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Basic SEO for new bloggers (Part 1)

May 26, 2020 | Seo | No Comments

For new bloggers, with no or little knowledge about SEO, getting their blog at the top of the Google ranking can be immensely overwhelming. However, new bloggers can take some respite over the fact that Google is very forthcoming about rewarding bloggers who are really passionate about their blogs. In short, Google is not biased against anyone. If anything, despite intense competition, Google offers a level playing field to everyone including newly launched blogs.  At the heart of it, the world’s popular search engine is non-discriminatory by nature.

Now coming to the SEO part then fortunately SEO is very simple, which should again bring a smile on the faces of new bloggers. But this is just a half-truth while the complete truth is that SEO is bit vast and succeeding in it takes lot of patience. But if patience is your loyal companion then probably nothing can stop you from monetizing your blog and earning decent amount of money every month.     

This article will focus on three important fundamentals that cover the very basic level of SEO. But since this article is quite expansive, I have divided this article in two parts. Hands down knowledge on these three important tenets should be good enough for new bloggers to get a good head start. 

The three important fundamentals that define the very basic SEO are keywords, content and backlinks.

Keywords

This section will cover three sub-topics

  • How to find keywords 
  • How to place the keywords
  • The importance of long tail keywords for newly launched blogs..

Keywords are everything and anything that people type in the Google search bar. Bloggers have to essentially chase and target these keywords in their blogs to stand any chance of visibility in the Google rankings.

This brings to our first sub-topic how to find keywords

How to find keywords

From free tools like Google Keyword Planner to scores of expensive paid tools, there are several ways to find right keywords for your blog. But given that most new bloggers operate on a low budget they love to grab anything that is free and Google Keyword Planner is indeed absolutely free (no strings attached whatsoever).

Google Keyword Planner has two sections ‘Discover New Keywords’ and Get Search Volume and Forecast.’ For those who have just started blogging, this free service by Google can prove more than handy.

However, there is one thing that is equally free and is more readily available than Google Keyword Planner. This free thing is called common sense. Admittedly, a good common sense is like an intuitional power that tells us everything about things we’re really curious & passionate about. Therefore if you’re really passionate about the industry that you’re blog caters to then conventionally you must know all the latest trends, likes and dislikes of your target customers, fundamental tenants so and so forth.

These so-called likes & dislikes and latest trends invariably become your keywords. For instance, in the case of online makeup & grooming blog, most keywords will be obviously revolving around the latest makeup trends, topics and makeup solutions.  

Conventional Keyword ideas for online makeup blogs

A new hairstyle that has become a rage.

A rising makeup artist who has caught the fancy of the media.

Simple and home-based tips for make-up and grooming.

A cosmetic brand that you think provides best solution for any skin type.

Before going ahead I would like to repeat it again that if you know the pulse of your industry and target audience then you’re 50% job is done in finding best possible keywords for your blog.   

Apart from common sense, using ‘Google auto suggest’ is also a great way of searching for keyword ideas. Google auto suggest is nothing but search suggestions you see when searching Google. These keywords feature in Google auto suggest only because people search for them on frequent basis and therefore they should ideally feature in your keyword list. 

Look at the below example

Just by typing makeup bolly Google auto suggest has thrown me quite a useful keyword ideas (Bollywood is an official name for Indian film industry). You can get scores of ideas like this by playing with different keywords.    

Another great way of searching for keyword ideas is to scroll down and check the bottom of the Google search page. Whenever you type a keyword and press search, Google by virtue of default function provides related searches to those keywords at the bottom of the page. These related searches are again frequently searched by people and hence are in-demand keywords.       

I have illustrated the example at the below screen shot. I searched for Bollywood makeup tutorial and got eight related searches to the keyword at bottom of the page.    

How to place keywords (placement of keywords) 

Now that you know some handy tricks to search for keyword ideas, the next step is to know about the placement of keywords. Where do you really place those keywords? Well, there are some places where keywords have to be placed compulsorily; like in the title and the URL link.

These two places are absolutely uncompromised as far as your keyword placement is concerned. The chances of your blog post featuring in Google ranking is nearly impossible if the targeted keyword is not placed in the title and URL link.

Moving beyond title and URL link, your keyword has to conventionally feature, at least once, in the first paragraph of the article. By using targeted keyword in quick succession in the title, URL link and first paragraph, you’ve given enough signals to Google that your article is trying to target certain set of readers with the help of this keyword. Now it is different matter that Google is unlikely to feature your article on the first page of ranking unless your site is backed by quality backlinks (more on that a bit later).

Now I would like to talk about ‘density of keywords,’ which means how many times the keyword should ideally appear in your entire article. Actually there isn’t any exact statistical answer to this question but most SEO experts agree that roughly keyword should not appear more than 5-6 times (including in the title) for a 300 word article. Keyword density is always subjective to the length of your article and therefore keyword should ideally appear 10-11 times (including the title) for a 600 word article.

Before I rap up this sub-section, I would like to highlight that don’t fall prey to the old tactics of overstuffing the keywords in your article. Those good old days of conning Google with such cheap tactics are all but over. Google will most certainly penalize your website if it finds several articles have repeatedly committed this offence. Lastly, all the keywords appearing in your articles should make editorial sense and their placement must be purely contextual. In other words, none of your keywords should be forcefully inserted. Over the years Google’s algorithm has become highly sophisticated, thanks to technologies like artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP).          

