The world is starting to get back to work with the shutdowns ending. If the last 30 days are any indication, the world of SEO is already back at full speed. Many great pieces have been published, and this roundup will carry you through some of the best.
First, we have a bumper crop of guides. We’ll start by looking at how to create linkable assets, what you need to know about Google Passage Ranking, and how beginners can approach link building. You’ll also learn about some pro email outreach strategies.
Next, we’ll look at some data studies that popped up last month. You’ll learn what the data says about the importance of topical authority and discover what’s possible with a look at the world’s most extensive list of content marketing examples.
At the end, you’ll find some of the biggest news drops in the last 30 days. Is Google adding dozens of new manual actions? Are they pulling back on featured snippets? Is SEO Andrew Ansley being extorted by a journalist who hates GoDaddy’s customer service? We’ll find out …
Creating Linkable Assets
I’m starting this list with a labor of love that I published at Authority Builders. A lot of great pieces have been written about where to source good links. I wanted to make a guide on how to build the kind of content that attracts links.
This kind of content is known as a “linkable asset.” Knowing how to create linkable assets is important because out of all the blog posts ever published online—millions upon millions of posts—only 6% have ever received a single backlink.
Think about how many wasted hours that represents. Probably more time than was spent building all the great monuments of the world put together. I think it’s possible to make it into that 6%, and this guide details the process.
I studied some of the most successful content online and organized them into categories.
- Studies & Research: Original research is really linkable. People like to use it to provide value to their visitors or to back up an argument with research.
- Free Tools: Software tools can be created easily on job sites like Upwork. If people in your industry rely on a formula, consider making a calculator that can solve it quickly.
- Coined Terms: If you can manage to coin a term for a concept that isn’t well-described in your industry, you can attract links from the mass of people referencing your work.
You’ll find more categories and descriptions on how to recognize them in the full article. I also laid out some steps you can follow to turn any of these types of content into successful linkable assets. You should find everything you need to start link building.
Creating great content can reward you with more than just links. Passage ranking has recently gone live, and the next guide includes some important releases on how to make the most of it.
What Is Google Passage Ranking: 16 Key Points You Should Know
Roger Montti brings us this look at some of the answers that Google has provided for questions about passage ranking. Passage ranking refers to Google’s new power to pull out and rank sections of your content rather than the entire page.
Google’s Martin Splitt provided the answers during a recent virtual conference.
- Will passages help long webpages?
Martin replied that it would. He went as far as to say, “that’s the core” of the change.
- Should publishers review and rewrite heading elements?
Martin stated that good structure could be helpful for almost any kind of content, but Google should be able to find relevant passages without it.
- What if SEO agencies and software publishers [offer] passage optimization?
Martin laughed at this question and suggested that any services sold this way wouldn’t have a noticeable effect.
- Will Google release a] passage testing tool?
Martin replied that Google wouldn’t be providing a tool and that passage ranking wasn’t developed in a way that gives you something to test.
The whole video chat can be seen here. It includes a lot of advice that experienced SEOs may be able to use. SEOs who are just starting out may benefit more from our next item: a beginner’s guide to link building.
The Beginner’s Guide to Link Building
Tim Soulo of Ahrefs brings us this helpful guide that can be easily passed off to the beginners that you know or are mentoring in SEO.
It covers the basics of link building, including why links matters, where to find them, how to assess them, and how to start building. It also includes a list of the best tools for beginners.
This is a helpful resource because a lot of the big guides about link building have outdated advice at this point. This one starts with some of the most up-to-date arguments for why you need links and the impact that they have on your site.
I liked that this list provided a lot of good sources and told beginners how to take advantage of them.
- Submitting your website to business directories
- Blog comments
- Guest blogging
- Resource page link building
- Unlinked mentions
- Private Blog Networks (PBNs)
- Creating linkable assets
- Content promotion
The final section lists some of the best tools available that beginners can use to research backlinks, research content, and perform email outreach.
It’s a great guide to send to anyone who has been passing their link-building questions to you. Our next (and final) guide for this roundup includes a novel technique for picking up links using email outreach.
4 Unique Link Building Strategies involving Email Outreach
Shane Dayton at Niche Pursuits brings us this podcast interview with Jeff Oxford. In the interview, Jeff lays out some unique approaches that he has taken to attracting links from top sites. He covers several strategies, including:
- Offering to update and improve existing content instead of writing a guest post
- Creating outreach friendly listicles
I found the first idea particularly interesting. Jeff lays it out like this: You reach out to sites with great but outdated content (not hard to find with all the recent updates), and offer to rewrite it for them to get it fresh for 2021.
This doesn’t involve much work on your part. You need to identify the passages that are no longer applicable and replace them with fresh advice. While you’re at it, you can insert links to more modern guides on your sites and see if they pass review.
There’s also some advice on how you can sell this pitch to the sites that you’ve targeted for outreach. If you’ve used this strategy a couple of times, you can use stats as proof that your rewrites will bring their content back to life.
He also covers how to earn links by creating specialized listicles. You identify several blogs you want links from and then organize them into a niche list. For example, you could do: Top 80 Crossfit Blogs, Top 60 Animal Welfare Blogs.
Reach out to the sites to find out if they’ll link back. They may appreciate being mentioned enough to give you a free link.
There’s a lot of other great advice here that’s worth checking out. Jeff is an insightful guy who has spent some time in the Chiang Mai SEO community, and he often comes up with great stuff.
Let’s move on to the case studies. First, we have some data that demonstrates the importance of ‘topical authority’.
