SEO Competition Research

This article provides an introduction into SEO competitive research and how to build backlinks by analyzing your competition.

What is Competitive SEO Research?

SEO-analysisWhen planning your SEO campaign, in addition to having the correct technical structure and on-page SEO keywords for your site, you also need to analyze the SEO competition for your keywords. This is because SEO is a zero-sum game: in order to rank no.1 or no.2 on Google’s search result pages you need to outplace the current competition

The process of analysing your competitions backlink profile as part of SEO is called “SEO competition research“.

The following lesson contains a background to competitive SEO research, why it is important, how to research your competition using tools and how to use competition research to build backlinks for SEO.

Why is it Important to Analyze your Competition when Planning an SEO Campaign?

Before you begin your SEO campaign, it’s important that you first analyze the existing competition for your keywords and campaign.

This is because in most cases, you’ll not only need to outrank your existing competition (zero-sum game) but also be able to prepare and plan a strategy for how to do so. This includes the use of resources, budget and time management.

For example, ranking a local business in a small town or city where there is low competition is likely to be a much easier job than getting a large business to rank for an international keyword with 1,000s of competitors.

For a small local business, a local SEO campaign may show results within 1-3 months. However, for a medium or larger size business it may take 6-12 months before you see positive results. This is because it takes time to build links, webpages and content to match that of your biggest competitors.

How to Analyze the Competition for your SEO Keyword or Campaign

There are a number of different tools or strategies for analyzing the competition for your keywords or industry.

The most popular method is to use a backlink analysis tool such as (OSE) and on your competition. To use these tools, simply enter your competitor’s URL and then view the link metrics shown:

Example of the Backlink Checker Tool (

Example of the Backlink Checker Tool (

If you’re using the OSE Tool, the most important metrics that matter are the respective DA (Domain Authority) and PA (Page Authority) scores. These metrics take into account the authority of a website based on the quality and number of backlinks pointing to the site. The metrics are designed to closely mirror that of Google’s Page Rank algorithm, which is the main method used by Google to rank sites. In layman terms, the higher the DA and PA score, the higher the competition and the more likely the site will rank higher in Google’s search engines.

The advantage of using OSE is that you can also install the Moz Chrome Plugin that displays the PA/DA directly results on the search engine results page underneath each listing:


Additional tools that you can use include the Google’s Adwords Tool (which displays the competition as Low, Medium or High); or you can use the Google Page Rank Toolbar. If using the latter, anything with a Page Rank of PR3 or higher can be viewed as quite competitive, where as PR0 – PR2 is reasonably low. Just note that the Page Rank Toolbar is only updated a few times per year therefore the data is not going to be particularly fresh.

When you’re using or other backlink checker tools, you won’t be shown a DA or PA score. However you can look at the total number of root domain backlinks to the site as a measurement of the site’s authority (in order to do this, click on Referring > Domains > DoFollow). You can also see if the site has any strong government or education backlinks, which are more important than regular backlinks.

Exporting Results into Excel

Finally, you can also export the backlink reports from these various SEO tool into Microsoft Excel. This then allows you to format the results in a certain way that makes them easier to read and understand. For example, you might want to format the rows into “Keyword”, “Website Rank”, “No. of Root Domain Backlinks”, “Root Domain Backlinks to Homepage” and “Page Rank”. This then gives you a rough picture of the competition for that keyword:


Case Study Example: “SEO Training”

Once you’ve analyzed your competitors (let’s say the first 10 results on the 1st page), it should give you some indication of the level of competition and resources required to outrank them.

Essentially, the main thing that you’re looking for is the number of root domain backlinks pointing to the website’s homepage and the individual page itself.

For example, let’s use the keyword “SEO training” in the UK.

The Domain Authority (DA) of the first 5 results in Google UK according to Mozbar varies from DA25 (4th) to DA66 (1st).  The Page Authority (PA) itself ranges from PA23 (3rd) to PA49 (1st).

SEO Training Results

The no.1 result ( only has around 2 external links directly to the page, however the DA is very high and will be the main reason why this individual page ranks no.1 for the keyword “SEO training”.

Based on this information, I think it’s possible that we can rank first page for this keyword since sites such as the rank 4th with a DA of only 25 and 14 root domains (RDs). This is a very low number of root domain links and could easily be achieved within the space of 1-3 months.

If we wanted to rank no.1 for this term, then we’d probably need to build more than 2,000 links to our homepage in order to compete with WebCredible (2,156 Root Domain Links), which would probably take more than a year.

Using your Competitors Reports to Build Backlinks to your Site

You can also your competitor’s backlinks report information in order to find and copy your competitor’s backlinks. For example, if you’ve seen they’ve got links listed on other directory pages and articles then you can contact those sites and try to get your website listed as well.

Analysing your competitor’s backlinks and where they come from also allows you to understand their strategy and copy it on your own site. For example, if you’ve seen a specific educational resources or tool that they developed received 100s of backlinks then you can try developing an even better tool or resource and copy their approach. Essentially, analysing your competitors backlinks lets you view their most important pages and what type of strategies “work” in your industry.

The OSE tool above even does this for you by showing you the pages with the most backlinks on a site. This can be found under “Top Pages” in the menu.

However, Links aren’t Everything!

The number and quality of backlinks to a site have been by far the most important ranking signal for Google in the past. However, in the last 1-2 years, it appears Google has given less weight to the number of backlinks and more weight towards on-page factors such as User Experience (UX), Content Quality, Brand Signals and Page Speed.

Thus, while competitive link analysis is still important and relevant, it’s probably only 70% accurate. Just because the site in no.1 position has 2,000+ root domain backlinks, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need 2,001 backlinks in order to compete. For example, you can make up for the lack of backlinks in other areas such as the quality and length of your content, your social signals, and the web design and user experience of your site etc…

Monitoring your Sites Backlinks

Best Backlink Monitoring Tools

As part of the link building process, it’s important to accurately monitor and analyze the number of backlinks pointing to your site. Otherwise, how else would you keep track of your SEO campaign?