Importance of long tail keyword

Apart from primary and secondary keywords, keywords are also categorized into short tail and long tail keywords. But here we’ll be talking only about long tail keywords, which is actually a fancy name for long keywords. Any keyword whose length goes beyond three words is conventionally termed as long tail keyword.

For example, ‘Uber’ and ‘Uber ride’ are short tail keywords while ‘special Uber rides for handicapped people’ is a perfect example of long tail keyword. But mind you length alone does not define long tail keywords, since they are also more definitive and conclusive in nature. This essentially means they usually seek to find a conclusive answer to a question or definitive solution to a particular problem; something that is not always true about short tail keywords.

For instance, in the example of Uber ride it is striving to solve the problem of handicapped people.

Now coming to the important point, why is long tail keyword so important for newly launched blogs? Well, this is because there is so much less competition for long tail keywords. They are like low hanging fruits and newly launched blogs (plagued by minimal traffic and almost no backlinks) should be very forthcoming about garbing these low hanging fruits.

Long tail keywords are low hanging fruits but they act like a tonic that helps new blogs to survive and lays a foundation for its consistent visibility in the Google rankings. Once this foundation is firmly established your blog can then realistically start targeting highly competitive keywords or short keywords 

Here are some statistics to highlight the competition for short and long keywords

In Google keyword planner, the monthly average search volume for the word ‘make up’ is 10k- 1 Mn and comes under the category of medium competition. On other hand, the monthly average search volume for long tail keyword ‘make up tips for oily skin’ is as low as 100-1k.

Now it is no brainer that for a blog that was only launched barely a month ago, getting any visibility on Google ranking for a highly competitive keyword like ‘makeup’ is almost impossible. But the same blog stands more than a decent chance to rank for low competitive keyword ‘make up tips for oily skin.’

To shed more light on the competition aspect, check out the below chart.   

In the above chart, we can clearly see that competition for short keywords ‘Tomato’ and ‘Digital Marketing’ is simply too high, with average monthly search volume hovering around 1 Mn.  Barely two or three month old blogs don’t have much chance to rank themselves for these keywords. On other hand, 

Advantages of using long tail keywords for new blogs  

  • Low competition
  • High conversion rate – Remember I told you that long tail keywords usually seek to find answers and solutions to particular problems. If you’re blog posts are consistently managing to offer flawless answers and solutions then it will earn good number of loyal readers steadily and thereby bring that much needed organic traffic for your website. And this is what high conversion rate is all about.
  • Survival tonic: With onslaught of competition from high ranking blogs in your niche, long tail keywords with low competition act like a survival tonic for newly launched blogs. Remember that to thrive and grow, you’ve to first survive the competition.         

How to find long tail keywords

Use the earlier discussed tactics of Google auto suggest and related searches to the keywords (at the bottom of the page) to find ideas for long tail keywords as well. Remember to play with different keywords while searching in Google auto suggest. Here i would also like to reiterate again that your in-depth knowledge about your industry & field is equally important for finding ideas for any type of keywords, be it short keyword or long tail keywords.

Subscription to paid backlink analysis tools like Aherfs, Semrush and Majestic can also prove to be goldmine for finding ideas for long tail keywords. But mind you they are damn expensive and they charge hefty monthly subscription fees for availing their services.

Fortunately, there are some free tools that can play the ‘rescue act’ for new bloggers. Say hi to one such free tool ‘Answer The Public (answerthepublic.com), it is a website that tells you what people are asking and talking about in the online word with regard to your industry.  Over the years, this online platform has become immensely popular among the SEO professionals for keyword ideas….

Just type any keyword pertaining to your niche, press search and then click on ‘download CSV’ to download the excel sheet. The excel sheet will throw up tonnes of keywords that it may almost take an hour for you to select and make a final list of favorite keywords you wish to target.

For instance, searching for the keyword ‘makeup’ got me some interesting keyword ideas like ‘which makeup brands are vegan’ and ‘how makeup affects your mental health.’ Both keywords, according to Google Keyword Planner, fall under low competition and seems pretty unique choices in their ability to attract organic traffic for any new blog dealing with makeup and related keywords.

You can also use popular public forums Quora to know about what your target consumers are talking about. Type any keyword pertaining to your niche in Quora and you’ll find tonnes of questions that your target customers are seeking to find an answer for.   

Although guest posting has always posed an unethical dilemma for most SEO and digital marketing professionals, the practice of guest posting continues to rule the roost in the SEO world. Many SEO experts claim quite unabashedly that guest posting will continue to remain the foundation of link building strategy, no matter the repeated warnings and red flags raised by Google.

Since guest posting is key to the success of SEO and even digital marketing industry, their obsession to keep this practice alive is quite understandable. However, at the same time, they can ill afford to take for granted Google’s policies about guest posting; more so because Google keeps updating these policies time and again.

And it seems Google, in recent weeks, has once again updated its guidelines with regards to guest posting. Popular digital marketing professional, Roger Montti, recently authored an article in searchenginejournal.com about Google’s latest manual penalties against sites that have published guest posts with unnatural links.    

Montti has claimed in the article that quite a few guest posting websites have received warning from google while few sites have been directly penalized with manual penalty. Below I shared the screen shots that Montti shared with its readers. 

screenshot 1
screenshot 2

The screenshot show details of the email wherein Google has warned the concerned guesting posting website of likely consequences if desired actions (converting anchor link from dofollow to nofollow) are not taken.

However, this is not the only website that has recently faced Google’s ire for violating their guest posting rules.

Reports doing around across the social media strongly suggest that other websites may have been already penalized for failing to comply with mandated rules.

