This latest roundup is filled with everything you need to prepare for the coming year. Catch up on all the latest case studies, guides, and news items SEOs use to make their big moves.
First, you’ll get the latest data from the case studies. You’ll find out what 700+ link builders think works (and doesn’t). Then, you’ll learn which metric correlates most closely to organic visibility and which traffic tools most closely match Google’s own measurements.
The guides will help you hone your skills and judgment. This month, you’ll discover whether and when it’s valuable to buy backlinks, what ChatGPT can do, and how to develop an authoritative content funnel.
Finally, you’ll dive into the hottest news and discussion topics roiling SEO. There’s a new December Helpful Content Update, official guidance from Google about links, and new spam policies.
Survey of 755 Link Builders Shows What Works in 2022
Mark Webster of Authority Hacker brings you this look at what link builders think after Google recently announced that links may be less critical in the future than they are now (more on that in the news section).
He took this as an admission that links were a significant ranking factor. However, as he points out, this is a topic where SEOs get very little guidance and support from Google. Mark set out to find how SEOs felt instead.
The survey samples 755 professional link builders on what works. This included around 500 niche site owners and a selection of about 200 agencies, freelancers, and in-house teams.
Among other interesting results, he found that:
- 74.3% of link builders pay for links
- The average cost of a paid link is $83
- Experienced link builders can build links 41% cheaper
- It takes an average of 3.1 months to see the impact of a link on search ranking
One of the most striking results of this survey is how many link builders prefer to buy their links. Far from being a fringe group, link purchasers are an overwhelming majority.
You should check out the case study for a complete list of everything the Authority Hacker team learned and a deeper dive into each of the implications of the research.
Having links still matters, but what matters most about them? The following study will help you understand what factors play the most significant role in performance.
Study: Which Link Metric Correlates Closest to Organic Visibility?
Domenica D’Ottavio brings you this look at which link metrics matter the most if you want to achieve visibility in SERPs.
The Moz team analyzed the rank of 6000 commercial keywords focused on the home retail sector, broken into 15 miniature sectors such as beds, sofas, desks, and lighting.
The metrics measured for the study were:
- Number of unique linking domains
- Domain Authority
- Topical link profile relevance
The study found that topical link profile relevance was one of the most significant factors. It had a positive correlation with organic visibility for 10 of the 15 sectors studied.
While relevance stood out as the factor most closely related to performance, the full study suggests that no factor can be left unconsidered when building links. All of them were essential for reliable organic growth.
Check out the complete study to get a lot of additional detail into what works best for links. For the final case study, you’ll learn what 3rd-party tool has the best insights into how Google operates.
Which 3rd-Party Traffic Estimate Best Matches Google Analytics?
Rand Fishkin brings you this case study generated from more than 1,000 participants in a Sparktoro study.
The participants voluntarily submitted their own private Google Analytics (GA) data so that it could be measured and compared against the metrics provided by:
This study aimed to discover the most reliable 3rd-party traffic provider.
To measure this, Rand and the team chose to use GA’s user metric (measuring unique visitors) and compare it to the figure that most closely corresponded for each tool.
For example, SEMRush uses a “visits” figure, while Ahrefs “traffic performance” figure, and so on. These figures were taken and compared to the numbers created by GA.
Rand and the team found that the most accurate tool depended upon the type of site that was being analyzed.
In general, all the tools struggled to match the accuracy of GA, which made Rand more skeptical of 3rd party results. Check out the complete article to get more insight into his learning and the reasons for his conclusions.
For now, you are ready to move on to the guides. The first one explores the value of links right now.
Should You Buy Backlinks in 2022? It Depends
Joshua Hardwick brings you this look at the state of link buying in 2022 and provides some analysis and arguments to consider if you want to pursue link buying as a strategy.
First, he covers many of the speculative risks of buying backlinks. Many SEOs fear, based on reports by Google, that purchased links may lose value or result in penalties.
Most SEOs (75% of them if the first case study is accurate) don’t seem worried. Should they be?