In this article, we’ll provide a list of the top backlink monitoring tools on the Internet. We’ll provide information and screenshots besides each tool as well as discuss the pricing options and features.

Top Backlink Checker Monitoring Tools for SEO

1. – $79/Month is the no.1 backlink checker tool that you’ll find online. It’s also the same tool that I use for all of my SEO campaigns.

Although pricey (the cheapest premium version costs $79 per month), has a very simple user interface that allows you to see all backlinks to a URL. You can easily filter links by dofollow, date found, new links, lost links, government links, educational links, referring IPs and more.

Like most backlink checker tools, gives users the option to export their list via CSV. This includes a maximum export of 2,500 results.

In addition to a backlink checker, has other useful features such as SEO reports and a Mentions Trackers.

2. – Free or $99 for Moz Pro Account (Includes 30-Day Free Trial) (OSE) is powered by and is another great tool that is very popular with SEOs.

This tool is free to use when running backlink reports on the free version (up to 2,500 rows). You can filter the backlinks by dofollow, top pages, linking domains, anchor text and more. They also recently added a new feature called Just Discovered, which lets you discover brand new links to your domain faster than any other tool (this is great for immediate reporting such as PR).

The best feature of OSE is that it measures and assigns value to different webpages based on Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA). This is one of the only tools on the internet that actually analyzes the link authority of  a website or individual page in real time since the Google Page Rank Toolbar became updated less frequently.

You can also install the Mozbar extension for Chrome in order to quickly to view DA and PA values when doing competition analysis.

The only thing I don’t like about OSE however it that is has a less intuitive user interface then You have to go through more steps and click more buttons to filter the backlinks, plus it takes a little longer to load.

If you upgrade to the premium version (Moz Pro) for $99/month than you’ll also get access to Moz Analytics Campaigns and the ability to track up to 300 keywords. This is great for getting starting on new SEO campaigns and it also analyses other factors such as brand mentions and social signals. This all helps to record the success of an inbound marketing campaign.

3.    Google Webmaster Tools – Free

Google Webmaster Tools is provided by Google for free. All you have to do is sign in and register your website, then you’ll find the links report under Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Download Latest Links.

Although Google Webmaster Tools is essential for every webmaster (it alerts you to errors and penalties on your site, as well as lets you submit a site map), it’s backlink reports are pretty poor.

The problem with Webmaster Tools’ backlinks reports is that you only have three options: domains that link  to you, entire list of latest links or your top linking anchors. It’s impossible to filter the links based on other important dimensions such as link authority, dofollow, site-wide links, educational links, referring IPs or lost links etc.

Part of the reason for the poor backlink reporting is that Google doesn’t want to give away too much information to webmasters about their own backlinks. For example, if Google provided a full list of backlinks to your site in order of trust and authority than it would be compromise their secret SEO algorithms. Therefore, you’re better off using one of the other options above.

4.    Majestic SEO – Free or £29.99 for Silver Premium Account

Majestic SEO is the final backlink checker tool that we can recommend to users.

Upon analyzing a URL, users can view the backlink report, site explorer and see the citation/trust flow of each site.

The report also includes useful charts and graphs for new backlinks over time and a breakdown of your top pages based on trust flow and citation flow.  Trust flow is calculated by the number of links from a seed set of trusted sites (similar to how Page Rank works), while citation flow is based on the number of citations given to a URL or site.

Personally, I don’t see a need to upgrade to the premium account as the basic backlink reporting tools are available for free. The only advantage of a premium account is if you need more than 2,500 site explorer rows.

What are the Most Important Features in a Backlink Reporting Tool?

The most important features that a backlink reporting should include are:

  • Ability to view all backlinks to yours or a competitors site
  • Filter links by dofollow/nofollow, root domain, anchor text
  • Domain Authority metrics
  • Exportable CSV file for backlinks

Other features, which are not important but useful include:

  • Site explorer
  • New/Lost links
  • SEO campaign reports
  • Link graph history

Link Building Guide (Off-Page SEO)

Beginners Guide to Link Building

Out of all of the main SEO ranking factors, backlinks are by far the biggest factor to help your website rank in Google. As covered in that article, backlinks to your sites homepage and individual page still make up around 41% of SEO rankings in 2014.

This lesson will explain the history and strategies behind link building as well as the different types of penalties from Google that can result from the wrong way of link building.

Introduction to Link Building

For a long time now, backlinks (external links towards your site) have been the most important search engine ranking factor used for websites.

For example, we mentioned in our previous article how backlinks made up around 66% (two-thirds) of Google’s algorithm for ranking websites in 2009.

Although the weighting of backlinks in the SEO algorithm is decreasing, it still makes up a huge proportion and is therefore something you should focus on in any SEO campaign.

Link Building Strategies

There are a number of strategies that webmasters can use for building backlinks to a site.

Because there are so many different strategies that you can use, we’ve decided to list them all here with more detailed lesson plans about each one.

We’ve listed the following link building strategies from the most popular and easiest down to more niche types of link building.

  • Guest Blogging
  • Educational and Evergreen Content (e.g. Tutorials)
  • Competition Research and Analysis
  • Earning Backlinks from PR
  • Building Linkable Assets on your Site
  • Blog Commenting
  • Outreach Campaigns
  • Directory Submission
  • Interviews and Product Placements
  • Build Relationships
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Newsjacking

Please note that there are far more link building strategies available (as seen on this page), however many of these are not suitable for beginners and may take you several weeks to learn.

How to Measure the Value of Links from Different Domains

Not all links have the same value. Search engines such as Google measure links using different factors such as the authority of the site (e.g. a link from BBC News would have far more weight than a small blog), the relevance of the site and the authority of the page that the link is from.