Below I have shared the screenshot of Alan Bleiwiss’ tweet informing about one of his client reporting about the outbound penalty.

So is this the beginning of end of guest posting?

Any doomsday prediction about guest posting will prove to be a major exaggeration, no matter how hard Google goes after guest posting. As mentioned above, guest posting is simply too critical for the existence of SEO industry and therefore Seo professionals will continue to practice guest posting, albeit using white hat techniques.

In the above cited example, Google has penalized a guest post with unnatural link, which is obviously a black hat technique. In the mail, the Search engine giant has stated that it has discounted anchor link’s link juice and requested the website to convert the anchor link from dofollow to nofollow.  

Since Google is immensely critical about unnatural links, it is important for bloggers and SEO professionals to understand what really constitutes unnatural links.

What is unnatural link?

Unnatural links are artificially inserted links that are mainly intended to stimulate the ranking of the target website. When we say artificially inserted, it means that they don’t really add any editorial value to the content and therefore doesn’t qualify as ‘contextual links.’

In my last two posts that dealt with brand mention and podcast, I had stated that today Google is leveraging cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to make its algorithm more sophisticated and powerful.

Therefore, today Google can probably detect and spot those unnatural links more accurately as well as easily than few years back.  

If you are currently busy in writing guest post for fetching backlinks, here is a checklist of do’s and don’ts to ensure that your guest posts does not accidently become victim of unnatural links.   

  • Absolutely ensure that your anchor link is adding editorial value to the content; they should not be forcefully inserted for the sake of adding anchor link.
  • Don’t over-optimize your anchor link by stuffing it with lot of keywords
  • In case if you’re using branded anchor link then again ensure that it is adding editorial value to your guest post content.
  • Please avoid pursuing low ranking guest posting websites, since guest posts published in such sites are vulnerable to penalties.

Conclusion:

This is not the first time that Google has gone after guest posts with unnatural links and this won’t be last time either. In future if you want your guest post not to fall prey to Google’s manual penalties then maintain your ethical SEO standards pretty high. Apart from sheer incompetency and ignorance, low ethical SEO standards are often deemed as a major factor responsible for high usage of unnatural links across guest posts.     

If you as a blogger still haven’t started taking podcasts seriously then this conventionally accounts for a missed opportunity. And in today’s highly competitive world, nothing is more regrettable than missing a golden opportunity.

In developed countries like US and UK podcast is already a big thing and today scores of bloggers in these countries have already started infiltrating into podcast space to seize the first mover advantage.

Image Courtesy: Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

The popularity of podcast is also increasing in great leaps and bounds in developing countries like India and Brazil.

Search engine giant Google has duly recognized the growing popularity of podcast by announcing in last year’s I/O conference that it will soon start indexing podcasts.

Google already shows Youtube videos in its SERPs and is obviously matter of time that podcasts will also follow the suit sooner or later. 

There is no doubt that emergence of cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence and natural language processing has boosted Google algorithm’s ability to spot verbalized keywords in the podcast and rank them accordingly.

Additionally, all thanks to NLP, we can all expect Google to skip to the exact timestamp and timeline to spot the exact verbalized keyword within the podcast. This will add immensely to the overall user experience, since users won’t have to invest too much effort in finding verbalized keywords.

Stats that prove Podcast’s Popularity is for ‘Real’

  • In 2019, nearly 165 Mn people in the US listened to podcast.
  • In 2019, almost 100 Mn people in the US listened to podcast every week.
  • As per leading survey, in 2019 there were over 700,000 active podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes available in the U.S.
  • Developing country and one of the fastest growing economies ‘India’ is already world’s third largest podcast market.
  • By end of 2018, podcast listeners in India already crossed 40 million at the end of 2018 – growing 57% annually.

Podcast is still in highly nascent stage and this important fact cannot be discounted either. In fact, this medium is so new that it has not even reached halfway mark if compared with availability and saturation point that blogs and Youtube videos have reached. 

For instance, the current number of podcasts available on internet barely accounts for 1 million as compared to mind boggling 500 Mn blogs and 30 Mn Youtube videos currently active in the internet world.

Podcasts has not even reached scratched the surface yet and therefore potential for growth it offers is really immense and huge for early movers.   

How to really start podcasting?

Don’t freak out if I tell that you’ll have to invest some money to start podcasting on your blog or want to become professional podcaster. Simply because you don’t necessarily have to spend a bomb to make debut in the podcasting space, unless you really have deep pockets to spulrage.

Here is what you need to start podcasting

  • A good microphone – Since microphone helps in improving and amplifying sound quality, it is an essential ingredient for good podcasting. However, as indispensible as microphone is, this nowhere means that only highly branded and costly ones prove to be good for podcasting. Even relatively inexpensive microphones can help you in recording good podcast. If you’re really on a tight budget then I personally recommend not spending beyond $40-50 on a microphone.  Good numbers of microphones are available in this price range on Amazon.com.  Please note amateur podcasters need not spend money in buying other equipments like mixer, headphone amplifier and boom mic.
  • Audio recording software: Audio recording software is what will help to give highly professional touch to your podcast. The software basically helps in improving sound quality by removing needless noises/clutter as well as adding lots of sound effects to your podcast. Here again you have the option of splurging or go for a complete free option. If you have good moolah then spending on podcast specialist audio recording software like Auphonic will prove to be good idea. But if budget is the real concern then settle for free but really good sound recording software like Audacity.
  • Podcast hosting: Here too you’ll face the dilemma of going for a free or paid service but this time I will personally encourage you to settle for the latter. The temptation for opting for free podcasting hosting services like Anchor may be very high, especially because paid podcasting costs pretty decent amount of money. And boy, Anchor is pretty good for all its unlimited hosting space and adverting earning opportunities. But the problem is free hosting service may not give complete control over your own podcast content, which is pretty cruel and frustrating to say the least. It is important to remember that anything and everything that is free comes with strings attached.                          

