ours, we don’t
do anything crazy technical or complicated.

Right from the start, we’ve stuck with
the fundamentals of SEO that led to

compounded growth.

And today, our site gets over a million monthly
visits from Google search alone, making SEO

one of our most effective strategies
to get traffic to our site.

So the course is broken down into four
modules plus this video, which is more

of an introduction to the course
as well as an SEO 101.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over the basics of
SEO and cover things like what it is, why

it’s important and how it works.

You’ll then move on to module 1
which is on keyword research.

Throughout these lessons, I’ll show you
how to find keywords to target that can

benefit your business.

It’ll also set the foundation for the next
module, which is on-page SEO.

In this module, we’ll talk about optimizing
your pages to rank for those keywords.

The next module will be on link building.

This is one of Google’s most prominent
ranking signals which has proven to

contribute to higher rankings in search.

Finally, we’ll finish off the course with
the basics of technical SEO, which will

mostly be about your website
and its maintenance.

Alright, let’s kick things off
with the SEO basics.

We’ll talk about what search engine optimization
is, why it’s important and how Google works.

SEO stands for search engine optimization.

And it’s the process of optimizing content
to 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’s
easiest to think of search engines as libraries.

But instead of storing books, they store
copies of websites and web pages.

So when you search for a query, the search
engine will then look through all pages in

its index and try to return
the most relevant results.

And SEO helps demonstrate to search
engines that your page is that result.

Now, you might be thinking: why should I
focus on SEO when there are so many other

marketing mediums?

Well, there are three major things that attract
marketers to search engine optimization and

in my opinion, these three things make
SEO the best traffic source.

#1. Unlike paying for ads, search traffic is free.

#2. Organic traffic is typically consistent
once you’re ranking high.

Whereas other mediums like social media and
email marketing often result in traffic spikes

that usually end up fading to nothing.

And it makes sense because social
media 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 users
actively searching for information.

And the number of searches for a given topic
is typically consistent month to month.

And #3. You have the opportunity to reach massive
audiences you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

In fact, as of October 2019 there were nearly
4.39 billion internet users around the world.

And almost 4 billion of those people
are Google users.

This is why search engine optimization is
an 80 billion dollar industry and why marketers

from all walks of life are adopting
and pursuing it today.

Everyone wants their business to get discovered
and 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 allows
Google to discover web pages and create their

search index.

So to actually attain information, Google
uses crawlers, also known as spiders, which

gather publicly available information
from all over the web.

The spiders will start crawling from
a list of known URLs called seeds.

They then follow the hyperlinks on those pages
and crawl those newly discovered pages.

And this process goes on and on, allowing
them to collect a ton of information.

They then take all of this data back to Google’s
servers to be added to their “search index.”

And that’s what people like you and I are
searching through when we key in a query

in Google.

Now, if you were to search for something and
Google returned every result that mentioned

your words on the page, then you’d
end up with really bad results.

This brings us to the second part,
which is Google’s ranking algorithm.

Google has hundreds of ranking signals and
they make tweaks to their algorithm 500 to

600 times per year.

So to be frank, no one knows exactly
how their algorithms work.

But they’ve given us clues and some
guidelines to better understand the factors

that are most important.

In addition, third party companies like ours
have done studies to test and better understand

these factors.

Now, I won’t bore you with over 200 ranking
signals, many which are just speculation at

best, but I do want to cover a few of the
most important factors that you’ll need

to understand from a fundamental standpoint.

First are backlinks.

Backlinks are links from a page
on one website to another.

And Google has said on their How Search
Works page that if other prominent websites

link to a page, that’s proof to be a good
sign that information is well trusted.

The easiest way to understand the value of
a backlink is to think of them as votes.

When a page receives a backlink, it’s
essentially another website vouching

for the content on the page.

And the more “votes,” you get from
credible sources, the higher the trust.

And we also studied the effect of backlinks
on search traffic and found a clear positive

correlation between backlinks from unique
websites and a page’s organic traffic.

Second is search intent, which represents
the 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 search
intent simply by looking at the top ranking

pages for the query you want to rank for.

For example, if you search for “slow cooker
recipes,” you’ll see that the search results

are mostly blog posts with a list
of slow cooker recipes.

So if you try and rank a product page where
you’re selling a slow cooker, you won’t be

matching search intent and
therefore, you won’t rank.

Now, if we change the query to just “slow
cooker,” you’ll see that the dominant types

of pages are ecommerce category pages.

So if you try and rank your blog post of slow
cooker recipes, then you probably won’t rank

because you’re not matching search intent.

This is a critical concept to understand and
I’ll share a simple 3-step checklist you can

use to determine search intent
for any query in the next module.

And third is content depth.

Search engines are made up
of computer programs.

So they can’t actually read and
understand text like you and I would.

Nevertheless, Google has poured billions of
dollars into creating sophisticated technology

that understands content to a certain degree.

But it’s your job as a content creator to
provide context about the subject.

For example, if you look at the top ranking
pages 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, adjusting
your seat and mirrors, and other things that

a first-time driver may not know.

Basically, you want to be able to answer
the searcher’s query the best that you

possibly can.

And naturally, it should lead to
content that has depth.

Now, it’s important to note that depth
doesn’t always translate to length.

For example, a topic like “how to turn off
iPhone 12” doesn’t need to and shouldn’t

be long.

In fact, the top ranking page is
only 185 words.

But the content itself solves the
user’s query from start to finish.

Alright, so the basics are in the book
and it’s time to move on to the keyword

research module.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the first
module which is on keyword research.

In this first lesson, we’re going to talk
about what keywords are and how to

choose them using a simple
4-point checklist.

Let’s get started.

So what are keywords in the context of SEO?

They’re simply just words and phrases that
people type into search engines to find what

they’re looking for.

For example, if you were shopping for running
shoes, you might search for keywords like

“men’s running shoes” or simply
just “running shoes.”

Now, keywords are actually super-important
in SEO because it sets the entire foundation

for search engine optimization.

The basic goal of SEO is to rank your pages
for keywords that your target audience or

customers are searching for.

And if you’re not ranking for keywords that
actually get searched, then your SEO efforts

are kind of meaningless.

For example, we rank #1 for
the query “SEO checklist.”

And this keyword is responsible for driving
around 1,500 monthly visitors from Google.

And that’s just in the US.

So keyword research is the process off
finding keywords that people are inputting

into search engines.

And we’ll get into this process
in the upcoming lessons.

So how do you actually choose
keywords that are worth targeting?

Let’s run through a checklist that should
help you choose keywords effectively.

The first thing to check is if your
keyword has search demand.

Search demand represents the volume of
monthly searches made for a keyword.

And this is measurable with a keyword
metric that we call “search volume.”

You can find the search volume for a keyword
by using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs

Keywords Explorer.

For example, the query, “km to miles” gets
searched around 478,000 times per month

in the US alone.

But as you can see here in Ahrefs Keywords
Explorer, 80% of searches go without a click

to a page.

And that’s because Google has a handy calculator
here that’ll solve the searcher’s problem.

So search volume alone can actually
be a bit misleading.

Which is why it’s worth looking at the second
checkpoint which is to check the traffic potential

of the topic.

Traffic potential represents the total search
traffic 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 checklist
page 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 organic
traffic to the page, you’ll see that we get

approximately 3,000 monthly visits
from Google every single month.

And that’s because this page ranks
for over 200 keywords!

And this page isn’t an outlier.

In our study of 3 million keywords, we found
that on average, the top-ranking page ranks

for nearly a thousand other
keywords in the top 10.

So while you may be optimizing your pages
for a main keyword, your page will likely

rank for hundreds or even thousand of
other relevant keywords.

And because of that, the monthly search
traffic potential of the topic “SEO checklist”

is actually higher than its monthly search volume.

This is what makes traffic potential a much
more reliable metric than search volume.

And the way you determine traffic potential
is by looking at how much traffic the top-

ranking pages are getting.

For example, if we go to Ahrefs Keywords
Explorer and search for, “submit website to

search engines,” you’ll see that it has
a search volume of 1,100 monthly searches

in the US.

Now, if I scroll to the bottom of the page
you’ll see a SERP overview, which shows

you the top 10 ranking pages
for that keyword.

And SERP just stands for search
engine results page.

And as you can see, our page gets an estimated
5,300 monthly search visits from the US alone.

And we rank for over 1,300 keywords making
traffic 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 decision
whether you want to tackle the topic or not.

Now, choosing keywords based on
metrics alone is not a good idea.

Which is why the rest of the checkpoints
are meant to ground you.

The next point on our checklist is to assess
the business potential of the keyword or topic.

Business potential simply represents the
value a keyword has to your business.

And “value” really comes down to your
niche as well as your business model.

So an easy way to do this is by assigning scores
between 1-3 to keywords you’re researching.

The higher the number, the more important
the topic is to your business.

So let’s say you have a site about golf.

And the way you make money is
by selling used golf clubs.

Bringing this back to business potential,
that means topics where you can organically

recommend products to visitors would
hold the highest business value.

For example, people searching for something
like “buy used golf clubs” are likely ready to

make a purchase here and now.

So in my books, this would have
a 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 purchase
soon but just don’t know which clubs to buy.

But it’s actually quite easy to
plug 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 in
golf” would be really tough to organically

recommend your products.

But nevertheless, it’s a way to attract
relevant 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 probably
worth 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 business
other than the fact that it’s a fantastic

movie about golf.

Alright, the next point on this checklist
is to see if you can match searcher intent.

This is a concept that we covered in the
first lesson of this course, but it’s something

that I’m going to keep talking about
because it’s super-important.