Essentially, Google uses a system of link authority and equity. A link from a page that has lots of backlinks will carry more authority or “page rank” then a link from a page with little or no backlinks. A page with multiple links will also dilute the link equity of the page.

You can learn more about link equity and measuring the value of links in our lesson on Page Rank here, however suffice to say your aim should be to get links from sites with high authority or page rank.

Do-Follow vs. No-Follow Links

It used to be the case that all links on the Internet passed value. However, because of the amount of links that spammers built from blog comments and directories, in 2005 Google launched a new link value called “nofollow”.

NoFollow is a value that can be inserted into the rel attribute of a HTML link element in order to prevent it from passing value in the search engines.

The HTML syntax of a no-follow link looks like this:

<a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>Link text</a>

The purpose of the nofollow link is to remove the link value or “noise” from 3rd party spammy blog comment links or links that are advertorial in nature.

Virtually all blog comments and social media links are now set to nofollow automatically. This makes them much less valuable than regular dofollow links, which do pass value, and are found within the main content itself.

You can learn more about nofollow links or when links should be set to nofollow in Google’s Webmaster Guidelineshere.

Building Links to Different Pages

As part of the link building process, you’ll want to build links to your most popular pages in addition to your homepage.

This is because while building links to your homepage helps build your sites overall authority, backlinks to individual pages also help those to individual rank for their primary keywords.

Anchor Text

The anchor text of the backlink is another huge signal that Google uses in determining the topical relevance of your page.

The anchor text is the clickable text used within the link. For example, the anchor text in the link Wikiweb marketingis “Wikiweb marketing”.

In HTML syntax, you can see the anchor text here:

<a href=””>Wikiweb marketing</a>

It used to be the case that SEOs would build links with their primary keyword in the anchor text as often as possible. For example, if they had a website selling bikes then 70% of their total anchors in their links might be “bike shop”.

However, Google reacted to this type of over optimization in 2012 by creating penalties for sites that over optimize their backlinks, therefore you’re better off keeping the anchor text as natural as possible.

How to Monitor Backlinks

As part of link building, it’s also important to keep track of the inbound links to your site and analyze your campaign.

In order to track the links to your site, we recommend using a tool such as (free version), Majestic SEO (free version) or (paid version – around $75/month).

These tools let you add your URL and then view all backlinks to your site.

Researching Keywords and Planning Content Strategy for SEO

Keyword Research & Content Strategy for SEO

As we explained in the previous lesson on On-Page SEO, the content and articles of your site (including page titles, h1 tags and keywords) plays a huge part in helping your website rank for keywords in search engines.

Why is It Important to Plan a Content Strategy?

ContentGoogleBecause the content of your site has such a significant impact on bringing you the right SEO traffic, it’s important that when you launch an SEO campaign that you plan a content strategy accordingly.

The other reason why a good content strategy is so important is because long-tail keyword traffic makes up 70% of all searches on the Internet. A website with an abundance of well written content, such as a blog or news category, will help your website rank for more long-tail keywords and thus generate more traffic from SEO.

In recent years, Google has also launched new algorithms, such as Panda in 2011, that aim to promote good content on the Internet and relegate sites with poor quality, re-hashed or spun content.

It’s therefore very important to invest in high quality content that provides unique value to end-users and doesn’t just serve to help rank for long-tail keywords in the search engines.

Hint: If you want to know where to find high quality writers to publish content for your site then we recommend reading our article on hiring writers for your website.

Finding Keyword Ideas and Topical Content for your Site

Content can serve a range of purposes, as we’ve outlined below:

  • Content for Users e.g. educational content, blogs, news, reviews and guides
  • Creating Content for Inbound Marketing e.g. creating linkable assets as such as infographics, viral surveys and resources
  • Content for SEO e.g. lengthy content designed to maximize long-tail keyword traffic and searches from the search engines

In this article, we’re mainly focused on planning content for the sake of SEO.

Tailoring your Content around Keywords for SEO

The main point of publishing content for SEO purposes is to create articles and pages that will drive maximum short-tail and long-tail keywords from search engines.

As such, you’ll want to find a list of keywords to tailor your content around. In order to help you find a list of content topics and ideas, we recommend using keyword research tools such as the Adwords keyword tool.

Run a search for your primary keywords or business (such as false eyelashes, gold bullion store, Sheffield photography) and you’ll see a list of relevant, high traffic keywords that people search for. You can then look at the high traffic keywords and use them as content ideas for your site.

For example, let’s say you run a photography business in London, UK. You can search for “photographer” and limit the geographic target to London.

The Adwords tool will then display an entire list of 100s of relevant keywords that you can tailor your content around:

We can see that terms such as “wedding photographer”, “London photographer”, “portrait photographer”, “professional photographer” and “fashion photographers” are some of the highest searched for keywords. You can then use this information to plan dedicated service pages for each of these terms.

For example, you’ll create a webpage with the title “Wedding Photographer” and add unique, helpful content that explains your services and uses those keywords. You should also do the same thing for the other keywords such as “Portrait Photographer” and “Professional Photographer”.

When writing these pages, you should follow the On-page SEO guidelines that we wrote about in the previous lesson.

Other Useful Tools for Content Planning

In addition to the Google Adwords tool above, there a number of other useful tools on the Internet for planning your content topics.

The downside to relying solely on the Adwords tool is also that it only shows information for short-tail keywords as opposed to long-tail keywords and topical ideas.

Additional tools and methods that you can use for keyword research includes:

  • – Free keyword research tool that helps find additional keywords based on historical search queries
  • SEMRush – This tool is great for analyzing your competitors organic keyword rankings and then copying them.
  • Wordtracker – This is similar to Google Adwords keyword tool and displays relevant keywords and search volume
  • Researching your Competition – Take a look at your biggest competitors sites and see which are their most popular keywords or pages and copy them.
  • – This is a social analytics tool that helps find the most widely shared articles and pages for a specific keyword. Although not built for SEO purposes, it’s a great tool for finding topical content that people find interesting.