Here are some of the best paid podcast posting services

  1. Buzzsprout
  2. Libsyn
  3. Podbean
  • Podcast plugins: Podcast plugins will prove more than handy in simplifying your task on many accounts. Once integrated with your hosting services, plugins help to host multiple podcasts right from your WordPress dashboard. The good thing is that you don’t even have to leave your wordpress dashboard. Additionally, plugins help to create pretty decent cover image and also ease off other complicated tasks.
  • Design Software for making cover page: Although several WordPress podcast plugins help to make decent cover page but if you want more control on your cover page then settling for third party tools like Canva makes lot of sense. Based on freemium model, Canva offers limited features to free account holders but this should be sufficient enough to make decent cover page.

The usage of word ‘decent’ should not imply that cover page is not important. Since cover page is the first thing that people will see before they actually lend their ears, it obviously assumes huge importance. Therefore, don’t commit the mistake of underestimating the importance of good cover page.

Please note that you don’t have to take the trouble of submitting each and every podcast to Apple Itunes, Spotify and Google podcast. In most cases, your hosting service provider will do this job on your behalf. 

Bloggers will have to focus on the SEO aspect to achieve desirable success in podcasting, which will obviously result in good advertising revenue.     

But I will touch on the SEO aspect in some other blog posts. That said, I do hope that this particular blog post will help my readers in clearing several doubts about podcasting, especially why you should be joining the podcast bandwagon.

Last but not least, if you happen to be a shy and introvert person like me then do not allow it to stop you from podcasting. In fact, today several introverts and not so confident public speakers happen to be successful podcasters.       

The SEO world’s steady tilt towards the practice of brand mention and online citations of brands is a clear diversion from ‘old SEO school’ philosophy that lays overwhelming importance on backlinks or link building campaigns.     

This significant shift has been happening since 2014, after Google began to refine its algorithm to look for creditable search ranking factors beyond the realm of traditional backlinks. This, however, does not mean that backlinks are no longer that important factor (more on that bit later).

So what is Brand Mention or Linkless mention

Brand mention simply means mentioning of brand names of products and services or company’s actual name. These brand mentions have to be contextual in nature, occurring within the context of blog posts, website articles or social media posts.

More importantly, brand mention is never hyperlinked and they never point towards the source website. Hence it is also referred as ‘linkless mention.’

A classic example of brand Mention would be contextual mention of brands like MoZ and Ahrefs. Since this blog post is about SEO, the mention of popular SEO & digital marketing brands like MOZ and Ahrefs would make it highly contextual. Please note that both brands that are mentioned above are linkless.   

Since this is immensely important, I would like to repeat it again that brand mentions have to be contextual for them to carry any real SEO value.

Why Google started attaching so much importance to brand mention

It is all too well known that Google clandestinely and secretly keeps updating its algorithm from time to time. The search engine giant carries out these clandestine operations to checkmate all those who follow manipulative black hat techniques.  

The prominence of brand mention probably started increasing following customary algorithm update that was supposedly carried out in 2014. This was the year when fixing the manipulative link building practices was high on Google’s mind.

Today we can safely assume that brand mention ranks pretty high in Google’s long list of 200 ranking factors.

Google lays lot of importance on brand mention because it signifies trust and authority, just like backlink does. For the wolrd’s most popular search engine, mentioning of brand in a blog and social media posts essentially means that the specific brand carries an authority in a particular niche.   

If the same brand finds repeated mention in other blogs and social media posts then this should conventionally lead to its higher visibility on Google search result.

When it comes to brand mention, Google highly leverages the power of semantics, language learning and artificial intelligence. It is obviously through periodic updates (as has been hinted above), these cutting edge technologies have become integral part of Google’s algorithm.           

Google highly relies on these cutting edge technologies to know every possible virtue about the brand mention. For instance, the contextual value of the brand and the language praising around the brand that eventually helps to determine worthiness of the brand.    

So how much link juice does brand mention offers      

The answer is pretty subjective. If the brand mention has taken place on a high authority website then it will most certainly pass lot of link juice. For instance, if in future a high authority website like aherfs.com or MOZ.com were to mention a newly launched website like Digitaltrending.co.in then it is likely to do wonders for the ranking of digitaltrending.           

Google will recognize digitaltrending as a genuine authority in the field of SEO and digital marketing, since it has been recommended by a trustworthy site like aherfs.com and MOZ.com.

This also implies that low or possibly no link juice will be passed if brand mention takes place on a low authority website.      

The issue of link juice becomes tricky when it comes to social media posts, since social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are by default nofollow websites.

Although nofollow websites don’t offer any link juice, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Linkedin are sort of exceptions. They are exceptions because Google gives lot of prominence to signals emanating from social media platforms.

This is often dubbed as social media signals or social media proofs. Therefore brand mentions in social media feeds and posts (either in the form of hashtags & otherwise) do carry weightage.

How to increase Brand Mention

There are no shortcuts in anything and brand mention is no exception. No one is ever going to mention your brand (at least not high authority sites) unless it is really worth it. Unless you’re brand resonates with trust and authority in its own niche, high authority website will not even scantly think of mentioning your brand.     