So again, search intent represents
the reason behind a searcher’s query.

And the way we determine that is by looking
at the top-ranking pages for the keyword we

want to rank for.

For example, let’s say you have a recipes
blog and you wanted to rank for “toaster oven.”

Looking at the top ranking pages, you’ll see
that almost all of the pages are ecommerce

category pages.

This tells us that the intent of the searcher
is likely to buy or at least to shop around

for different toaster ovens.

So unless you can actually satisfy the intent
of the searcher, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able

to rank high for this query.

And we’ll dig deeper into search
intent in the next lesson.

The final point on this keyword checklist
is to determine whether you can rank for

your keyword.

Search volume, traffic potential, and business
potential mean absolutely nothing if you can’t

rank for your keyword in the not
so distant future.

And understanding the level of difficulty
to rank for a given keyword takes a bit of

analysis and practice.

This is why I’ve created an entire lesson
on assessing ranking difficulty because

mastering this process will help you
get predictable results in SEO.

So I’ll save that for a later lesson.

Now, actually choosing keywords comes
down to finding a balance in this checklist.

You have to ask yourself…

Does the topic drive enough traffic and have
business value to make it worth the effort?

And this is the question you should ask
yourself before you create pages with

the intent to rank in search.

And these 5 points in the checklist are exactly
what we’re going to dive deeper into throughout

the rest of this module.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the
second lesson which is on search intent.

And I touched on this in the first lesson on
SEO basics, but I really want to take some

time to unpack what it is and how
to use it in keyword research.

Reason being, if you can’t match searcher
intent, then you probably aren’t going to

rank for your target keywords.

So again, search intent represents
the 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 deliver
the most relevant results for any given query.

And while it might sound like you’re trying
to satisfy Google, what you’re actually doing

is learning what you need to do
to satisfy the searcher’s intent.

Identifying search intent is
usually quite easy.

All you have to do is search for the keyword
you want to rank for and then analyze

the top-ranking results.

And the top-ranking results are a great proxy
to understand search intent because Google

understands what searchers want,
probably more than anyone else.

Now, “analyzing” is kind of a jargony
word, 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 categorized
into blog posts, videos, product, category,

and landing pages.

For example, the dominant type of pages for
the query “best golf shoes” are blog posts.

The second C is content format.

And this applies more to blog posts
and 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 be
something like a tool or calculator.

Again for the query “best golf shoes,” you’ll
see 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 someone
should click and visit your page.

For “best golf shoes,” you’ll see that every
post has gone with the “freshness angle,”

which is evident based on the
current year being in the titles.

In my opinion, this is the least important
and often least consistent among top-

ranking pages.

Now, this is just one example of
search intent for a keyword.

Let’s go through a few more examples
to really drill in this concept.

The first example is for the query
“how to swing a golf club.”

The dominant content type is
clearly blog posts.

But you’ll also notice that a YouTube video
is ranking ahead of the blog posts.

So this tells us that it may be worth creating
both a blog post and video to potentially get

two different spots in the search results.

As for content format, they’re
clearly all how-tos.

And seeing as the nature of the topic would
require a step-by-step procedure, that’s probably

the route you’d want to go too.

And you can confirm this by actually visiting
some of the top-ranking pages.

Now, with content angle, it appears as
though “for beginners” or “basic” seems

to be the right way to approach the topic .

The second example is for
the query “golf clubs.”

Looking at the SERP, you’ll see that they’re
all ecommerce category pages.

Which tells us that when people search for
this query, they’re likely in shopping mode.

Now, seeing as content format applies mostly
to blog posts and landing pages, it wouldn’t

be applicable here since we’re looking
at ecommerce category pages.

As for content angle, it seems to be mostly
about deals — so saving money on golf clubs.

Alright, the final example is for
something like “golf bags.”

Looking at the SERP, you’ll see
something a bit different.

We have a mixed SERP.

Content type for the top ranking page
is an ecommerce category page.

Then we have a couple of blog posts
on “the best golf bags.”

And we also have an outlier on
how 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 third
lesson in our keyword research module.

In this lesson, I’m going to show you how
to find keywords for your website based

on the things you learned in lesson 1
and 2 of this module.

Let’s get started.

So keyword research is the process off
finding keywords that people are searching

for in search engines.

And the general process can be
divided into two macro steps.

Step 1 is to generate keyword ideas.

And step 2 is to validate whether
those 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 need
a keyword research tool.

Keyword research tools show you information
on keywords like their search volume, keyword

difficulty scores and other SEO metrics.

Plus, they should help you discover
potential topics worth going after.

There are a lot of tools out there and you’re
free to use whichever ones you want.

But for this course, I’ll be using
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer.

Now, I also understand that some people may
not be in a place to purchase SEO software

right now.

If that’s you, then we also have a free tool
called 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 keyword
research for the rest of this lesson.

So let’s say that the website we’re doing
keyword research for is a golf blog.

And the way this blog generates revenue is
through affiliate commissions, meaning they

promote other people’s products and when
someone clicks on one of the links and makes

a purchase, you’re compensated
with a commission.

So the first step is to come up
with a list of seed keywords.

And a seed keyword is just a broad
keyword related to your niche.

So I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
and add a few seeds for our golf site.

So that might be “golf balls,” “golf
clubs,” and “golf hats” to name a few.

Next, I’ll go to the Phrase match report
which will show us keywords that include

any of these phrases.

And just like that, we have around 125,000
keyword ideas with search volumes and

a ton of other helpful metrics, some
of which we’ll touch on later.

Now, 125,000 keywords is just way
too much to filter through.

So before we continue, let’s take a second
and revisit the 5-point checklist from

the first lesson in this module.

Again, the five things we’re looking for
when 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 to
rank 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 that
in the next lesson.

Alright, let’s look back at our list of
keyword ideas and start checking off

some of these boxes.

So first, we need to find keywords
that have search demand.

To do that, you can set a search volume filter
to show keywords with a minimum volume of

at least 300 monthly searches.

And now that list has just shrunk to 351
keyword ideas which will be easy to manually

filter through.

The next point on this list is to
see if they have traffic potential.

Again, traffic potential is a more reliable
metric than search volume because not

all searches result in clicks.

And at the end of the day, we
want 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 SERP
button 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 the
value a keyword has to your business.

And while 16,000 monthly search visits seems
great, you need to consider the fourth point

on the checklist which is to ask yourself
if you can match search intent.

As you can see, almost all of the top-ranking
pages are ecommerce category pages.

So searchers are probably in shopping mode.

But we have a golf affiliate blog, so
the site probably isn’t selling golf clubs.

Meaning, we can’t create an ecommerce category
page and therefore, we won’t be able to match

search intent.

So seeing as this query doesn’t fulfill
the 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 on
the SERP button, you’ll see that the traffic

potential is around 5,000 monthly
visits from the US.

Pretty good.

Now, in terms of business potential, this keyword
would have a value of 3 because our site makes

money by reviewing and recommending products.

So it would be super-easy to organically
recommend products in a “best of” post,

which I assume would lead to a fair
amount of affiliate commissions.

As for search intent, these are blog posts
in the listicle format with the freshness

content angle as you can see from
titles of the top-ranking pages.

So this query checks all boxes and
passed our initial sniff test.

So I’ll click on the checkbox and add
it to my “golf” keyword list.

Now, checking the SERP for all of these
keywords would be pretty time consuming.

So there’s a quick technique you
can 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 “golf
hats,” 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 that
a comparison needs to be made.

So searchers are probably looking for
listicle blog posts with various different

product recommendations.

Now, if a word like “how” or “what” is in
the keyword, then it tells us that the top

pages will likely be blog posts or videos
with step-by-step tutorials, or some

other informational content.

So with this knowledge, we can actually
filter this keyword list down to

a) keywords that likely have business potential,

and b) keywords where we can
match searcher intent.

For example, since we’re doing keyword
research for an affiliate site, modifiers like

“best,” “top”, “vs” and “review” would likely
bring up topics where we can organically

recommend products.

So if we go back to the keyword list, we
can click on the Include filter and paste

this list there.

Next, I’ll hit the Any word tab since we
want to find keywords that include any

of these modifiers as well as one
of our seed keywords.

Hit Apply, and we now have a list of around
30 keywords that are most likely going to

have high business potential.

Plus, we know that 99% of the time, the
results for any “best” type keyword will

be listicle blog posts.

And we know that we can match
searcher intent with our affiliate blog.

Now, if we switch the modifiers in the Include
filter to words like “how,” “what,” “who,” “where,”

“why,” “guide,” and “tutorial,” then we can
apply the list to find informational topics

that we could write about on our blog.

And pretty much all of these keywords would
be 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 have
10 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 list
of informational modifiers, hit the Any tab,

and click Apply, then you’ll see we have
a lot more topics that we could potentially

create content around.

So if this is a method you want to try, then
take a screenshot of this list of modifiers

and feel free to use them in
your keyword research.

Now, after doing keyword research for
exactly 33 minutes and 14 seconds, I was

able to compile a list of over 190 keyword
ideas in my golf keyword list.

Now, one downside to using keyword research
tools is that the list of keyword ideas will

usually be limited to words and phrases
that include your seeds.

But there are other great keywords that
won’t necessarily include your seeds.

So how do you find them?

Well, the best way to find these keywords
is to look at pages that drive the most search

traffic to your competitors’ sites.

Because if your competitors are ranking
for keywords that are sending them a ton

of search traffic, then I’m sure you’d
want to get in on the action, right?

Now, by competitor, I’m not necessarily talking
about 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 back
to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, but this time,

I’ll click on my golf keyword list.