How to Plan a Content Strategy for your Website

Depending on the size and nature of your website, you might want to plan all of your content topics in a pyramid tree structure before publishing them on the site. This will help you organize content topics into logical hierarchies and categories before publishing on your site.

For example, a large eLearning websites such as will have spent months planning their content tree into articles, lessons, modules and courses before launching their site. This helps to their content more presentable and easier to navigate for users.

On the other hand, an ecommerce site will probably not have to focus on planning such an elaborate content tree for its site. Its main focus would be preparing product categories and collections with a blog to keep it updated.

When publishing your site, you should add relevant categories and tags for your articles in order to make them easier to find. You should also make sure you inter-link content for user experience and SEO, and that you structure your website’s menu so that each page can be navigated to in 3 clicks or less from the homepage.


In conclusion, this lesson has taught you the importance of keyword research and content planning, how to find keyword ideas for your content, and useful tools for keyword research.

The next article will now discuss how to hire content writers and bloggers for your site.

SEO Keyword Research

SEO Lesson 1: Keyword Research

Keyword research is about finding the right type of keywords that you want your website to rank for in the search engines.

Keyword research is the most important place to start before beginning your SEO campaign. Optimizing you website for the wrong keywords will set you on an inevitable collision path with failure.

For example, if you run a local dental practice in London then it’s likely that your target customers will be searching for keywords such as “local dentist”, “London dentist” and “dental surgery in London”.

Optimizing your site for these types of terms will help your site bring in targeted traffic, leads and new customers on a monthly basis. The more relevant and targeted your chosen keywords, the higher the conversion rate for your site.

However, certain keywords will be searched for more than others. That’s why it’s important to not only optimize yourself for relevant keywords, but also high volume keywords too.

How Do I Find the Right Keywords?

There are a number of free keyword tools that help you measure and find the most relevant, high volume keyword search terms on the Internet.

The best place to start is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool (free).

How to Use the Adwords Keyword Tool

In order to use this tool, you’ll need to set up an Adwords account. This is free and should only take a few minutes to do. (Previously the Adwords tool was available without having to sign into your account, however Google made changes to this step in 2013).

1. Once you’re logged in, select the Keyword Planner from the dropdown menu found under tools. You’ll have a page that looks like this:

Keyword Planner

2. Input a few of your target keywords. In our example we’ve used “false eyelashes”. Then click “Get Ideas”.

3. Use the targeting tool on the left-hand side to narrow down your geographic target. For example, if you only sell products within the UK then you should limit your targeting to UK-only. The figures in the keyword tool will automatically reflect this.

Keyword Planner Tool

You’ll now be presented with a table that shows the monthly search traffic volume for those exact keywords. As you can see in the picture above for example, “false eyelashes” receives exactly 6,600 searches per month in the UK.

When you scroll down, the Adwords planner also shows a list of relevant keywords with their monthly search volume.

Using the keyword tool above, you should be able to find a list of highly targeted; high traffic keywords to start your SEO campaign for.

Keyword Research and Volume of Traffic

The volume of traffic for different keywords will vary massively depending on the popularity of the industry, niche and keyword.

Don’t assume just because the keyword search “false eyelashes” gets 6,600 searches per month that it’s more valuable to optimize your site for this then “best false eyelashes”, which only receives 1,300 searches per month.

This is because bigger keywords also have more competition in the search engine rankings results (SERPs), which makes it harder to rank for this term. This means it may be more beneficial to target lower volume keywords with less competition.

For more information about choosing keywords with lower competition, read our lesson on competition analysis here.

Short-Tail vs. Long-Tail Keywords

When doing keyword research there are two types of keywords: short-tail and long-tail keywords.

Short-tail keywords are exact-match keywords such as “shoes” or “buy shoes”. This is what the Keyword Planner tool display.

Long-tail keywords are broad searches that include multiple keywords in the search. E.g. “cheapest shoes in London”, “blue shoes with white laces” or “blue puma shoes size 8”.

Although individual short-tail keywords receive lots of traffic, short-tail keywords actually only make up 30% of searches on the Internet. The rest are comprised of unique, long-tail keywords. In fact, according to Google, 15% of the keywords they see everyday have never been searched before!

Long-tail keywords also have a higher conversion rate and value then compared to short-tail keywords, as they usually involve more specific queries where the user is at the buying phase of the cycle.

For example, someone searching a short-tail keyword such as “shoes” is usually only at the research and browsing stage. However, someone that searches “red puma shoes size 8” is more likely to be at the buying stage as he/she knows exactly what they want and are looking to now buy it.

The above can all be illustrated in the Search and Demand Curve by below:


Competition Keyword Research

Rather then starting your keyword research from scratch, there are a number of tools that also show you your competitor’s main keywords and rankings.

The best keyword tool for competitive analysis is (free). All you have to do is enter your competitor’s URL in the search bar and then you can see all of your competitors most important organic/advertising keywords. For more information about how to use SEMRush we recommend reading our SEMRush review here.

We’ll now look at how to optimize our website for our chosen keywords in the next article here.

Internal Linking Structure

Internal link architecture is a key on-page factor in SEO. In this lesson, we’ll show you how to optimize your site’s internal link structure and how this can improve user experience and page views.

Internal vs. External Links Explained:

Internal links are links that point internally to other pages or sections of your website. This is in contrast to external links, which are links from external domains.

For example, this link is an internal link as it points to another page on

One of the most common misconceptions in SEO is that internal links carry little weight in comparison to external links when ranking web pages. The fact is however that internal links on a large, authority site can carry a huge amount of weight.

It’s also thought that Google has a “big site” algorithm, which means pages on larger sites rank higher than on smaller sites. This is because of greater perceived authority and greater internal link flow to those pages.