Joshua goes on to break down some of the reasons that SEOs don’t seem worried. First, he theorizes, they don’t have much of a choice. Anyone who has built links knows the process rarely gets far before a link prospect asks for cash.
Many top-ranking blogs and informational sites charge for links even if they don’t openly advertise them. Google also has to catch you before there are penalties. Many paid links simply look the same as earned links.
With that out of the way, he goes on to fully detail how links are working now. You’ll learn what prices you’ll pay for common links, such as niche edits and paid guest posts, and how links can be built safely.
For the next guide, you’ll move on from links and learn about content.
The Authoritative Content Funnel
Amanda Milligan takes you through the process of developing and deploying an authoritative content funnel. Authoritative content is a vital type of content that demonstrates expertise or offers deeper information about a topic.
This type of content is notoriously hard to develop, but Amanda makes it easier for you by laying out all the goals you should be reaching for and the types of content used to achieve them.
She covers how you should use and develop:
- Newsworthy content
- Original data
- Annual reports
- Case studies,
- And more
Amanda gives you detailed information for each type of content, including how they leverage authority and what type of impression they can create in the reader’s mind.
Check out the complete guide for some great resources to help you plan your content. Next, you’ll learn about some of the implications of ChatGPT 3 and what it might mean for the future.
We Asked ChatGPT 3 Customer Experience Questions. Here’s How It Responded
Jennifer Torres brings you this look at some of the implications for ChatGPT 3—a recent release of an AI bot that has been getting significant attention from SEOs and other groups that sell online.
If you need an introduction, this recent guide will tell you what ChatGPT 3 is and why it’s provoking strong reactions across the board. You’ll also get to see what it looks like to use this (currently) free app from the inside.
For a more SEO-oriented analysis, you should see Nathan Gotch’s recent video about ChatGPT as a “Google Killer.” It has been provoking some strong reactions from the SEO community.
What ChatGPT is capable of may still remain to be seen. It could be the path to effortless content or something visitors tire of very quickly, and Google updates attack relentlessly.
If you want to learn more about how ChatGPT has changed SEO, watch this video.
That closes out the guides, and you’re ready to jump into the month’s news. It starts with a brand new helpful content update.
Official Announcement: December Helpful Content Update
Google’s own Search Central team brings you the announcement that an update is rolling out now. The announcement was made on the 6th but noted that the update had already been in motion since the previous day.
So far, Google has told us nothing else. The last Helpful Content Update caused a lot of volatility. It’s too early to say if this one will be like that or a minor update that addresses problems from the first one.
You’ll be able to find some analysis of this update in the next roundup. If you have been hit by the update, I recommend watching this video:
For now, consider Google’s recent announcement that links have less impact now than they did previously.
Google: Links Have Less Impact Today Than in the Past
Roger Montti looks at recent statements from a Google SEO office hours video. In it, a Googler claimed that backlinks have less impact as a ranking signal than they did in the past.
This isn’t an entirely new position (John Mueller made a similar statement in November 2022), but it has left some SEOs wondering what the future holds. As you saw in the case studies, SEOs have hardly backed down from building links.
Whatever changes Google made to links do not appear to have changed the game for many active SEOs.
However, now that they’ve declared a direction, future updates may further enforce it. Stay tuned for news on that.
With that, you’re ready to jump into the last bit of news of the week—A type of SEO hacking attack has hit WordPress sites. Is yours one of them?
Over 15,000 WordPress Sites Compromised in Malicious SEO Campaign
Ravie Lakshmanan of The Hacker News brings you this report that a black hat campaign has created redirects to bogus Q&A portals on more than 15,000 WP-based sites.
So far, the attack seems to infect these types of pages most often:
- wp-mail.php, xmlrpc.php
It’s even a clever enough hack that redirects won’t happen while the site admin is logged in—creating a false impression that everything’s fine.
The mechanism used by hackers to infect pages has not been explained. With no evidence of plugin vulnerabilities, some experts are speculating the attacks were done by brute force.
They recommend you change your passwords and implement 2-factor authentication if you haven’t already.
That’s all for this month’s roundup. Check back next month for more analysis of the new helpful content update and more.
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