Next, I’ll go to the Traffic Share by Domains
report, which will show you the websites that

get the most search traffic based on
your 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 that
I want to hypothetically rank for.

But we already know these keywords
since we created the list.

So what you can do is click on the caret beside
a domain you want to research further, and

then click Top Pages, which will show you
the pages that send the most search traffic

to a website.

And check this out.

Golf Digest’s page on game improvement
irons gets around 7,700 monthly search

visits from the US.

This page that ranks for “what degree is a sand
wedge” gets around 5,600 monthly search visits.

And we wouldn’t have seen these in the
keyword ideas report because they don’t

contain our seeds.

So you can just skim through this list, look
for potential topics, then go through those

four points in the checklist for
keywords that are interesting to you.

Add them to your keyword list and once you’ve
exhausted a website’s top pages, rinse and

repeat for the other organic search competitors
until you’re satisfied with your list.

And if you’re still unhappy with your
list, you can try and find other seeds

within this report.

The two that stand out to me right away
are “sand wedge” and “fairway woods.”

So I’ll go back to Keywords Explorer
and type those into the search box.

And seeing as both of these are different
types of golf clubs, you can add “pitching

wedge,” “putter,” “putting,” and so
on and so forth.

Bottomline: there should be no shortage of
keyword ideas and you should be able to use

these two methods to build a solid list
of topics to keep you busy for years.

But here’s the thing: even if you’ve checked
off these 4 boxes on the checklist, there’s

still one left.

And it won’t matter if you don’t
rank for your keywords.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourth
lesson in our keyword research module.

Today, I’m going to show you how to
determine ranking difficulty for a keyword.

This will help you understand how hard
it’ll be to rank high in Google for your

target keywords.

Let’s get started.

So when it comes to ranking in Google, you
need to understand who you’ll be up against

before you target a keyword.

Otherwise, you could be entering
a battle you won’t be able to win.

From an SEO perspective, competitors are
pages and websites that rank at the top of

Google for your target keywords.

So that means your competitors can be
different for every single keyword you target.

So there are three main things you’ll want to
consider 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-ranking
websites.

Now, as we go through these points, we’re
going to create a list of self-check questions

which should help you make informed
decisions in your keyword targeting.

Also, in order to see things like metrics
of top ranking pages, you need an SEO

tool since Google won’t show
you data on other pages.

So I’ll be using Ahrefs’ Keywords
Explorer 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 look
at the SERP and ask yourself:

“Do some of the top-ranking pages fail
to closely match search intent?”

To find this out, you can go through the 3
C’s of search intent as we discussed in

lesson 2 of this module.

And by the looks of it, they’re all listicle
blog posts using the freshness angle.

So they do match it.

Also, pay close attention to the titles
and URLs of the ranking pages.

In general, if the top pages include the primary
keyword or a variation of it in the title and/or

URL, they’re likely targeting
that keyword.

For example, all of the top-ranking pages
for the query, “how to save money” are

exaclty about that.

Whereas a query like “best convertible
car seat for small cars” is a bit mixed.

As you can see, some pages have gone
specifically with the angle “for small cars.”

As a result, it’s probably matching searcher
intent better than the more broad posts about

the best convertible car seats for any car.

This is a sign of weakness in the SERP because
it means there’s probably a lack of rank-worthy

content out there about the best
convertible car seats for small cars.

Now, I don’t want you to take this as advice
that you must include the exact keyword phrase

in your titles and/or URLs.

With this example, finding convertible car
seats 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 number
of websites that are linking to the page.

At Ahrefs, we call this “referring domains.”

As I mentioned in module one, backlinks are
one of Google’s most prominent ranking signals.

So if a page has a lot of quality links pointing
at it, then it’ll be more competitive to rank.

So before choosing a keyword, you
need to ask yourself:

“Can I get more quality backlinks
than the top-ranking pages?”

The second metric is website authority.

At Ahrefs, we call this Domain Rating, which
represents the overall strength of a website’s

backlink profile.

Very generally speaking, you should be going
after keywords where your website’s DR is in

a similar ballpark range as
the top-ranking pages.

Or at the very least, one of the top-ranking
pages should be in the same range as

your website.

For example, if all of the websites that
rank in the top 10 have high DRs and

you have a DR of let’s say, 10, then you may
want 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 or
higher than the top-ranking websites?”

Again, this is a very general recommendation
but 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 our
free Website Authority Checker.

I’ll be leaving links to all of these
tools in the description.

Alright, let’s move on to the third part which
is topical authority of the top-ranking websites.

Google wants to rank pages from
authoritative 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 more
powerful websites with significantly

more referring domains.

Well, this page comes from a website
that’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 topically
authoritative than the top-ranking websites”

If the answer is yes, then that’s
a positive thing for you.

The easiest and quickest way to find out
is to just look at the domain names and

use some common sense.

For example, looking at the SERP for “best
convertible car seat for small cars,” you’ll

see sites like Experienced mommy, Baby
center, Parenting pod, Babylist, and other

relevant sites that talk about products
for children.

And for domains that aren’t as easily
distinguishable, like 800bucklup.org,

you can just visit the site, hit the About page
and get a general idea of what the site is about.

In this case, you’ll see that they talk about
car seat recalls and review car seat brands.

So yes, it is topically authoritative
on car seats.

Alright, let’s look at our full list of
“yes or no” questions.

As a very general rule of thumb, the more
yeses you can check off, the better your

chances of ranking.

Again, very general because SEO is
quite nuanced.

With that said, let’s go through a couple
of hypothetical examples for our golf site.

To set the scene, let’s say you have a website
that’s about golf instruction and you also

review golf equipment.

And your website’s Domain Rating
is low at around 15.

Alright, so the first example is for
the query “best golf grips.”

Let’s start with the first question:

“Do some of the top-ranking pages fail
to closely match search intent?”

From the looks of it they all look
decent, so I’ll check the no box.

Next up.

“Can I get more quality backlinks than
the top-ranking pages?”

Again, we haven’t covered anything
about “quality” backlinks yet.

So for now, let’s just look at quantity.

Most of the sites have very
few referring domains.

So I’d say this is a “yes.”

Next question: “Is my website in a similar DR
range or higher than the top-ranking websites?”

Based on the SERP, there are a few sites
with similar website authority, so let’s

give this a “yes” as well.

And finally, “Is my website equally or
more topically authoritative than

the top-ranking websites?”

Well, all of the top pages are from golf
sites and so is mine, so let’s give this

a “yes” as well.

So based on our analysis, it looks like
this would be a topic worth going after.

Alright, the next analysis is for
the keyword “best putters.”

Looking at search intent, overall, it looks
like the majority of pages are good so I’ll

check the “no” box.

But, I do want to touch on this page
on the “best blade putters.”

This is more of a focused post and they’re
likely 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 them
from the rest of this analysis.

Alright, next up, can I get more quality
backlinks than the top-ranking pages.

Again, just looking at the quantity of links
to these pages, the answer would likely be

a “yes,” seeing as we’re still looking at
about a dozen referring domains.

But it’s important to realize that getting
more links than the #1 page probably

won’t happen in the near future.

Meaning, getting the top-ranking
spot will be tough.

Next, is my website in a similar DR range
or higher than the top-ranking websites?

The answer is “no.”

And finally my website is topically
authoritative so I’ll give this a “yes.”

Now, it looks like we’re at a tie
between “yeses” and “noes.”

And this is exactly why I said:

“As a very general rule of thumb, the more
yeses you can check off, the better your

chances of ranking.”

Again, SEO is nuanced.

Plus, you need to weigh out some of the other
principles we discussed like traffic potential

and business value.

And the best way to make sound judgement
calls is through experience.

So it will take time to hone your skills and
gain a better grasp of keyword analysis.

So as you can see, understanding how hard
it’ll be to rank in Google will be a key skill

to your success in search.

Why?

Because it’s the first step to getting
predictable results.

Afterall, if you know what it’ll take to rank
ahead 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 second
module which is about on-page SEO.

If you haven’t seen the introduction to SEO
video and the module on keyword research,

then I highly recommend watching those first.

They’ll help you get the foundational knowledge
you’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 web
pages to rank higher in search engines.

It revolves heavily around optimizing
pages for search intent.

But on-page optimizations also involve
creating and optimizing HTML tags like

titles and meta descriptions.

Now, if you’ve been exposed to the practice
of on-page SEO, then it’s quite likely that

you’ve heard conflicting advice.

And for that reason, we’re going to discuss
both what on-page SEO is and what it is not.

Let’s talk about common advice you might see
on on-page SEO best practices which just aren’t

true today.

And while there are many old school tactics
that are still being recommended, I want to

focus on just three points to help
you navigate the noise.

#1. On-page SEO is not about stuffing
exact match keywords.

It used to be common practice to include the
exact keyword you wanted to rank for in your

title, URL, and content.

For example, if you wanted to rank for “car
dealer San Diego” you would stuff that

keyword throughout your page despite the fact
it doesn’t make sense – grammatically speaking.

Google is smart enough to understand things
like connecting words, synonyms, and closely

related words and phrases.

In fact, for all of these queries, the top
10 pages are nearly identical.

Unfortunately, stuffing exact match keywords
is 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 not
about using your keyword a specific number

of times on the page.

In our study of 3 million search queries, we
found that on average, the top-ranking page

ranks for around 1,000 other relevant
keywords in the top 10.

Now, can you imagine what it would be like
if 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 lengthy
and 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 fleeting
mention 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 that
the word “classiest” isn’t there.

And neither is the word “classy.”