Why are Internal Links Important for SEO?

Your internal link structure is important because links are one of the most important factors that search engines such as Google use to rank and order websites.

  1. Internal links helps improve your link flow or “Page Rank” to individual pages on our site, helping them to rank better.
  2. The anchor text of links (as explained in this lesson) helps Google to understand the context of a webpage and to rank better.
  3. Internal links help Google Bots crawl and access different parts of your site
  4. Internal links also improve user experience.

A lack of internal links means that it will be more difficult for Google to crawl and index deeper sections of your website. It will also be harder for users to explore different areas of your site.

A good example (albeit a little over the top) of an internal link structure is You can see that they internally link important keywords in all of their articles to specific pages on their site. This massively improves user experience, page views and SEO.

 Wikipedia Internal Linking Example

8 Best Practices for A Good Internal Link Structure:

There are a number of things you should do to improve the internal link architecture of your site.

  1. No Page Should be More than 3 Clicks Away from your Homepage

A well-known rule in SEO is that no page on your site should be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage. This might include navigational links in the menu, footer, homepage or body of your articles. If you can aim for this than your internal SEO structure should be on the right tracks.

  1. Use Relevant Anchor Text for Internal Linking (Avoid Optimization)

You should aim to use relevant, useful anchor text when linking internally. Look what I did in the previous sentence for example. By using relevant keywords to link to your inner pages, you’ll help those pages rank better in SEO.

A useful WordPress plugin that you can use is SEO Smart Internal Links. This tool automatically hyperlinks keywords other internal pages on your site. You can customize it to only link specific keywords, phrase and URLs, as well as make sure it only adds one link per page.

The downside to using automated tools for internal linking purposes is that it doesn’t look quite as natural as when an editor links to other pages in an article. If used incorrectly (for instance, linking every occurrence of a word on a page), it can also lead to horrible consequences and poor user experience.

According to this by Matt Cutts, you don’t need to worry about over-optimized internal linking causing penalties on your site.

  1. Use your Homepage to Link to your Most Important Pages

Your homepage is typically the most linked page on your website; this means is has the highest Page Rank or link authority. You can take advantage of this by adding links on your homepage to the most important pages on your site. This helps channel some of that link flow or Page Rank to your inner pages in order to help them rank better.

  1. Add Breadcrumb Navigation to your Site

Breadcrumbs are a navigational feature that reveals the users location on a website (the name is derived from the tale of Hansel and Gretel). In addition to helping the user keep track of their location on a site, they also massively improve the internal link structure of your site.

Many themes have the breadcrumbs feature as default, however if your theme doesn’t offer this then there are a number of WordPress plugins you can install such as this one.

  1. Add Navigational Links to your Footer and Sidebar

In addition to having important links in your main menu, navigational links in your footer and sidebar can also improve user experience and SEO. Take a look at the footer below for example.

  1. Use the Related Posts or Popular Posts Plugin to Improve User Engagement

Installing plugins that link to related posts (or your most popular contents) on your site benefit articles will help improve user experience, page views and visitor engagement. Take a look at the below:

 Related and Most Popular Posts on HuffingtonPost

If a user enjoyed reading an article then it’s likely they’ll read another article on a similar topic. From my own experience, this Related Posts Plugin increased page views by 5% on one of my sites. Remember that all of these user signals may be used by Google to rank your website.

Both these plugins will also once again improve the internal linking structure on your site, which is great for SEO.

  1. User Dynamic Sidebars and the Widget Context Plugin to Link to Relevant Internal Pages

The Widget Context plugin allows you to display different widgets or links in your sidebar depending on what your user is reading. For example, if someone is reading an article about SEO then you show him or her custom links for your SEO Training Course in the sidebar. Likewise, if they’re reading about PPC or PR then you can link them to your other PPC or PR lessons.

The advantage of using the widget context plugin is that it allows you to show different widgets depending on the category, page or post type. This allows you to show more relevant links to users in order to improve user experience and conversions.

Many of the biggest ecommerce sites (such as below) implement a similar technique of showing products or deals you might be interested in based on your previous purchases, product category or account history. You can also witness this in the Related Videos sidebar on

  1. Links Towards the Top of the Page are Treated More Importantly by Google

Remember that links towards the top of the page are treated more importantly by Google because users are more likely to click on them.

As such, remember to link important keywords or phrases in the first few paragraphs of your content as opposed to the bottom of your content.

Best SEO Plugins for WordPress

The following article provides information on the best SEO plugins for WordPress sites and how they can benefit your SEO campaign.

About WordPress

WordPress is the no.1 Content Management System (CMS) for many webmasters around the world.  There are currently more than 76 million WordPress-powered websites, including the likes of CNN, TechCrunch and NBC Sports.

One of the main advantages of using WordPress to power your site is the extensive range of 3rd party SEO plugins that have been developed for the platform. The following article will now explain some of the best SEO plugins that you can install on your own site.

Best SEO Plugins for WordPress 2014

1.    Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the world’s most popular WordPress SEO plugin and is completely free to install on your site.

The Yoast SEO Plugin contains everything you need to optimize the content, layout and structure of your site for search engines. It also contains a number of useful features (such as advanced editor) for editing specific sections of your site.

The reason why the Yoast SEO plugin is so popular is that it manages nearly all of the aspects of on-page SEO for your site. For example, it allows you to customise the Page Titles and Meta descriptions of pages and posts as well as insert easy 301 redirects and rel canonicals for individual pages. Finally, the plugin is great for beginners because it provides a simple page analysis tool to check whether you’ve inserted your keywords in your page title, h1 tag, URL, content and Meta description.