The only way out is to keep persistently trying to improve your product, service or blog’s brand quotient and make it worthy enough for others to write and mention about it.

Here are some valuable tips to increase the chances of brand mention

  • Be absolutely passionate about making your brand shine in the highly competitive market.
  • Keep updating your blog or website with fresh content to demonstrate your knowledge/expertise or your product/service’s uniqueness.
  • Leverage social media platforms to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge with your target audience by regularly sharing your blog posts.
  • Get involved & engaged in several social media forums (including Quora) to tell the world that you are capable of solving several queries and problems pertaining to you’re niche. Your expertise knowledge can help in spreading lot of positive word-of-mouth about your brand. 
  • Regularly write guest posts on medium-to-high domain authority websites. Apart from securing backlinks, this is an important branding exercise that must be duly leveraged.    

How to find brand mention of your product or blog     

There are several paid tools that help you to find the brand mention of your product or blog in the online world. Apart from helping to convert unlinked mention into backlinks, these tools also help in other areas like offering deep insight and analytics report about how your brand is performing in the online world.

  • Mention.com
  • Talkwalker.com (free tool)
  • Brandmentions.com 

Please note that several backlink analysis tools like Aherfs and Semrush also have integrated features that help in tracking brand mentions across the digital footprint.                           

Is Brand mention substitute to Backlinks

No..absolutely not. As important as brand mentions have become for Google ranking, backlinks continues to remain the main foundation of Google search ranking. Therefore never make the mistake of taking brand mention as a substitute to backlinks.

The best possible approach is to never forget the foundational importance of backlinks but also never take for granted the importance of brand mention either.           

Important points to remember

Before wrapping up this blog post, let us sum up all the important points that have been covered in this article.

  • Brand mentions have to be mandatorily contextual in nature
  • Prefer medium to high authority websites for brand mention; higher the authority, more link juice will be passed.
  • Although social media platforms are nofollow websites by default, brand mentions on these websites still carry a lot of weightage.
  • There are no shortcuts in achieving success in brand mention….you got be persistent to make your product or blog worthy of mention.
  • Brand mention can never act as a substitute for backlinks.

Is Link Exchange Black or White Hat Technique?

January 6, 2020 | Seo | No Comments

Link Exchange (also known as reciprocal links) is probably one of the most contentious issues in the SEO world. The sensitivity of this issue can be gauged by the fact that even though Google webmaster tool terms excessive link exchange as a bad thing, reciprocal links is still widely practiced across the SEO industry. This clear rebellion against Google’s guidelines clarifies defies logic, since it clearly invites the risk of penalties eventually resulting in massive drop in search ranking.

Before demystifying this strange behavior, we’d like to look into basic definition of link exchange or when is any act termed as link exchange practice.

What really is link exchange?  

As is evident from the name, link exchange simply means I’ll link you and you’ll link me back. As and when this link exchange takes place by the virtue of reciprocation, the action is termed as ‘link exchange. The process of link exchange can be started or initiated through several avenues, with e-mail being the most popular medium wherein the owners of two websites discuss about the potential of linking back to each other’s website. However, over the years social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have emerged as breeding ground for link exchanges.  

However, a link exchange doesn’t necessarily have to be voluntary in nature. It can also be done involuntarily. For instance, you accidentally came to know that a relatively well known website has linked to your website and as a goodwill gesture your website also reciprocates by linking back to the same website.

In this case, though links have been swapped without any communication taking place between respective website owners, this still qualifies as a link exchange in the eyes of Google.     

Demystifying Google’s policy on link exchange

Finally we arrive at the demystifying part. Google’s policy is quite unambiguous about link exchange practices, with the search engine giant clearly stating it is against ‘excessive link usage.’ Most professionals in the SEO & digital marketing industry have inferred the term ‘excessive link usage’ quite literally and therefore justify their moderate affiliation towards link exchange practices. Based on my exhaustive experience in the SEO industry, I can personally vouch that these professionals are absolutely right in exercising their moderate affiliation towards link exchange schemes. This is to say that Google is fine with moderate use of link exchange.

But then the question arises what really qualifies as excessive and when does it become clear that they are dangerously lurking near the threshold. There is no clear cut answer to this and SEO professionals have to take decisive decision based on their own individual calling, since they are fully aware to what extend they have exploited link exchange for fetching backlinks. If they have indeed over exploited it then there is an urgent need to stop abusing the practice as soon as possible.

SEO and digital marketing professionals also need to checkout respective website’s outbound and backlink profiles to fully ascertain that link exchange has been fully abused or not. For instance, a website has nearly 500 backlinks and a thorough link analysis exercise proves that out of 500 backlinks nearly 40% have been earned through link exchange program then this is a clear case of being lurking in the danger zone. On the contrary, out of 500 backlinks only 8-10% links have been earned through link exchange program then it can be confidently said that the site is in the safe zone.

It is no brainer that for Google 40% (as opposed to only 8-10%) links earned through link exchange is most likely to qualify as a black hat techquine.

In the next section, we’ll be looking into when you should be saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to link exchange opportunities. But before going ahead, I would like to make it amply clear that newly launched sites and sites with low visibility in search engine ranking are more likely to resort to link exchange schemes.  This is not to say that well established sites or sites with high visibility in search ranking never resort to link exchange programs. 