The third point is that on-page SEO isn’t
about meeting a minimum word count.

Some studies have shown that the average
content length of the top 10 results is over

2,000 words.

As a result, many SEOs have recommended that
you create pages that are at least that length.

But that isn’t exactly sound advice.

For example, our Backlink Checker is 628
words, yet we rank #1 for our target keyword

and the page generates around 130,000
monthly 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 page
gets over 170,000 monthly search visits.

Now, let’s talk about what on-page SEO
is today in 2021 and beyond.

Looking at the definition again, on-page SEO
is the practice of optimizing web pages to

rank higher in search engines.

And as I mentioned, this revolves heavily
around optimizing pages for search intent.

The keyword here is “search intent.”

Translation: the goal of your pages should
be to satisfy the searcher’s intent.

How?

Well, we talked about the 3 C’s of search
intent which should help you get the basic

stuff down like the content type,
format, and angle.

In addition to this, your content needs to
address 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 actual
content itself.

These are the things we’ll be answering in
part 2 of our on-page SEO module, where we’ll

get more tactical and talk about how you can
create content that’s optimized for search.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the second
lesson in the on-page SEO module.

Today, I’m going to show you how to create
a page that’s optimized for search.

Let’s get started.

So as I showed you in the last lesson, on
average, the top ranking page ranks for

nearly 1,000 keywords.

For example, Healthline’s page is clearly
targeting the query “how to lose weight fast.”

And sure enough, they’re ranking
in the top spot.

Now, the traffic to this page doesn’t
come from just their target keyword.

It comes from the combined effect of
ranking for 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 keyword
rankings, you’ll see that the target query

“how to lose weight fast” only sends
them a small percentage of the total

monthly search traffic.

Now, in order to rank for a ton of keywords
and 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 create
an optimized page and we’ll tackle links

in the next module.

Okay, so with on-page SEO, there are
two main things we need to cover.

The first is arguably the most important
and that’s to ensure your page satisfies

searcher intent.

We’ve already covered the 3 C’s of search
intent 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 leave
your visitors satisfied or dissatisfied.

So you might be wondering:

“What exactly do I write about in
order to satisfy searchers?”

The short answer is to learn from
your competitors.

The top-ranking pages are ranking
at the top for a reason.

Google and other search engines deem
them as 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
topic to 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 content
that targets the query “best golf club sets.”

To start, I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords
Explorer and search for the query.

Then, I’ll scroll down to the SERP overview
to 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
to pick out the top 3 or so relevant

ranking results.

And by relevant, I’m talking about pages that
match 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
are blog posts in the listicle format with

freshness as the content angle.

So that means, we wouldn’t look at pages
from Amazon or Golf Galaxy because these

pages are clearly ecommerce category pages,
and are therefore outliers to the dominant

search intent.

We’ll also exclude the pages from Golf Digest
and Business Insider, since it doesn’t look

like they’re intentionally targeting our query.

So I’ll open up these three pages in new tabs.

And what we’re going to look for are similarities
in their content – specifically in the subtopics.

And we’ll also look to deepen our understanding
of content format and content angle.

Looking at the first page, you’ll see that
they’ve created a list of categories for

the best golf club sets.

So there’s best selling, best game
improving irons, and so on.

Looking further down, they have a subheading
which 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
on more broad categories like “best value,”

“premium pick,” and “best choice.”

And based on the table of contents, you’ll
see that they followed a similar structure

where the make and model of the clubs
are used 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 same thing.

They use subheadings as the make
and model followed by a short review.

Now, unless you’re a golfer, you may not have
caught this minor, but perhaps important detail.

All of the pages talk about sets that
would appeal more to beginners.

For example, they all talk about
Callaway’s Strata set.

And they all include sets from Wilson Staff.

In my opinion, these wouldn’t appeal to
an intermediate or advanced level golfer.

Alright, so at this point, we know that we
should create a listicle blog post with

freshness as the angle.

We also know that the content should
likely be targeted at beginners.

A couple common sets that were mentioned
in all posts were the Callaway Stratas as well

as a set from Wilson Staff.

Now, it’s important to note that you don’t
have 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 pages
had top picks for categories like “best game

improvement clubs” as well as “best
clubs for the money.”

Finally, we know that the subheadings
should be the name of the club set.

Another thing I recommend before you start
writing is to do a content gap analysis at

the page level.

A content gap analysis at the page level
will show 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 still
find common keyword rankings amongst

a few top ranking pages using Ahrefs’
Content Gap tool.

To get started, go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
and 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
analyzed and put them all in the top

section of this tool.

So what this is saying is show us keywords
that 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 to
see the keywords that these pages rank

for and the position that they’re ranking in.

As a general rule of thumb, the more URLs
that rank high for the keywords, the more

relevant it’ll be to your content.

So to narrow our search down a bit, I’ll click
on the “intersections” dropdown and select

both 2 and 3 intersections.

Meaning, only show me keywords where at
least 2 of our targets are ranking in Google

and at least one of those targets is
ranking in the top 10.

From here, just skim through the list and
look for interesting subtopics that might

be worth adding to your post.

In addition, you may be able to learn some
interesting things about the audience as

well as the language they use.

So as you can see, people who search for this
query are mostly looking for men’s clubs.

People want to know the best
clubs for the money.

They want to see cheaper options.

And others are looking specifically
for a set of irons.

These are all things you should consider
as you craft your content.

Alright, so armed with this information, you
should be able to create a great post with

the searcher in mind.

And while the content is the most important
part, there are also a few more “technical”

on-page optimizations you should do.

Let’s go through a few of the most
important ones.

First is to include your target keyword
in your title when it makes sense.

Adding your target keyword to your
title should come naturally.

For example, our title for this post is “45
Best Free SEO Tools (Tried and Tested).”

And “free SEO tools” is our target keyword.

Now, there will be times when it makes
more sense 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
YouTube Subscribers” because we

went for the listicle angle.

The next thing you can do is to use
a short and descriptive URL slug.

Short and descriptive URLs help people
immediately understand what the page

is about before even visiting them.

Just look at these two URLs.

They’re on the exact same topic, but one
is much more descriptive than the other.

This part of the URL is called the slug.

And the easiest way to choose your slug is
to use your target keyword where spaces will

be replaced with hyphens.

Again, you should only do this when it
makes sense, so you don’t need to worry

about forcing it.

Now, if you’re wondering if you should use
subfolders to describe categories, that’s

entirely up to you.

Alright, next is the meta description.

The meta description is HTML code that’s
meant to briefly summarize your page.

And search engines often use this
text right within the SERP.

To my best knowledge, meta descriptions aren’t
used as a ranking signal, but they can influence

click through rates.

And for that reason, I think it’s
important to add to your pages.

Now, it’s important to note that according
to 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 links
to and from your pages.

Internal links are links from one page
on the same domain to another.

And they’re super-powerful because they
can pass link authority to other relevant

pages and they also help search engines
better understand a page’s contents.

For example, if I had a site in the careers
niche, and I was writing a post about how

to write a cover letter, then I’d definitely
want to add internal links from other

relevant pages like one on how to write a resume.

More importantly, visitors who want to learn
how to write a resume would probably want

to know how to write a cover letter
and vice versa.

To find opportunities, you can go to Google
and search for site:yourdomain.com and then

add the topic you’re writing about.

Then visit relevant pages and see if there’s
an opportunity to add an internal link to

your new post.

Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs’ Site
Audit tool completely free.

Just sign up for an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools
account, verify your site and then run a crawl.

Then you can head over to Link Explorer to
find internal linking opportunities.

We have a short but helpful video on how to
do this on Ahrefs’ Product Updates YouTube

channel, so I’ll link that video up in the
description.

Alright, next up is to optimize your images.

In the last 28 days, we’ve had over 4,000
visits to our blog from Google image search.

While that pales in comparison to our 500,000
monthly 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 chances
are, your smartphone or camera named it something

like IMG_ and then a million numbers.

Instead, change the filename to something
like… puppy.

Not exactly rocket science, but according
to 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 an
HTML 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 those
who are using screen readers or if the image

fails to load, visitors will be shown the
alt text instead.

Now, Google recommends “creating useful, information-rich
content 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 experience
and may cause your site to be seen as spam.

Meaning, don’t do something like this.

Now, looking back at the syntax, our alt text
isn’t exactly descriptive.

So let’s change that to something like, “puppy
sitting on a couch.”

If you use WordPress, just add your alt text
here when inserting your images and the CMS

should do the rest.

Alright, the third thing you’ll want to do
is compress your images.

Compressing images makes your image file sizes
smaller, leading to faster load times.

And PageSpeed is a Google ranking signal.

There’s a free tool for compressing images
called “ShortPixel” which has both a web interface

as well as a WordPress plugin.

And the last thing I highly recommend is to
optimize for readability.

Here are 5 simple but effective tips you can
use to improve readability:

1.

Write in short sentences and short paragraphs
because no one wants to land on a page with

a HUGE wall of text.

2.

Use descriptive subheadings so people who
are skimming the article can easily find the

things that are important to them.

3.

Use a large enough font that’s easily readable
on both desktop and mobile.

4.

Avoid using big words.

It’s more important that people understand
your content.

5.

Write as you speak.

Your content will be more conversational and
entertaining to read.

A free tool I recommend using is called Hemingway
app.

It’ll give you some writing tips as well as
a readability grade.

I’d recommend trying to keep things at or
below a sixth grade level.

Now, there are other on-page optimizations
you 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 media
networks.

There’s also schema markup, which is code
that helps search engines understand your

content and better represent it in the search
results.