Once you’ve installed the Yoast SEO Plugin, it will take you on a easy walkthrough guide of the features that show you how to use it. The plugin also adds navigational breadcrumbs to your site with a simple short code.

yoast seo

The full features of the Yoast SEO plugin includes:

  • Posts Titles and Meta Description preview screen
  • Advanced SEO editor for pages and posts
  • Edit your robots.txt and .htaccess
  • 301 redirects
  • Canonical URLs
  • XML Sitemap
  • Robots Meta Configuration (e.g. edit the robots configuration of your site’s categories, tags, author pages and media to index/no-index, follow/nofollow)
  • Breadscrumbs
  • Content Analysis Functionality for optimizing keywords in page title and description

2.    Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

YARP is a really useful plugin that lets you customize and add related content underneath your posts/pages on a WordPress site. Users can then edit the number and size of thumbnail images to display under your posts for the related content.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

The main advantages of installing this plugin is that it helps improve the internal link architecture of your site and helps to increase the user experience (UX) design and page views on your site, which can indirectly help your SEO campaign. It keeps users on your site longer and prevents them bouncing immediately after reading an article. From my own experiences, installing the related posts plugin has had a 5% Click Through Rate (CTR) for the posts at the bottom of the page, which means it has reduced my site’s overall bounce rate by 5%.

3.    Display Widgets

The Display Widgets plugin allows you to customize particular widgets on your site to be shown for different pages, categories and custom taxonomies. This is incredibly useful for large WordPress sites (200+ pages) that want to improve the user navigation and SEO architecture of the site.

The plugin works by adding check boxes to each widget in the admin. Users can then customize widgets to either be shown or excluded on particular pages, posts, categories and custom taxonomies.

Display Widgets

For example, you might want to display a special SEO offer on the SEO pages and categories of your site, but exclude them for everything else. This plugin allows you to do just that.

4.    W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is the ultimate WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) plugin. It is designed to improve the page speed and user experience of your site.

The plugin works by allowing you to cache pages and objects of your site (improves user experience for users), increasing sever performance, reducing download times and optimising page rendering. According to the plugin’s website, it can lead to 10x improvement in overall site performance once installed.

The reason this plugin is so important for SEO is that Google has begun to start using Website and Page Load Speed as main factors in their ranking signals. This means a slow loading or badly performance site could be causing ranking drop issues and hurt your Panda score.

Overall, the W3 Total Cache plugin is really easy to install and is recommended by sites such as, AT&T and (head of Google’s Search Quality Team)

5.    WP

WP is an image optimization tool that automatically compresses and optimizes images on your site. The plugin works by stripping unnecessary Meta Data and unused colors from the image file, as well as optimizing JPEG compression and converting certain GIFs to indexed PNGs.

The benefit of the plugin is that it optimizes all images to speed up the load speed of your site.


Once the plugin is activated, it will automatically compress all new images added to the media. You can also run a bulk in the admin in order to optimize all images in your media library (this process takes a total of 20-30 mins to complete based on a library of 200+ images).

8 Local SEO Tips for Businesses

The following article is an introduction in to the importance of local SEO for business and how to help rank in the local search results.

Local SEO for Business

What is Local SEO?

Over the last 2-3 years, Google and other search engines have made massive steps towards localizing search results for users.

Nowadays when a user searches for a local service, Google will display a list of business in the nearby location as you can see here for the search “Sheffield photographers”:

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 15.56.25

Notice that after the first 3 results of this regular search query, Google shows an additional 7 local listings (on top of the other regular organic listings on the page) which includes the business name, address, phone number, reviews and location pin of that business on Google maps. This is what local SEO helps you to achieve.

The advantage of optimizing your site for local SEO is that it makes it easier for local customers to find your services, as well as increasing your prominence in the search results. The main advantage here is that it allows local businesses to rank well in the search engines without having to to compete with large multi-national companies with multiple physical locations.

In this article, we’ll focus on how to achieve these local listing on the 1st page of Google’s search results.

Key Steps Towards Ranking your Business for Local SEO

1. Set up a Google Local Business Listing

The most important step for local SEO is to set up a Google Local Business Listing (formerly known as Google Places). This essentially allows you to add your business’ physical location to Google Maps, so that when people search for businesses in your area (or on their mobile phone), Google will be able to display you as a local result.

Setting up a Google Local Listing is very easy to do. Simply go to Google Places for Business and run a search to see if your business is already listed on Google Maps.

Google Places Business Listing

Setting up a Google Places for Business Listing

If you’re business isn’t currently listed, click on the option “No, These are not my businesses. Let me create my profile.” You’ll then be presented with a simple form to add your business – you’ll need to include your business name, address, city, phone number, post code and choose a category. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to quickly verify your listing through your phone/postal address and you’re done.

2. Optimize your Site for Geo-Keywords

In addition to your Google Places account, Google can measure the location and nature of your business through keywords on your site.

Keywords for Local SEO

If you add your city name to your homepage, title tags and h1 titles then Google will be able to understand the local nature of your business. For example, if you run a local dentist in Sheffield then you’ll want to include the city name in your title tag such as “Private Dental Surgery – Sheffield City Centre”.

3. Add your Physical Address to Every Page on your Site.

It’s important to add your physical location not just on your contact page but also in the footer of every page on your site.

This helps Google to “pinpoint” the location of your business, even without a Google Local Listing. Don’t forget to include your business times, opening hours, contact information and directions.

4. Build Links with “Local City” + “Service” Anchor Text from Local Sites

Similar to the geo-keywords on your site, Google can also understand the locality of your site based on your backlinks and anchor text. The more backlinks your have from local sites with geo anchor text, e.g. “Sheffield Dentist“, the more likely your site will rank for local business terms.

5. Add the Address Schema Markup to your Site

Schema markup is a type of HTML coding that allows Google to understand key pieces of information about your site. They can even display these markups of information in the search results.

For example, using the [address][/address] tags helps Google pinpoint your local business, which again helps with Google Local.