When to say ‘No’ to link exchange program

  • The website is not even scantly related to your site’s niche. For example, the concerned website is about automobiles and bikes while your website is purely about SEO & digital marketing. It must be remembered that Google attaches lot of importance to relevancy factor while indexing your backlink profile and therefore too many non-relevant sites can result in drop in ranking.
  • When a website has way too many outbound links, which is actually not a good thing from SEO perspective. Too many outbound links strongly indicates that the website has already over-abused link exchange schemes and may have been even penalized by Google.  
  • When the site looks downright tacky and shambolic. The site is very badly designed and doesn’t even have a proper navigation. It feels like either the site was only launched yesterday or the concerned owner is simply not serious about operating his website. 
  • When a website has too much of low quality content – has too many grammatical mistakes and most of the content appears to be completely out of context.               

When to say ‘Yes’ to link exchange program

  • When the website is related to your site’s niche and also boosts decent-to-high domain authority. 
  • When website boosts lot of high quality content (content is related to your site’s niche) and the website overall looks immensely promising, even though it may currently boost low domain authority.
  • Website may not be exactly related to your site’s niche but both are bounded by common high ranking keywords. More importantly, the website also passes the litmus test of high quality content.        

Conclusion: when it comes to link exchange,white and black hat techniques are divided by relatively thin line. Not seizing enough link exchange opportunities may cost you some worthy backlinks and overexploiting it may invite Google penalties. Therefore, practicing certain degree of moderation is always advisable when indulging in link exchange schemes.  Lastly, notwithstanding all the rumors there is still no conclusive evidence that backlinks acquired through link exchange (as opposed to single or one sided links) pass less link juice. Nonetheless, you’re website’s backlink profile should always be heavily tilted towards single or one sided links.                    

Guest Posting in SEO – Few Important Facts to Know

December 29, 2019 | Seo | No Comments

In my previous article I had classified guest posting as one of the most important strategies and tactics for fetching backlinks. But here I would like to go one step further by claiming that guest posting pretty much forms the backbone of the entire link building exercise. Ask any digital marketing or SEO professional and they will openly tell you about how overwhelmingly they rely on guest posting to fetch backlinks for their clients.

This article won’t shed light on guest posting’s basic facts like the need to write quality guest posts that is free from plagiarism, insertion of outbound link (anchor link), catering to only those guest posting websites that pertain to your client’s niche so and so forth. Instead this article will seek to unravel those facts that are immensely important yet ignored.

Basically, this article will look into three important aspects that are very critical for the success of any guest posting article. These three important aspects are:  

  1. How to pitch for a guest posting article. 
  2. Contextual links.
  3. How to find if the guest posting site is dofollow or nofollow.   
  4. How much time Google takes to Recognize and Crawl new Backlinks

How to pitch for a guest posting article

I would like to make it clear beforehand that guest posting is a very tedious and time-consuming exercise and the first step in this lengthy exercise is writing a ‘pitch.’ This pitch is obviously meant for the owners of websites that accepts guest posts. Here I would like to remind that in the previous article I had discussed about how one can easily find websites that accept guest posts through Google auto search. But here again I would like to reiterate – just like I did in my previous article – that backlink analysis tools like Ahrefs, Majestics and Semrush will prove much more handy than auto search.

Now coming back to the pitch then it is more about writing a persuasive pitch. Your pitch must be persuasive enough to convince the website owner that you’re indeed a no-nonsense SEO or digital marketing professional and will strictly adhere to the guest posting guidelines of the website. Although there are no hard and fast rules about writing a pitch but your willingness to convince on certain critical aspects may help you in getting faster approval from the site owner. And the quick approval will only help you to get the ball rolling and speedup the guest posting exercise.

The following template is my personal favorite and I use it quite often while pitching for guest posting articles.

Hi sir/madam (name of the site owner)

This is Girish Shetti, a freelance SEO analyst. I just happen to come across your blog and was glad to know that your blog accepts guest posts. I am personally impressed with your blog and strongly believe that your website is playing a vital role in enhancing the knowledge of your targeted readers. The strong resonance and increasing afflation with your website has promoted me to pitch for a guest post on behalf of my esteem client. In keeping with the spirit of your blog, I assure you that the guest post will be highly informative, knowledgeable and will also fully adhere to other important guidelines prescribed by your blog.                     

Here are some of the topics that I would like to write on

  1. Topic no 1
  2. Topic no 2
  3. Topic no 3

The above template is brief and concise but is to the point. Attaching topics in the introductory mail itself will help to speedup the process. This brings me to the important point that you’re topics shouldn’t be too common or something that has been covered very extensively. Unique topics or topics that have not been widely covered probably stand the higher chance of getting faster approval.  Therefore it is all the more important to conduct thorough research for searching good topics and only then proceed towards pitching for guest posting articles.    

Before wrapping up this point, I would like to reiterate again that there are no hard and fast rules that only a particular template or pattern must be followed. As long as all the important points are covered and professional tone is maintained, one can follow any pattern or template.  

Placement of contextual link:

Guest posting in today’s times strictly revolves around contextual links, since author bio links have largely become outdated and Google is known to be flagging them as spammy or suspicious links.

Contextual links are essentially placed in the body of the main content with the help of anchor text. Anchor text is a simply clickable or visible text that carries the all important contextual link in the hyperlink format. Below is the example of anchor text.

If you plan to utilize the internet for your job search or for improving your entertainment quotient, having a Third-Party DNS Service is the ideal way to spend your time online.

In the above example, the text “spend your time online” is obviously the anchor text as it is the only clickable and visible text in the entire content. The hyperlink portion is also known by the term anchor link. Click on it and you’ll invariably land on a different website, which in this case is lifehack.org.  In a nutshell, due to the above example lifehack.org has received a backlink from digitaltrending.co.in.        