For example, these pages use the recipe schema
type 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 can
add OG tags and schema with plugins like RankMath

or Yoast.

Now again, the most important part of your
content 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 subscribe
to our channel because next week, I’ll be

releasing our next module on an SEO strategy
called link building.

Hey it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the third module
in our SEO course for beginners.

Throughout the next 5 lessons, we’ll be talking
about arguably THE most important AND most

challenging SEO strategy.

It’s called link building.

And to kick things off, we’re going to talk
about what it is, why it’s important, and

the mindset you’ll need to have to be successful
at it.

Let’s get started.

So what is link building?

By definition, link building is the process
of getting other websites to link to a page

on your website.

And these hyperlinks are called backlinks.

Now, while the end result might make sense
conceptually and seem simple, the part that

most people don’t understand and can’t seem
to get right is this: THE PROCESS.

And this ultimately boils down to emailing
complete strangers and asking them to link

to you.

Now, let’s take a quick second to talk about
how strange and kind of awkward this might

sound.

So let’s go through a few scenarios and then
we’ll revisit this definition of link building.

Scenario #1.

Let’s say that you have a marketing blog and
you write about SEO and digital marketing.

Now, if some random person, let’s call her
Sally, sent you an email and said…

“Hey, can you link to my post on Facebook
ads?

It’s REALLY good.”

Would you link to her?

Probably not.

In fact, you probably wouldn’t even reply
or click the link in her email to actually

check and see if her content is as good as
she 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 strategies
we’ve shared and gotten some great results

for your site.

On top of that, you’ve been using our SEO
tools for 3 years.

Now, an email pops up in your inbox from me,
Sam Oh.

A name and face you might recognize because
you’ve been following our channel.

And in that email, I’ve asked you to link
to 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 started
in digital marketing sends you an email.

And she asks you to link to a page on her
site 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 you
that the PROCESS of link building is actually

very relational and can sometimes take more
time 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 your
inbox, and asking you for a favor without

offering any kind of value in return.

In the second scenario when I hypothetically
emailed you, you knew who I was, I had indirectly

helped you, and you were a user of our product
for 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 probably
higher 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 usually
come from relationships that are sparked from

email outreach.

So let’s redefine link building and set the
tone for the rest of this module.

[a]

Link building is the process of building relationships
with other relevant site owners who want AND

will link to your content because it enhances
theirs.

So this definition isn’t just about you getting
something.

It includes relationships, relevance, and
a value exchange.

All things we’ll touch on later in this module.

Now, since EFFECTIVE link building is tough,you
need to understand WHY it’s worth the effort.

In short, backlinks are used by search engines
like Google to help rank web pages.

And it’s been this way since 1998 when Google
created PageRank.

PageRank is a mathematical formula that judges
the “value of a page” by looking at the quantity

and quality of other pages that link to it.

And Google confirms the importance of backlinks
on their how search works page.

Under their “ranking useful pages” heading,
they state:

“If other prominent websites on the subject
LINK to the page, that’s a good sign that

the information is of high quality.”

We also found a clear correlation between
organic traffic and backlinks from unique

websites in our study of over one billion
web pages.

So while getting backlinks may be harder than
let’s say, creating a blog post, they’re absolutely

critical if you want to rank for competitive
phrases.

And competitive phrases are usually the ones
that’ll drive the most traffic and revenue

for your business.

Now, we briefly touched on the main way of
getting backlinks, but not all links can or

will be obtained through outreach.

So in the next lesson, we’ll talk about 3
methods to get backlinks as well as the level

of difficulty and effectiveness.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the second
lesson in our link building module.

In this lesson, we’ll talk about 3 link building
strategies to get backlinks.

Now, before we get started, it’s important
to set the expectations right for this lesson

and talk about the difference between a strategy
and a tactic.

To me, strategies are higher level in the
sense that it outlines the scope of the plans.

Whereas tactics are more micro and often focused
around smaller steps.

So the strategy sets you in the right direction
and the tactics kind of define how you get

there.

And we’ll get into a few link building tactics
later 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 links
on one domain back to yours.

This can be done by adding your website to
directories, leaving comments on blog posts,

or adding your website’s URL to your social
media profile.

Anyone can do this with minimal effort.

So like almost all easy things in life, they’re
generally 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 in
return, they’ll link back to a page on your

site.

Now, this is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
and can potentially result in a penalty.

That might be anything from losing ranking
positions 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 sell
links.

And we found that the average cost of buying
one was nearly $353.

And of course, we didn’t buy any.

In terms of level of ease, if you have the
money, it’s super easy to do because it’s

just a transaction.

Now, in terms of the effectiveness, I would
think that they’re highly effective unless

OR until you get caught.

And in my opinion, the risk isn’t worth the
reward, especially if you want to build a

business that’ll stand the test of time.

The final way to get backlinks is to earn
them.

And there are 3 common ways you can do this.

The first and most common are links that are
earned through email outreach.

This is when you email other website owners
and editors and ask them to link to you.

Another way to earn backlinks is by becoming
a source for an online publication or media

outlet.

For example, if a journalist references you
in 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 from
a link on social media, organic search, word

of mouth or wherever and decides to link to
you, then that’s an earned link.

Now, even though 100% organic links may sound
like the best way to get them, I don’t want

you to bank on that.

These kinds of links are typically less consistent
unless you’re an extremely well known brand

with extremely well crafted content AND you’re
already getting significant exposure.

It takes time to build a reputation that’s
well-trusted and for those organic links to

come in on a regular basis.

And if you’re just hoping and waiting, you’ll
likely fall behind because your competitors

will actually be busy BUILDING links by reaching
out to other website owners.

Generally speaking, the harder it is to obtain
a link, the more valuable it’ll be.

And for that reason, we’ll be focusing on
streamlined tactics so that you can build

a steady stream of backlinks to your page
and get more traffic from SEO.

Now, not all links are created equal.

Some will help propel your pages to the top
of Google, while others can actually hurt

your site.

So what makes a link actually good?

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the third
lesson in the link building module.

Today, we’re going to talk about the attributes
that make a backlink good or “high quality.”

As I said in the last lesson, not all backlinks
are created equal.

For example, if you spammed forums with links
to your site, those wouldn’t and shouldn’t

hold more weight than let’s say a link from
the New York Times.

Otherwise, backlinks would just be a game
of quantity and Google’s search results would

reward the biggest spammers.

Fortunately, ranking on Google doesn’t work
that way and quality backlinks are still a

prominent ranking signal.

So with that said, let’s talk about the 5
attributes that make a backlink “good.”

The first attribute is relevance.

Imagine this for a second.

You’re going to visit Greece for the first
time next month and you need recommendations

for places worth going to.

Now, you have a friend that has lived in Greece
for their entire life and obviously knows

every nook and cranny.

You also have a friend in the US who hates
travelling 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 about
travel or Greece would hold more weight than

links from sites about technology or marketing
because they’re more topically relevant and

authoritative.

For example, you’ll see that this page is
ranking #1 for the query, “how to devein shrimp.”

If we look at their backlinks and also filter
by 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’ll
see 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 link
from a page called, “shrimp with garlic sauce”

which again is relevant at the page level.

But you can also see that it’s relevant at
the domain level too just by looking at their

domain name: slim palate dot com.

Both of these links are great from a relevance
standpoint, whereas a link like this one isn’t

very relevant at all.

The page is about firefox 3.5, which is a
web browser.

It comes from a site about video games and
computer hardware.

So an ideal link would be contextually placed
within the body of the content where someone

is quite literally recommending or referencing
you.

Alright, the next attribute of good quality
links is authoritativeness.

If you’re unfamiliar with “authority” in the
context of backlinks, it basically represents

the so-called “link power” a web page has.

And this relates to how Google’s PageRank
works.

As we discussed before, both the quantity
and quality of links matter.

So the MORE quality links a page gets, the
more PageRank it earns.

And the more PageRank it has, the more authority
it can pass to other pages through hyperlinks.

For example, let’s say that page C has two
links: one from page A and one from page B.

Page A is stronger than page B, and also has
fewer outgoing links.

Feed this information into the PageRank algorithm,
and you get the PageRank of page C.

Now, this is obviously a simplified version
of how PageRank works, but the key point here

is that getting links from high-authority
pages will likely have the greatest impact

on your rankings.

Now, while Google doesn’t provide PageRank
or website authority scores, we have two metrics

at Ahrefs that try to quantify it.

Domain Rating is our website authority metric
and it represents the overall strength of

a website’s backlink profile.

And URL rating is our page-level authority
metric, which represents the overall strength

of a page’s backlink profile.

And you’ll find both of these metrics throughout
most of our tools, giving you insights on

referring pages.

Now, we’ve covered two very important parts
of 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 hyperlink
and talk about how the different parts relate

to SEO.

Here’s what a link looks like to your website
visitors.

And if we look at the HTML code, then it would
look like this.

Now, there are 3 basic parts to a link that
matter in SEO.

The destination URL, anchor text, and the
rel attribute or lack of one.

The destination URL is simply the URL the
person 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 anchor
text, which is the name of our competitor

analysis tool.

Google uses anchor texts to better understand
what a page is about and what terms it should

rank for.

But, building lots of links with keyword-rich
anchors is an example of a link scheme, and

may result in a Google penalty as it looks
unnatural.

For example, if you had a post on the best
golf balls and had a hundred links pointing

to it where the anchor texts were all “best
golf balls,” then it would look and be quite

unnatural.