6. Build Citations from Local Sites, Businesses and Directories

Local citations are an online reference to your Business Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). Like links to your website, Google uses local citations when measuring the authority and address of local businesses. Unlike links however, citations don’t need to physically link to your website.

You should aim to build citations with your full business name, address and phone details on local directories and websites.

For example, if you run Dental surgery in Sheffield then you’d want to get your business listed in the local pages, newspaper, Sheffield directories and possibly the local council website: e.g. Greenmans’ Dentist, 45 Wayfield Street, Sheffield, S17 3HJ, 0114 2360059.

Examples of directories where you can submit your site for local directories include,,, and more. You can find an even biggest list at here.

Importantly, the more citations and links you have, the more likely Google will list your business as a local listing result. You should also make sure that you’re consistent with all of your local listing information and citations. If you move location, try and update as many of your citations and links as possible.

7. Get Positive Reviews from your Customers

As part of your Google local listing, Google displays user reviews and ratings under your listing. A positive rating (e.g. 4-5/5 stars) will help give users confidence in your service and increase your local business ranking.

Google Reviews

You can encourage users to review your business through promotions, social media, email lists. You can also get your business listed on 3rd party review sites such as

8. Different Locations should have Unique and Separate Landing Pages

If you have multiple office locations than you should set up unique and separate landing pages (a different URL for the web pages) with unique content and title tags for each location.

For example, if you have offices in both London and Manchester then you should set up a landing page for London (with the keywords London in your page title and content) and then a separate landing page for Manchester.

If you don’t take the time to set up separate landing pages then it can sometimes cause confusion to Google and you won’t get the appropriate markup for either of your locations. You should also avoid using duplicate content for the landing pages as this can lead to duplicate content penalties with Panda.

Google Penalties Explained

The following article provides key information about the various types of Google penalties, how to detect if a site has been hit by a Google penalty and some tips on how to recover.

What is a Google Penalty?

Technically speaking, a Google penalty is when a search engineer from Google gives you a manual penalty for violating one of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.  There’s a number of ways that you can violate Google’s guidelines, including but not limited to backlink manipulation, mass guest posting, over optimized anchor text, hidden text links and doorway pages. You can see the whole list of topics here.

However, in addition to manual penalties, Google also has automatic filters that remove low quality sites or sites breaking their guidelines in the search results. Although Google refuses to class these as “penalties” because they are automatic filters as opposed to manual class actions, they still have the same affect of lowering your search engine rankings. Therefore, most SEOs still class these filters as “penalties”, “algorithmic penalties” or “algorithmic updates”. You can read more about manual vs. algorithmic penalties at here.

The Different Types of Google Penalties

Over the years, Google has had to develop numerous algorithms to counter web spam and the burgeoning black hat SEO industry. For instance, competitive industries such as payday loans are notorious for breeding webspam and blackhat SEO.

As such, Google has built numerous types of penalties and filters into its algorithms. The main ones are discussed below.

1.    Manual Penalty or Spam Action

What is it? A manual penalty is the most common type of Google penalty that a Webmaster will come across. A manual penalty occurs when a member of Google’s Search Quality Team manual reviews your site and sees that it has violated one of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

According to Google, only 0.22% of websites on the Internet have received manual actions, however most people that have been in SEO for long enough will have experienced a manual action in one form or another.

What’s the Result? Upon receiving a manual penalty, Google now sends an alert to all webmasters hit with a manual action in Google Webmaster Tools (note that if you don’t have your site verified in Webmaster Tools than you won’t receive a message).

1-3 weeks after receiving a manual action, your site will normally lose all of its organic SEO rankings. Sometimes this will be indefinitely and sometimes the penalty will expire after 3-6 months. The severity of the penalty usually depends on the seriousness of the violation. Matt Cutts at Google has stated that most penalties applied to websites have a fixed expiry time. Furthermore, penalties become more severe for repeat offenders

How to Fix it: In order to fix a penalty you’ll need to make changes to your website and fix whatever guidelines you violate with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This usually involves cleaning up your bad links with the help of a backlink monitoring tool.

Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to file a reconsideration request with Google (this is found in your Webmaster Tools account) that explains all of the actions you’ve taken to bring your site back in line with Google’s guidelines.

If you were penalized for buying links or link manipulation, you’ll need to remove or disavow the bad links before filing the reconsideration request (you’ll need to manually remove at least 40% of the bad backlinks). Once you’ve submitted your reconsideration request, you should here back within 1-2 weeks with the outcome.

2.    Penguin Update (Algorithmic Penalty)

What is it? The Penguin update was launched on April 24th 2012 and is a day that will live in infamy for most SEOs. The Penguin update targeted sites that had violated Google’s Webmaster guidelines (specifically Link Schemes such as over optimized anchor text and paid links). At the time it was launched, Google said that it impacted a total of 3.1% of English query search results.

You can read more about the Penguin update on Google’s Official Webmaster Blog here.

What is the Result? The Penguin update is the most ruthless and shocking of all penalties. This is because it completely removes all of a website’s organic search rankings and is arguably 99% impossible to recover from. In fact, in the 2 years since Google launched the Penguin update, there have been only faintly rumored cases of recovery.

How to Fix It: Google’s Matt Cutts claims that if you remove the link scheme violations to your site than your site will resurface in the next Penguin update (when the data is refreshed). However, to date there are been virtually no proven cases of recovery. The notion that you can’t recover from the Penguin update is reinforced by Matt Cutt’s declaration that Google aims to “break the spirits of Blackhat SEO’s”.

In conclusion, if you’re hit by the Penguin update then you’re only realistic option is to start over on a new domain.

3.    Panda Update (Algorithmic Penalty)

What is it? The Panda update is an algorithmic update that promotes high quality sites and reduces lower quality sites in the search results. The Panda update (also known as the Farmer update) was first launched on February 23rd 2011.