Anchor text, in essence, plays immensely vital role in any guest posting article and their placement invariably has to be contextual in nature. By contextual, we mean that the anchor text has to be in context of the surrounding idea of the paragraph. Anchor text, in other words, should not be enforced forcefully in the body content.  Mind you, Google’s algorithm is sharp and intelligent enough to know whether your anchor link is contextual or not. In case if Google finds that the anchor link is not contextual then it won’t pass the backlink juice and all your hard work in creating guest posting article will go in complete vain.   

Below are few important things to be borne in mind about anchor text

  • Anchor text should neither be too short nor too long. It should be preferably within the range of 4-6 words.
  • Anchor text must preferably have a key word, can be primary or secondary keyword.  Although this is not mandatory, as long as your anchor text is contextual in nature the absence of keyword won’t make much difference. 
  • Feel free to use ‘branded anchor text.’  The example of branded anchor text is to use ‘Ahrefs’ as anchor text for linking to https://ahrefs.com/. In branded anchor text, brand name (Ahrefs) is directly used to link to the targeted website (ahrefs.com).  in such cases, one can make an exception by using immensely short anchor text wherein nothing but only brand name is used (for example, Ahrefs). However, again the importance of making anchor text contextual should not be forgotten.          

How to find the website/blog is dofollow or nofollow 

Image Source: Quora

Here is a trick question: How can you ascertain that the website or blog that you’re pitching is actually dofollow or nofollow? This trick question mostly doesn’t apply to those who have subscribed to paid backlink analysis tools like Majestic and Semrush. But this trick question certainly applies to those who have not subscribed to such tools.

This question actually becomes less tricky and even irrelevant particularly in cases where websites or blogs openly advertise about accepting guest posts. In such cases, it is given that such websites are dofollow by default and should be pitched for guest posting articles. But unfortunately majority of websites don’t openly flaunt their policies regarding guest posting articles, leaving the question whether the site is dofollow or nofollow quite open ended.

 If this dilemma remains unresolved then there is every chance that you may end up wasting ample amount of time by pitching to websites that are nofollow.

The simplest way to resolve this dilemma is through a simple chrome extension called ‘NoFollow.’ This chrome extension will let you know whether any website is dofollow or nofollow within few minutes.  The extension is lightweight and is highly reliable as it is known to work smoothly and offer accurate information. Owing to its high reliability, NoFollow has become amongst my favorite SEO extensions.

How much time Google takes to Recognize and Crawl new Backlinks

Image source: Pixabay, Simon Steinberger

So your guest post article is finally published and now you’re desperately waiting to see ranking or traffic boost for your client’s website.  But unfortunately Google doesn’t function according to our or anyone’s whim. Google’s algorithm has its own mind.

Frankly, there is no concrete answer as to how much time Google takes to recognize and crawl new backlinks. Many experts claim that the timespan is largely determined by key SEO metrics including domain authority (DA) of websites (DA of site that published the guest post article as well as of the client’s website),  how old is the domain so and so forth.

SEO experts claim that sites with good DA are more likely to get preferential treatment from Google when it comes to recognizing their updated backlink profile. But again there are no hard and fast rules as I have come across exceptional cases wherein sites with poor DA have also got preferential treatment from Google.

Nonetheless, based on my personal experience I can certainly claim with fair degree of surety that Google takes at least one week or 8-10 days. All those who are using backlink analysis tools (ahrefs and semrush) will easily come to know as and when their backlinks get acknowledged and crawled. As for those who are not using tools, they might as well have to depend on Google analytics.  

So you’re new to the SEO world or have just started a new blog that is struggling to get even a decent traffic. And it just happens so that you’ve never heard of the word ‘backlinks.’ If this is indeed the case then here is a cardinal truth: backlinks is the most invaluable asset in the SEO world.

Image Source: Flickr

Simply put, without mastering the art of securing high quality backlinks no SEO professional has any chance of succeeding nor does your newly launched blog has any chance of getting any proper visibility in the Google ranking.                  

Backlinks refers to all the incoming links to your website or blog. In most cases, each of the incoming links represents an individual website that has chosen to link to your website because of the high trust and other favorable factors. In most cases you may never know which sites are linking to your website unless you’ve subscribed to or using backlink analysis tools like Ahrefs, SEO Moz and Majestics.

But you did not have to subscribe to these highly expensive tools, not unless your basics about how to fetch backlinks and link building process is clear. In this regard, this article will help in laying a strong foundation in fetching backlinks or link building process for all those who are new blog owners or are absolutely new to the SEO world.       

Your content has to be rich and data driven:

Articles driven by quality content and immensely rich data will help to fetch lot of ‘organic backlinks’ for your newly launched blog and this will obviously have a good impact on your blog’s overall Google ranking.

Now what is organic backlinks? Well, ‘organic backlinks’ are those backlinks that are secured without you having to perform any outreach campaign (mostly done via e- mails).  In other words, someone has found the articles in your blog immensely useful and has decided to cite the URL of your blog in one of the articles published in his own website.

Now your blog can create plethora of such organic backlinks if you’re able to consistently churn out quality articles. Trust me, if you can pull this off then your blog can secure decent number of high quality organic backlinks within 6-7 months.                                            

By quality I obviously mean that your website or blog articles should add to the overall knowledge of the readers. It has to give some ‘invaluable information’ to readers that none of your competitors are giving. It may be a ‘deep insight’ into a specific topic that your blog deals with or bold opinions that perfectly resonate with your target readers.