People often use anchors such as the company’s
brand 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 pointing
to our data study on featured snippets, you’ll

see varying anchor texts like “ahrefs,” “old
studies,” “ahrefs study,” “research,” and

even specific stats like 12.3% of search queries
and 99.58% and so on.

In fact, there are only 16 websites that have
linked to us using the anchor text “featured

snippet.”

With most earned links, you have very little
or 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 about
is the rel attribute.

Some links contain a rel attribute, which
is intended to tell crawlers about the relationship

between the linking page and the linked page.

And the 3 rel values that you should know
about when it comes to link building are nofollow,

UGC, and sponsored.

Historically, nofollow links told Google that
the 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 ethical
paid link.

They also announced that going forward, they
would look at these link attributes as “hints,”

meaning, they may pass value through them
at their discretion.

Now, if a link doesn’t have any of these rel
values, then it would be called a “followed”

link.

Meaning, the link can pass PageRank and help
boost your rankings.

Seeing as this is still relatively new, I’d
recommend focusing on building followed links,

although that’s only partially within your
control.

Now, it’s important to note that nofollow
and UGC links aren’t bad.

It’s just that followed links are proven to
pass authority.

One final thing I want to touch on is link
placement.

Prominent links are more likely to be clicked,
and it’s believed that Google takes this into

account when determining how much authority
a link transfers.

For instance, an editorial link is more likely
to be clicked than a link in the footer.

So, all else being equal, the former would
be better than the latter.

So to summarize.

An ideal link would come from a relevant and
authoritative page where the link is followed.

It would have a descriptive anchor, and be
placed contextually within editorial content.

But the truth is… a lot of this is out of
your control.

What IS in your control is how you spend your
time building links.

By using these five attributes to help qualify
prospects – or people that are worth contacting,

you’ll spend your time building links that
will actually move the needle.

Now, the easiest way for a beginner to start
building links is to use tried and tested

tactics.

And we’ll be covering a few of them in the
next lesson which will be published tomorrow.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourth
lesson in the link building module.

Today, we’re going to talk about the step-by-step
process 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 process
to link building.

There are 3 general stages in link building.

* Prospecting
* Vetting

* And email outreach.

When prospecting, you’re searching for relevant
pages and websites that might link to you.

These might be people who are linking to a
similar 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 list
of people, this stage is about finding as

many people as possible that fit a specific
set of criteria.

And this criteria is usually dictated by link
authority metrics as well as relevance.

As a result, you’ll usually be working with
large and very unperfect sets of data.

The vetting stage is where you start to refine
your 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 worth
contacting.

Finally is the email outreach stage.This is
when you’ll finalize your pitches and start

emailing your vetted prospects.

Now, depending on the link building tactic
you use, the way you prospect, vet and craft

your email pitches will differ.

And this is actually quite difficult when
you’re new to link building.

Fortunately, there are a few dead simple but
SUPER effective link building tactics that

are completely newbie friendly.

But before we can get tactical, let’s revisit
our definition of link building because there

are 3 main parts in it that will help you
with prospecting, vetting, and email outreach.

Again, link building is the process of building
relationships with other relevant site owners

who want AND will link to your content because
it enhances theirs.

Now, I want to highlight the 3 main parts
from this definition: relationships, relevance,

and a value exchange.

We already talked about the relevance part
in the last lesson.

Now we’re talking about mainly the value exchange
and 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 again…
you don’t need to try and be best friends

with every person you reach out to.

Relationships are often the byproduct of good
outreach paired with good content.

And these relationships often lead to more
than a one-off link.

Now since this is a beginner’s course, I won’t
be 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 building
tactics and I’ll show you what each stage

of the link building process looks like in
detail.

Plus, I’ll outline the value exchange for
each tactic to give you a better idea of what

I mean.

Alright, the first link building tactic is
to get free PR using HARO.

HARO or “Help a Reporter Out” is a free service
that connects journalists with sources and

sources with journalists.

Just sign up as a source and select the categories
where you’re qualified to answer questions.

You’ll then get emails from journalists from
various media outlets, looking for sources

on specific topics.

And these aren’t just your run of the mill
publications.

In just this SINGLE email, you’ll see publications
like Parents.com, Popsugar, and The Houston

Chronicle to name a few.

Just skim through the topics and if you find
something where you can add value, respond

to the journalist with your expert opinion.

And if they use you as a source, they’ll usually
link back to your site and social media profiles.

Now, the value exchange here is simple.

You’re exchanging your expert knowledge for
a mention and usually a link from an authoritative

site.

From my personal experience, I’ve gotten links
from places like Reader’s Digest, Inc Magazine,

Forbes, and the Huffington Post to name a
few.

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 journalists
are actually looking for your help, not the

other way around, which makes HARO super beginner-friendly.

As for vetting, you can simply scan through
the results on a daily basis, but that can

be time consuming.

A simple tip you can use is to create a gmail
filter so only relevant emails will surface

in your inbox.

Just login to Gmail and click on the caret
to bring down the search options.

Next, set the “from” field to haro@helpareporter.com.

Then, you’ll want to set the subject to HARO
within square brackets since all of their

emails include that in the subject line.

Finally, set the “has the words” field to
any keywords you want to monitor.

And you can also use the OR search operator
to include multiple keywords or phrases.

Click search to see the results your search
filters would include and check out some of

the emails to ensure you’re getting relevant
results.

If everything looks good, click on the caret
again 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, HARO
gives 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 the
only person emailing the journalist.

So here are a few tips you can use to improve
your hit rate.

#1.

Keep your emails as short as needed.

Journalists get tons of emails and if they
see a huge wall of text, they probably won’t

even give your response a chance.

#2.

Go after topics where journalists are likely
looking for multiple sources.

For example, this query from Best Life is
seeking medical experts – as in the plural

form of expert.

These kinds of requests will usually be your
typical listicle styled posts.

So the more responses they accept, the higher
your chances of getting mentioned and linked

to.

#3.

Respond as quickly as possible.

Journalists on HARO will often give a tighter
deadline to give themselves time to actually

put together a good story.

Plus, some journalists believe that people
who respond faster are better sources.

Don’t believe me?

Here’s what a journalist from Reader’s Digest
said to me:

“The deadline was just to make sure I get
people to respond in a timely manner.

I actually have the rest of the month to put
the 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 really
have 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 where
you are an expert and use it as the first

line in your pitch.

There’ll be days where you can’t respond to
every relevant request.

So prioritize the ones where you have the
highest probability of getting sourced.

For example, PopSugar is looking for experts
who can talk about why cats scratch furniture

and how to stop them from doing it.

If you’re a vet, then you might start your
email with something like…

“Hi Jenna, my name is Sam Oh and I’m a veterinarian
with 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, as
the right person to answer the question, you’ll

likely get their attention.

Of course, you should be 100% honest so I
wouldn’t claim to be a vet when I’m not.

And finally, follow all directions in their
query.

For example, this one says “please be sure
to include your full name, pronouns, title

and credentials, and the website you’d like
linked with your name.”

Alright, the next link building tactic is
guest posting or guest blogging – same thing.

Guest blogging is when you create content
for another website.

And the reason why this strategy works is
because there’s a clear value exchange.

They get great content for free, and almost
always, they allow you to link back to your

site; whether that be within the content or
in the author bio.

Now, guest blogging also provides another
great benefit aside from a potential backlink.

You get the opportunity to get exposure to
someone else’s audience.

They’ve already done the hard work in building
that audience, you just have to write something

that’ll impress their readers.

Now, when you’re prospecting, you’ll need
to 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 something
like…

intitle:”write for us” wrapped in quotes and
then a keyword that’s related to your niche.

In this case, this search query will show
us pages that include the phrase, “write for

us” in the title and have the word golf balls
somewhere on the page.

And this is a common footprint that websites
use to attract guest writers.

Now, because you’ll want to write for sites
with some kind of link authority, you can

use Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar to see link authority
metrics right within Google’s search results.

And if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you
can use our free Website Authority Checker

to see the Domain Ratings for these sites.

Another way to find a list of sites fast is
to use Ahrefs Content Explorer.

Content Explorer is a searchable database
where you can find pages on any topic along

with both social and SEO metrics.

To get started, just enter a topic that’s
related to your niche and run the search.

Next, you’ll want to set some filters to ensure
that

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 set
it 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 more
authoritative sites.

Or if you’re a seasoned guest blogger, then
you 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 thing
because there’s no point in pitching the same

website numerous times.

Now, with around 200,000 domains you might
be 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 previously
accepted guest authors.

To find those sites, just click on the websites
tab and make sure that your results are sorted

by the number of authors.

Basically, the more authors you see, the more
probable it is that they accept guest posts.

Either that or they have a big staff of writers.

From here, you can export the results and
then move on to the vetting stage.

At this point, you’ll want to do a quick check
to make sure that the websites don’t look

spammy and that they’re actually relevant
to your site.

For example, golfballs.com is clearly going
to 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’t
look like it’s about golf.

And if you visit the site, you’ll see that
it looks like a software company.

So we’d exclude this domain from our outreach
list.

Now, another thing worth checking is the domain’s
sitewide organic traffic.

To do that, go to Site Explorer and search
for the domain.

Next, click on the organic search tab.

If the site is getting consistent search traffic
like this, then it’s a good sign that the

domain is in good standing with Google.

Domains that have an organic traffic graph
like this is probably something you’d want

to exclude when vetting sites.

Reason being, the HUGE decline in search traffic
is telling us that Google may have penalized

the website.

So you probably wouldn’t want to associate
your domain with theirs.

Now, when you’re vetting, you’ll likely want
to find around 10 times the number of posts

you can write in a week.