The original Panda update impacted 12% of search results and was designed to reduce low quality “content farms” and scraper sites in the search results. It is thought that this update was a direct response to the general criticism of Google’s search results at the time.

However, the Panda update has since incorporated far more signals and is thought to promote or reduce a site’s rankings based on additional signals such as user experience, page speed, content quality, uniqueness of content, brand signals, social signals and more.

Panda has a site-wide impact. This means that low quality quality content in one section of a site can bring the whole site’s ranking down.

Although the Panda algorithm was originally only updated once every 1-2 months (meaning webmasters had to wait months to recover once they had fixed their site), in June 2013, Google made Panda a core part of the main search engine algorithm, which means new data is now updated in real time.

What is the Result? Websites impacted by Google’s Panda update will see most of their rankings drop, and lose around 40-60% of their traffic from Google.

How to Recover: In order to recover from the Panda update, you’ll first need to identify the current potential issues on your site (e.g. low quality/duplicate content, slow page speed, poor site design, too many ads). You’ll then need to fix these issues and wait 2-3 months for your rankings to recover.

Unlike the Penguin update, the Panda update is thought to be easier to recover from for webmasters. In fact, in 2013 Google announced that it intended to “soften” the impact of the Panda algorithm and try to make it easier to recover from.

You can read an excellent recovery guide for the Panda update written by Marcus Taylor at here.

Conclusion on Google Penalties

This page has explained the main Google penalties that impact webmasters, the impact that these penalties have, and the strategies needed in order to recover. For more information about Google penalties or to find out if your site was hit by a penalty then we recommend taking a look at the Google Algorithm Change History at You can also use the Panguin checker tool to see which updates impacted your site.

On-Page SEO – How to Optimize a Website for Keywords

SEO Lesson 2: On-Page SEO – How to Optimize a Website for Keywords

Once you’ve chosen your target SEO keywords as explained in the previous lesson, the next stage is to build your site and optimize the on-page for your keywords.

Why is Optimizing your Site for Keywords Important?

The keywords and page titles of your site are two of the most important signals that search engines such as Google when ranking your website for search queries.

As we saw in our explanation of SEO ranking factors, page-level keywords and agnostic features make up around 23% of the search engine-ranking algorithm. That’s almost one-quarter of the ranking factors used in SEO!

On-Page SEO for Beginners

The following page provides a complete guide for on-page optimization for beginners.

1.    Title Tag

The Title Tag is the most important, individual element that Google uses to understand the relevance and context of a page. The title tag instructs Google what the page is about.

A good title tag also encourages a higher click-through rate (CTR) from users in the search engine results.


The HTML verison of a Title tag looks like this:

<title>Example Title</title>


  • When writing title tags, it’s important to include your primary keywords (and ideally secondary keywords) in the title as early as possible. Many SEO studies have shown clear correlation between search engine rankings and how early a keyword appears in the title tag.
  • The maximum length of a title tag should be 70 characters; if you go over this limit then your title tag will get cut off and become truncated in the search engine results page.
  • Don’t just stuff keywords in your title tag. Your title tag should primary be built for users and provide a clear, useful description for the content of your page.
  • Including your brand name at the beginning or end of your title tag can help with brand awareness.

2. H1 Tag (Headline Tag)

The H1 Tag is the main headline of the article and should start above the article content.

The HTML for the H1 tag looks like this:



  • Although the H1 tag used to be very important in SEO, it’s importance has gradually been declining
  • Multiple H1 tags on a single page are fine as long as you don’t over do it. This is according to Matt Cutts in his video.

 3.    Using Keywords in the Body Text

Using your primary and secondary keywords in the article body is just as important as the title tag itself.

Search engines such as Google analyze the context of a webpage by looking at the keywords and context of an article. Using various keywords in your article will also help your webpage rank for both short-tail and long-tail queries, as explained in our keyword research article.


  • In the past, SEOs recommended a minimum of 2% keyword density for your target keyword. However, as search engines evolved, they’re now capable of understanding the topical relevancy and using synonyms to understand article context. This means you should focus on using plenty of synonyms and avoid over-optimizing your content.
  • A number of studies have proven that all things being equal, longer content outperforms shorter content. Google has been getting much better at understanding the complexity and quality of content in recent years. This means you should aim to invest in high quality, long-form content to help your rankings.

4. Keywords in URL

Making sure that your primary keywords are contained in your URL is another advantage in SEO.

For example, if I’m writing an article about on-page optimization then I’m better off with the URL “” then compared to “”.


  • The URL structure of your website should generally be created with the /%postname% structure. These settings can be configured in the Permalinks section of your site if you’re using WordPress.
  • Shorter URLS look cleaner and are better for users.
  • Primary keywords in the domain name is another huge advantage

5. Images and Image Alt Attributes

Inserting relevant images into your article can also improve the perceived user value and SEO rankings for keywords.

Make sure that when you insert images into your post or page that you fill in the image name and ALT attributes (this is how Google currently understands the relevant and context of images, however this is likely to change in the future as Google is able to “read” images).

Not only will inserting and classifying images correctly help you generate more traffic from image searches but they’ll also help your page rank in the search engines.

6. Internal and External Links

Links are by far the single most important factor that Google uses when measuring the authority and trust of a webpage.

Although we’ll discuss more about link building in another lesson, it’s important that you internally link to important pages as much as possible with relevant anchor text. This is not only great for SEO but also good for user experience and increasing a website’s page views.

A good website architecture should also mean that you can get to any single page on your site in 3-4 clicks or less.

7. Meta Tags and Meta Description

In the past, Google relied heavily on Meta tags and description just like your title tag and H1. However, this has now changed and Google has confirmed that they give no weight to your meta tags in SEO.


However, although Meta description isn’t necessary for SEO, a well written meta description may help increase the CTR% in the search engine results page, which is a ranking signal in itself. Therefore, I would recommend filling in your Meta description for your most important pages.