And don’t forget to add some valuable stats and figures and if possibly some charts and diagrams to further substantiate your topic. Infographics can also be good alternative to charts and diagrams especially considering that they add lot of SEO value to any article. Now there is lot of debate regarding this among the SEO experts but there is no refuting the fact that today ‘Infographics’ are big hit among the readers and are therefore highly recommended.

Do Guest posting:

Whileorganic backlinks are certainly good but there is a limit to how much organic backlinks a newly launched blog can secure. Not to mention collecting backlinks organically is time consuming and can pretty much test your patience. And this is where the importance of guest posting pops up.

Ask any SEO expert about guest posting and the prompt answer that will come is that it is the most important aspect of link building exercise.

Guest posting simply means writing an article for someone else website, which conventionally should be a medium-to-high authority website. Whatever guest post you will write should obviously have the link or URL address of your blog. As and when your guest posts get published, your blog will end up getting a much needed backlink.

But how does one get to know about websites that accept guest posts. Well, a simple Google search can fetch you tones of information about websites that do accept guest posts. Be extremely specific about the keywords while doing the Google search. For example, if your blog is about cryptocurrency then you should be searching like ‘cryptocurrency guest posts’ or ‘write for us cryptocurrency guest post.’

Below is a list of search strings that most people use to find guest posting opportunities through Google search:

  • Your Keyword “guest post opportunities”
  • Your Keyword “this is a guest post by”
  • Your Keyword “contributing writer”
  • Your Keyword “want to write for”
  • Your Keyword “submit blog post”
  • Your Keyword “contribute to our site”
  • Your Keyword “guest column”
  • Your Keyword “submit content”
  • Your Keyword “submit your content”
  • Your Keyword “submit post”
  • Your Keyword “This post was written by”
  • Your Keyword “guest post courtesy of ”
  • Your Keyword “guest posting guidelines”

Use low Competitive Keywords:

Your barely few month old blog will end up punching above its weight if it tries to target highly competitive keywords; your blog won’t stand a chance to get anywhere near to 3rd or 4th page of Google ranking (let alone 1st page).  Therefore, the realistic choice is to resort to low competitive keywords where the competition is medium to low and thereby your new blog has the decent chance to increase visibility in the Google ranking and also stand a realistic chance of securing backlinks.    

Google’s keyword planner and other free as well as paid tools can unveil lots of low competitive keywords in your niche. However, if you end up finding yourself clueless amid all the jargons and tones of information that these tools throw at you then there is another simple alternative.

The simple alternative is to use long tail keywords, which you can find by using your commonsense and Google auto search. Almost every SEO expert agrees that long tail keywords can act as catalyst for securing much needed traffic as well as organic backlinks for new blogs.         

By the way, by commonsense I mean you should know how to play with the words while doing Google search. You can use several words preceding or following your keywords and in no time Google auto search will gift you with several long tail keywords.

To simplify further, below I have pasted the screenshot to give an idea about how to search long tail keywords using Google auto search.               

In the above case the keyword is obviously ‘smartphone.’ Likewise, you can insert several keywords and Google auto search will throw you plethora of long tail keywords in your niche.

It is pertinent to mention here that all the long tail keywords shown by Google auto search is an way indication of their popularity among your target audience.                      

Be Generous in linking to other Websites:

A newly launched blog can ill afford to be choosy about outbound links. Outbound links are actually opposite of backlinks as they are external links – links that direct your blog visitors to other websites. Outbound links help in creating a solid link profile, which is very critical for newly launched blogs.      

A solid outbound link profile helps in giving clear signal to Google’s web crawler about your blog, especially about which industry or niche your blog belongs to. For this, you be should linking your blog to only high-to-medium authority websites that fall in the same niche that your blog operates in. For example, if your blog deals with automobiles then its outbound links should be obviously linking to other automobile websites.

Outbound links necessarily don’t bring too many backlinks per say but they definitely help in building strong foundation for driving traffic as well as securing backlinks in the medium-to -long run.  Outbound links can also lead to link building opportunities – more on that a bit later.

But make sure not to jump on the bandwagon of giving too many outbound links. Generally the rule is to give one or two outbound links per article and is not necessary either that every article in your blog should carry an outbound link. From the perspective of SEO, prefer giving outbound links to every third or fourth article published in your blog.               

Try Link Exchange Program:

Newly launched blogs should aggressively try to leverage the link exchange opportunities to build their backlink profile. As the name suggest, the link exchange program is nothing but an arrangement where two blog owners mutually decide to link each other and as a result both parties secure backlinks for their blogs.

To seize link building opportunities, you should join various SEO groups and pages swirling through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Make an official request for link exchange in these groups and you’re sure to get good amount of response even if your blog gets below decent traffic.

Linkedin is another platform where you can come across link building opportunities provided you have good number of SEO and digital marketing professionals in your network connection. In case if you don’t then it is time for you to build these connections.          

Conclusion        

The collective use of all the above mentioned tactics will most certainly fetch pretty decent number of backlinks for all those blogs that are currently suffering from very poor Google ranking. Here I would like to reiterate the usage of word ‘collective use’ as usage of only one tactic may not secure you positive results. As and when your blog starts getting decent traffic or once you’re thorough with the fundamentals of link building process, you can try those paid link building tools like Aherfs and Moz. Until then try sincerely enacting the above mentioned tactics and I wish all the bloggers all the best for this worthy pursuit.