For example, if you can write 2 posts per
week, then try and find 20 vetted sites.

Reason being, most people won’t accept your
post 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 guest
post, ideally, you want to come up with a

good reason as to why they should accept your
post.

Free content is great and all, but it’s not
necessarily SO convincing that everyone will

accept it.

So take some time to do your research on the
site.

See how your expertise can be helpful for
their 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, I
found 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 selling
golf balls, I could easily pitch them topics

on something like… “best golf balls for
high handicappers,” which according to Ahrefs’

Keywords Explorer gets searched around 800
times per month globally.

So I might send them an email and say something
like

“Hey [whatever the editor’s name is],

I was digging through your site and saw that
you have a couple of posts on the best golf

balls for kids and for distance.

But I was pretty surprised to see that you
don’t have one for other types of players

(ie. seniors).

Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundreds
of dollars on balls and countless hours on

launch monitors to find the best ball for
me.

If you’re open, I’d love to write a post for
you 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 showing
them that I’ve done my research on their site,

I’m a golfer myself, I have some unique data
which I spent time and money to get, and I’m

also showing them how my post could help them
get more sales.

We’ll talk quite a bit about outreach in the
next lesson, so let’s move on to the final

tactic, which is the Skyscraper technique.

The Skyscraper Technique is a link building
tactic where you find content that has a lot

of links, create your own version on the topic
but improve on it, and then reach out to those

linking to the popular post and ask them to
link to yours.

Now, as much as I’d love to say that the value
exchange is introducing people to your amazing

content, that’s not exactly valuable in and
of itself.

With the Skyscraper Technique, you need to
craft 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 member
who always tells the same story over and over

and over again.

Maybe it’s at a dinner party or when you’re
meeting with friends who haven’t heard that

story.

That story is the popular content with lots
of links.

So how do you get them to stop telling that
same story?

They need to find a better story.

One that’s SO good that the old story is nothing
but 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 will
take you through the entire process step-by-step.

In fact, we have an entire playlist dedicated
to link building tactics, strategies, and

processes so I highly recommend watching that
too.

Now, prospecting and vetting are pretty straightforward.

But the hardest part of link building, and
the part that makes link building challenging

is outreach.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final
lesson in our link building module.

Today, we’re going to cover how to do blogger
outreach that leads to backlinks.

And this may very well be the most important
lesson in this entire module because nearly

ALL link building tactics require some sort
of email exchange.

So today, we’ll cover the primary objective
of blogger outreach, two common approaches,

and I’ll break down the anatomy of a good
quality outreach email.

Let’s get started.

So the primary objective of blogger outreach
is to convince those with large targeted audiences

to talk about you.

And from the perspective of an SEO, you want
them 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 through
email marketing.

For example, this outreach email that I got
is what typical blogger outreach looks like

today.

First of all, I can see that they didn’t even
take a second to check what my name is when

literally two thirds of all pages on my personal
site 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 of
people.

But the name thing isn’t that big of a deal.

Second, this is clearly a generic templated
email with zero consideration for the recipients.

The person says “I’m writing because I saw
your post here.”

Then they didn’t even take a second to proofread
the email.

And their justification for me to link to
them is because “it fits well in my post.”

On top of that, the person followed up with
me 3 – MORE – TIMES with nearly the exact

same email all sent within the same 30 minute
period.

This ladies and gentlemen, is called spam.

And the results of these kinds of emails lead
to nothing.

The page the person wanted me to link to got
a total of 2 backlinks and both of them are

irrelevant and look like they’ve been paid
for.

And those backlinks aren’t moving the needle
since the page gets zero organic search visits.

These kinds of emails along with hundreds
of others in my inbox are prime examples of

why you need to write good quality emails.

Otherwise, you’ll just blend in with the rest
of the spam people get on a daily basis.

Afterall, these are unsolicited emails.

Now to be clear, it doesn’t mean that you
can’t use SOME sort of template to send a

lot of emails efficiently.

For example, I literally just got this email
in my inbox and it says:

“Hey Sam,

I just published a roundup post about the
Best 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 anything
like that.

I just wanted to say thank you for all the
inspiration you’ve brought to the blogosphere

and digital marketing world.

Best of luck in your endeavors and keep up
the good work on Ahrefs’ YouTube channel.

This email didn’t come to my Ahrefs email
account.

It came to the one on my personal site.

So he clearly did a bit of digging before
sending 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 point
of 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 you
is one of the common approaches to blogger

outreach.

It’s called “the shotgun approach” where you
build a broad list of targets, load them up

into an outreach tool, and then blast out
emails to anyone and everyone.

The opposite approach to this is the sniper
method.

This is when you choose targets carefully
based on a tight set of criteria and then

send personalized emails.

Of the two methods, we recommend going with
the sniper approach because shotgunning emails

to anyone and everyone is a surefire way to
burn bridges.

Plus, no one likes spam.

And for that reason, the rest of this lesson
will be centered around the sniper approach.

So before we get into actually crafting your
outreach emails, let’s quickly talk about

who you should be contacting and how to find
their email addresses.

In general, you’ll want to contact the author
of the post IF they work for the website.

For example, this is a post written by Joshua
Hardwick 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’t
be any use in contacting him because he doesn’t

work for Sitepoint.

In this case, you’d want to contact the editor
of the blog.

To find who that person is, you can check
places like the website’s about or team page,

their “write for us” page if they have one
or 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 involved
like Sitepoint or Ahrefs, you usually won’t

find individuals’ email addresses on their
site.

So to find these emails, you can use a tool
like Hunter.io, go to their email finder tool,

and just search for their first and last name
as well as the domain.

Hunter will then give you their best guess.

In this case, they’re wrong, but the success
rate is generally quite high.

Alright, so if you’ve done the work for the
lessons in this module to this point, then

you should have chosen one of the 3 tactics
I 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 streamlined
formula for every outreach email you send,

I want to talk about the anatomy of a simple
outreach email that has been effective for

me for many years now.

And there are five main parts to a typical
outreach email.

First is the subject line.

The goal of the subject line is simply to
get them to open the email.

Otherwise, there’s no chance at getting a
response.

But you don’t want to clickbait them because
that’ll only leave a bad impression.

So when you’re writing a subject line, you
want to briefly and accurately describe why

you’re emailing them and ideally, evoke curiosity.

If we look back at my guest blogging outreach
email from the previous lesson, I showed you

a hypothetical pitch where I asked if I could
write 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 evokes
curiosity 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 write
an 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 to
read the next part of the email.

For example, with our guest posting sample
email, I said:

I was digging through your site and saw that
you have a couple of posts on the best golf

balls for kids and for distance.

But I was pretty surprised to see that you
don’t have one for other types of players

(ie. seniors).

Now, I will admit that the first sentence
could definitely be stronger, but I’m basically

saying that you’ve done this and this…but
looks like you’re missing out an opportunity

here.

The next part of the email is qualification
and justification.

Simply asking someone for a favor and expecting
them to see a mutual benefit is naive.

You need to show them WHY you’re qualified
and justify the pitch that we’ll get to in

a second.

For example, if you’re contacting someone
to guest post, then explain why they should

accept your post over potentially hundreds
of other submissions?

If you’re asking them to add your link to
a page on their site, give them an actual

good reason why they should.

So in our guest posting sample you’ll see
that I said…

Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundreds
of dollars on balls and countless hours on

launch monitors to find the best ball for
me.

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 qualifies
AND justifies what I’m about to pitch — which

again, is a guest post about the best golf
balls for high handicappers.

Now, to really drill in on the concept of
qualification and justification, let’s look

at an example email for the Skyscraper technique.

A little while back, we did some outreach
to get links to our blog post on SEO statistics.

So we emailed people with an email that looked
something like this:

“Hi [name],

I saw you mentioned how 93% of online experiences
begin 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 that
this number has gone down to 68%.

I think it’s lower because social and other
sources now account for around 1/3 of traffic.”

That’s our qualification and justification
for what we’re about to pitch.

And obviously, the next part of the email
is the pitch.

The pitch essentially includes your ask as
well as your value proposition.

And generally speaking, the stronger your
value 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 post
for 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, but
I’m showing them how that can bring value

to their bottom line.

Now, it’s not always easy to think of a solid
value proposition.

For example, in our SEO stats email, our pitch
was:

We published this and a few other fresh SEO
stats 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 content
up to date.

In fact, we didn’t even DIRECTLY ask for a
link, yet we were still able to pick up 27

backlinks.

We actually have a full 3-part video series
on this EXACT case study, so I’ll link that

up in the description and I highly recommend
checking it out.

Alright, the last part of the email is a simple
one-liner to keep the conversation rolling.

Simply put, you don’t want to end your email
with a cold hard pitch.

The purpose of your first email should be
to 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 can
use as you start blogger outreach.

But I don’t want you to limit yourself within
this box.

All you’re really doing is talking to people
and 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 complete
stranger to buy you a drink.

You might strike up a conversation, connect
with them on a common interest, and maybe

buy the first round of drinks — expecting
nothing in return.

And as a result, they might want to reciprocate
by returning an act of kindness.

Again, the goal of the VERY first email you
send is simple: start a conversation.

And this brings us back to this outreach email
that I got.

The person who mentioned me on their site
specifically 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 the
mention

And #3, should he email me again, I’ll probably
open it because I’ll recognize his name.

So while there will be times where it makes
sense to ask for the link or guest posting

opportunity right away, there are A LOT of
times when it makes more sense to just start

that conversation and see where it leads.

The final tip I want to leave you with is
to ONLY use your best work when sending email

pitches.

You don’t want to email anyone and everyone
for EVERY single piece of content you create.