Importance of Topical Authority: A Semantic SEO Case Study
Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR of OnCrawl brings us this look at how he increased monthly traffic from 10,000 to 200,000 over the course of a few months by using semantic SEO and topical authority.
The semantic web refers to the way that information is organized on the web. It allows machines to read data by using taxonomy (referring to the relationship between objects) and ontology (the nature of objects).
Recent Google moves, like the introduction of BERT, have been focused on making Google more effective as a semantic search engine. Koray used these principles to optimize his content, based on the principle he describes below:
“To be an authority for a topic in the eyes of a semantic search engine, a source should cover a thing’s different attributes within different contexts. It must also reference similar things and things in parent and child categories.”
Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR
Throughout the study, he shows how he optimized his sites without using any of the following traditional SEO strategies:
- Pagespeed Optimization
- Brand Power and Branding
- Technical SEO (That’s right: he didn’t use it.)
- Quality Web Page Layout and Design
- A Healthy Server
- OnPage SEO
Instead of these traditional strategies, he recommends that you take steps such as:
- Create a Topical Map Before Starting Publishing the First Article
- Connect Related Entities for a Topic within a Context
- Generate Questions and Answers for Possible Search Intents
- Find the Information Gap Instead of Keyword Gap
- Stop Caring About Keyword Volume or Difficulty
- Focus on Topical Coverage and Authority with Historical Data
He includes data to support these ideas throughout the study, along with tips on how you can implement them yourself. These tips are more practical to advanced users who have high-level tools at their disposal. For those advanced users, the data could be game-changing.
The next case study on our list is helpful to users at any level. It’s (supposedly) the world’s largest list of content marketing examples.
Content Marketing Examples: The World’s Largest List
Kyle Byers of GrowthBadger brings us this massive, browseable library of content marketing examples. While it’s not exactly a case study, it is a great resource that you can use to find samples of effective content fit for campaigns.
It’s helpfully broken down so that you can sort by either the format or type of strategy. Based on either category, you can narrow the list down to only one of the following subcategories for each of the large categories:
- Old school
- Product tie-in
You don’t just get image examples, either. Each entry includes a description of the sample and some ideas for how you could put something similar into practice. It’s a great destination when you’re having trouble brainstorming your next content marketing strategy.
Now, let’s move on to the news. First, we’ll look at Google’s 12 new types of manual action penalties.
Google Adds 12 New Types of Manual Action Penalties
Matt Southern of SEJ brings us this look at 12 new types of manual action (as in, issued by a human reviewer) penalties being introduced by Google. All of them are responses to violations of Google News and Discover policies.
In the past, only violations of Google Search policies were targeted with manual penalties. Now, your site may attract penalties if your site appears in either of these features and you do the following:
- Fail to provide clear dates and bylines (Google News)
- Post adult-themed content (Google Discover)
- Post misleading content by promising topics that are never covered (Google Discover)
- Post content that could harm people or animals (Both)
- Post bullying, harassing or threatening content (Both)
- Post manipulated audio, video, or images (Both)
- Post medical advice (Both)
- Post sexually explicit content (Both)
- Make terroristic threats (Both)
- Post violence or gore (Both)
- Use gratuitous profanities (Both)
If you manage to have a penalty applied to your site, you will receive a confirmation in Google Console. Fortunately, though, you will also be given information on how to recover and submit a reconsideration request.
Google made some additional changes to features over the last few weeks. SEOs are currently investigating if searches are now showing featured snippets less often.
Google Search may be Showing Featured Snippets less often
Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land brings us this news about significant declines in the appearance of featured snippets. The decline has been tracked across a series of tools.
Graphs from Moz, RankRanger, SEMrush, and others tracked the steep declines starting around Feb 18th. Several days later, on the 24th, some (but not all) tools showed that the use of featured snippets had recovered.
So far, Google has said nothing about what caused the dip. It may have been a bug, but it may also have been part of a deliberate experiment. Snippets have been subject to sudden changes since they were introduced, so there’s a possibility that another shift is on the horizon.
Our last news item falls on the stranger side of things. SEO Andrew Ansley became the subject of a kerfuffle in recent weeks over a domain registration. Let’s dive into the drama.
“Extortionist Journalist Picks A Fight With A Digital Marketer”
This last news item is fully detailed on the site: geoffolson.com. Who is Geoff Olson? Well, he’s a guy who let his domain registration expire. After that, Andrew purchased it, and the trouble started.
The story began simply enough. Geoff (self-identified as a Vancouver journalist) contacted Andrew and asked for the domain back. Andrew was fine with that. He just wanted the price that he paid for the domain.
They agreed on a price, but the domain was registered with GoDaddy. GoDaddy famously likes to tack on fees. When the price suddenly jumped thanks to transfer fees, Geoff became convinced that Andrew was playing with the price.
Even that was resolved, but when GoDaddy didn’t send the confirmation email (or Geoff didn’t find it and click the verify link), the transfer failed again.
At this point, both parties had been involved in the process for hours. Geoff was sending increasingly angry messages, and Andrew had still not been paid. Shortly afterward, Geoff returns with an ultimatum in the form of this email.
Geoff has accused Andrew of being a “cybersquatter”, and has claimed that he will write an entire story about Andrew—featuring his “name (and face)” if the domain is not returned in 5 days.
As Geoff puts it: “Don’t think of it as a threat. Think of it as an incentivization.”
Whatever reaction Geoff had in mind, it probably wasn’t the creation of this site and the posting of his messages.
We haven’t seen the end of this story yet, but if it gets juicier, you may find the conclusion here, in our SEO roundups.
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