For example, if you had a golf site and you
created a post on a topic like… “what is

a handicap,” there’s nothing interesting or
unique about it yet it’s still a topic you

would probably want to cover.

Coming up with a good reason for them to link
to you on this topic would be tough.

Plus, time is finite.

So it’s worth doing outreach for your BEST
content because there’s a higher probability

that it’ll result in backlinks.

Alright, so with everything you’ve learned
up to this point, you should be able to create

content for your website that’ll get traffic
from search engines.

But there’s still one piece to the fundamentals
of SEO that we haven’t covered and that’s

technical SEO.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final
module in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners.

Throughout the next two lessons, we’re going
to be talking about technical SEO.

And technical SEO is the process of optimizing
your website to help search engines find,

understand, and index your pages.

Now, for beginners, technical SEO doesn’t
need to be all that technical.

And for that reason, this module will be focused
on the basics so you can perform regular maintenance

on your site and ensure that your pages can
be discovered and indexed by search engines.

Let’s get started.

Alright, so let’s talk about why technical
SEO is important at the core.

Basically, if search engines can’t properly
access, read, understand, or index your pages,

then you won’t rank or even be found for that
matter.

So to avoid innocent mistakes like removing
yourself from Google’s index or diluting a

page’s backlinks, I want to discuss 4 things
that 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 than
you might think.

For example, let’s say you hire Design Inc
to create or redesign a website for you.

During the development phase, they may create
it on a subdomain on their own site.

So it actually makes sense for them to noindex
the site they’re working on.

But what often happens is after you’ve approved
the design, they’ll migrate it over to your

domain.

But they often forget to remove the meta noindex
tag.

And as a result, your pages end up getting
removed from Google’s search index or never

making it in.

Now, there are times when it actually makes
sense to noindex certain pages.

For example, our authors pages are noindexed
because from an SEO perspective, these pages

provide very little value to search engines.

But from a user experience standpoint, it
can be argued that it makes sense to be there.

Some people may have their favorite authors
on a blog and want to read just their content.

Generally speaking, for small sites, you won’t
need to worry about noindexing specific pages.

Just keep your eye out for noindex tags on
your pages, especially if after a redesign.

The second point of discussion is robots.txt.

Robots.txt is a file that usually lives on
your root domain.

And you should be able to access it at yourdomain.com/robots.txt.

Now, the file itself includes a set of rules
for search engine crawlers and tells them

where they can and cannot go on your site.

And it’s important to note that a website
can 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 store
that lives on store.domain.com.

So you could have a separate robots file for
your online store.

That means that crawlers could be given two
different sets of rules depending on the domain

they’re trying to crawl.

Now, the rules are created using something
called “directives.”

And while you probably don’t need to know
what ALL of them are or what they do, there

are two that you should know about from an
indexing standpoint.

The first is user-agent, which defines the
crawler that the rule applies to.

And the value for this directive would be
the name of the crawler.

For example, Google’s user-agent is named
Googlebot.

And the second directive is disallow.

This is a page or directory on your domain
that you don’t want the user-agent to crawl.

For example, if you set the user agent to
Googlebot and the disallow value to a slash,

you’re telling Google not to crawl any pages
on your site.

Not good.

Now, if you were to set the user-agent to
an asterisk, that means your rule should apply

to ALL crawlers.

So if your robots file looks something like
this, then it’s telling all crawlers, please

don’t crawl any pages on my site.

While this might sound like something you
would never use, there are times when it makes

sense to block certain parts of your site
or to block certain crawlers.

For example, if you have a WordPress website
and you don’t want your wp-admin folder to

be crawled, then you can simply set the user
agent to all crawlers and set the disallow

value to /wp-admin/.

Now, if you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t worry
too much about your robots file.

But if you run into any indexing issues that
need 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 list
the important URLs on your website.

So these can be pages, images, videos, and
other files.

And sitemaps help search engines like Google
to more intelligently crawl your site.

Now, creating an XML file can be complicated
if 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 sitemaps
for you.

To help search engines find your sitemaps,
you can use the sitemap directive in your

robots file and also submit it in Google search
console.

Next up are redirects.

A redirect takes visitors and bots from one
URL to another.

And their purpose is to consolidate signals.

For example, let’s say you have two pages
on 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 one
another, it would make sense to redirect the

2018 version to the current version.

And by consolidating these pages, you’re telling
search engines to pass the signals from the

redirected URL to the destination URL.

And the last point I want to talk about is
the canonical tag.

A canonical tag is a snippet of HTML code
that looks like this.

Its purpose is to tell search engines what
the preferred URL is for a page.

And this helps to solve duplicate content
issues.

For example, let’s say your website is accessible
at both http://yourdomain.com and https://yourdomain.com.

And for whatever reason, you weren’t able
to use a redirect.

These would be exact duplicates.

But by setting a canonical URL, you’re telling
search engines that there’s a preferred version

of the page.

As a result, they’ll pass signals such as
links to the canonical URL so they’re not

diluted across two different pages.

Now, it’s important to note that Google may
choose to ignore your canonical tag.

Looking back at the previous example, if we
set the canonical tag to the unsecure HTTP

page, Google would probably choose the secure
HTTPS version instead.

Now, if you’re running a simple WordPress
site, you shouldn’t have to worry about this

too much.

CMS’s are pretty good out of the box and will
handle a lot of these basic technical issues

for you.

So these are some of the foundational things
that are good to know when it comes to indexing,

which is arguably the most important part
in SEO.

Because again, if your pages aren’t getting
indexed, nothing else really matters.

Now, we won’t really dig deeper into this
because you’ll probably only have to worry

about indexing issues if and when you run
into problems.

Instead, we’ll be focusing on technical SEO
best practices to keep your website in good

health.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final
lesson in this module and actually, it’s the

last lesson in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners.

In this lesson, we’re going to go through
some 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 ensure
that your site structure follows a logical

hierarchy.

Site structure is simply the way you organize
content 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 that
branch out from your homepage like your services

page, your blog, and about page.

Then from these main topics, you’d probably
have even more branches to other pages.

These branches represent internal links, which
are just links from one page on your site

to another.

And they help search engines understand the
relationship between these pages.

Site structure also helps search engines to
crawl your pages more efficiently, which is

why having a logical hierarchy is important.

Now, what we’ve talked about is pretty basic
stuff and you may already be doing this.

But it can get more complex as you add more
pages to your site like blog posts, category

pages, or product pages.

We have a full video on how to use internal
links to rank higher on Google, so I’ll link

that up for you in the description.

Alright, the second thing is to ensure your
pages don’t load slow.

As you may know, Pagespeed has been a confirmed
ranking factor for desktop search since 2010.

And in 2018, Google announced that they’d
be using page speed in mobile search rankings.

Now, you don’t need to obsess over every millisecond
it 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 a
small percentage of queries.”

So bottomline: you don’t want your pages to
load slow.

And there are two very basic things that I
think every website should do.

The first is to cache your website’s content.

Caching is basically a way to temporarily
store copies of files, so it can be delivered

to visitors in a more efficient way.

And most web hosting companies that I’ve come
across have caching features.

And the second thing you can do is compress
your images.

Compressing images makes your file sizes smaller
and smaller files load faster.

You can use a tool like Shortpixel which has
both a web interface and a WordPress plugin.

Now, if you wanted to take pagespeed a step
further, then it can get quite technical and

complex.

So we actually created a full tutorial on
how to speed up a WordPress website using

Cloudflare and a WordPress plugin, so I’ll
leave a link to that in the description.

And the final thing I want to talk about is
to 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 technical
SEO issues that can and some will definitely

happen to your site.

Some of these things include:

Pages becoming broken that still have internal
links pointing at them.

Orphan pages, which are pages on your site
that have no incoming internal links.

And these aren’t great because it can make
it 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 through
50 different potential issues because it’ll

only matter to you if you run into them.

So what I recommend you do is run scheduled
website audits on your site.

And a website audit will give you a full analysis
of potential issues that could be harming

your website’s SEO performance.

If you’re an Ahrefs user, you can do that
using our Site Audit tool.

And even if you don’t have an Ahrefs paid
plan, you can sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster

Tools account which will let you crawl up
to 10,000 pages on each website you own.

To get started, go to ahrefs.com/awt and sign
up 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 Console
which is the easiest method, or if you don’t

have a Search Console account, you can do
it manually.

Just enter your domain and click continue.

Then verify your website using one of these
3 methods.

And I’ll actually just go back and use the
Google 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 ensure
that we catch any broken or redirected outgoing

links.

Hit import, and the crawl should start running.

Now, after the crawl has completed, go to
the Overview report in your Site Audit project,

and you’ll immediately see things like your
Health Score which is a percentage of URLs

on your site that don’t have errors.

You’ll also see the top issues we found on
your site as well as the number of URLs that

had the issue.

So when you run into an issue, you can click
on the caret to see a description of what

it means and also a short snippet of how to
fix it.

And once you have an idea of what the issue
is and how to fix it, just click on the number

under the “crawled” column to see the affected
URLs.

Then it’s just a matter of fixing them one
by 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 should
be enough to get you indexed, ranking, and

to keep your site in good technical health.

And I’ve linked up a playlist in the description
to the entire course with all 14 videos which

will be free forever.

Thank you for joining me and I hope you were
able to get a ton of value from the course.

And make sure to like, share, and subscribe
for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials.

Feel free to browse around our channel and
if you have any questions, leave them in the

comments and we’ll do our best to get to each
one.

I’ll see you in the next tutorial.

How to Become an SEO Expert

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