If you love data, you’ll love this month’s roundup of the biggest news in SEO. Scraping and analytical tools are developing rapidly and more people than ever are digging deep into the data to give us the juiciest insights we’ve ever seen.
Appropriately, this month’s roundup begins with a series of killer case studies that use as many as millions of points of data to reveal what it means to rank quality content, build quality links, and craft superior anchor text.
Up after that are the month’s best guides. They’ll teach you the next steps when Google isn’t indexing your site, how to use the disavow tool safely and how to scale your low-budget campaigns up when you’re ready for the big leagues.
Finally, we get to the news. If last month was a stressful one for you, you’re not alone. A lot of things went wonky with search results and console tools. We’re going to talk about some of what went wrong, whether they’re fixed and if you can expect the problems to come back.
Let’s get started. First, a deep in-depth look at how Google ranks your content.
What 1.1 Million Says about How Google Ranks Your Content In 2019
Why analyze a thousand results when you could analyze a million? That must have been what Authority Hackers were thinking when they produced this case study.
They went as far as creating a custom crawler just to find out if the conventional wisdom of content building held any water. What they came back with a long list of impressions and conclusions that are covered in a refreshing amount of detail.
There’s a lot to unpack, but to whet your appetite to read the whole thing, start with these revelatory little nuggets…
- Snippets matter and are growing in importance a lot faster than you might think
- The most competitive positions are 2 and 3, while 1 tends to be more stable over time
- Keywords still make a huge difference, especially in the metas, titles, and headers
- The primacy of long content has more to do with room for solid keywords than it does with length itself being rewarded
If you’ve kept up with some of our past news items, a lot of this won’t be a surprise to you, but make sure you don’t miss the myths that get busted in the later parts of this guide.
Think Google behaves differently with high volume keywords? That it rewards embedded Youtube videos over videos hosted other places? That URL length is a really important factor? You might be surprised by what the data shows.
With what you’ve learned content so far, you should find it pretty easy to start maximizing your organic SEO. However, we can go deeper. The next case study is an exhaustive look at the importance and power of choosing quality when building links.
How to Choose Quality over Quantity when Linkbuilding
How many links do you need, really? Probably not as many as you think as long as you’re paying attention to the quality. It’s difficult to put a solid number to the links required to rank, but this case study shows that you can get some amazing results—including an overall ROI of 1000%—with fewer than 20.
However, the case study went further than just looking at the sites that should be picked for the links. The pages that would be linked to and the anchor text that would be used were given the same amount of attention.
For the client, those 18 links delivered £12k Per Year Link Value, with a monthly ROI of 1000%. At the end of the six months, the project was generating 30 new leads per month, a 550% increase in organic leads. The average first sale from new customers was £1500-£6000.
The study should be useful to anyone who is interested in refining their linking strategy, but it also serves as a great guide for people who want to understand Ahrefs better. It goes into plenty of detail on how the various tools in that program can be used to find hyper-relevant opportunities.
Moving back to link juice for a moment, the next case study is an exhaustive look at anchor text when building on PBNs.
What a study of 54K anchors tells you about performance
You’re not going to find a more comprehensive breakdown of the anchors used in PBNs than the case study that Rank Club released. This analysis of more than 50,000 links looked at the performance of different categories through the lens of how long each placement was held by clients.
The data paints a very clear picture of what’s effective, and what isn’t. The winning categories are decisively superior to some of the others, but it’s also clear that some categories are more effective in certain situations and that variety has its own value.
Even if you’re not using PBNs, the research here will help you get better at identifying and categorizing the anchor text you use for any type of link so you can create some diversification.
You’ve learned a lot from these case studies, but what’s coming next are the guides with step-by-step instructions on how to improve your operations. There were a lot of great ones this month, starting with a guide on exactly what to do when Google resists indexing your site.
How to Get Your Site Indexed
Honestly, it’s a pretty serious situation when Google isn’t indexing your site, so it’s all the better that this guide gets right down to business.
There are a lot of reasons that you might not show up in Google search results even after you’ve completed the general indexing process that starts in Google Search Console. Fortunately, all of your next steps are found here in one place.
The guide takes you through how to remove all the roadblocks that prevent the entire site or just a few pages from ever showing up, including…
- How to remove crawl blocks
- How to update your site map
- How to fix no-follow internal links
- How to remove low-quality pages
There’s a lot more. If you have pages that are just being missed for any reason, you’re likely to find the solution that you’ve been looking for somewhere in this guide.
One of the recommendations is to build some high-quality backlinks. If you need to improve your link profile after some questionable choices, then the next item in our roundup will come in really handy. It’s a guide on how to use the disavow tool.
What links to target first with the disavow tool
Do you need to disavow anything to perform better? Before you get any farther, make sure you understand that the answer is probably “no”. This isn’t because we assume you’re angels with golden link profiles, but instead because disavowing can backfire and lead to rapid ranking drops if you aren’t careful.
It’s not always clear what links Google considers dangerous. You could easily disavow a link that provides you with a serious amount of juice.
You should only use the disavow tool when you’ve already been hit with a manual penalty. That’s when you need this guide from Moz to tell you who should get disavowed first.
Not only does this guide tell you what links should be disavowed, but it also gives them to you in order of priority so that you can take it slow and avoid disavowing the links that don’t cause you trouble.
Following this guide can put your site in a strong position. That’s where you want to be if you’re thinking about the scaling up to a large-scale campaign. If that’s where you’re headed, the next item is the guide that will take you there.
How to scale up large marketing campaigns
It’s not too hard to get to a money site up in running. If you’ve been following our roundups for a while, you’ve already passed by a lot of guides that tell you how to do just that.
This one is different though. Instead of telling you how to get started with a certain strategy, it’s about how to take a working strategy and scale it up into a massive campaign. The focus of this guide is on creating the infrastructure you need to target a lot of keywords and administer a large number of ads.
To that end, it covers everything from the coding you need to do get masses of keywords at once to how to do the split-testing for hundreds of different ads. It’s a long guide, but it’s worth the read for what it can teach you.
This guide is only really relevant to those who have a reason to build a massive campaign, but what’s coming next is going to be useful to almost everyone. That’s right, the months biggest SEO headlines are coming up in the next section, starting with an event that left a lot of people baffled for a day.
Google Search Console Manual Actions Now Back After Disappearing
Manual actions are pretty frustrating when they happen to you. You or your clients may wish they’d just go away. For about a day near the very end of April, you could have gotten your wish. Manual actions simply vanished from the console without a trace.
Unfortunately, the traffic didn’t come back while the manual action was missing. Instead of being relieved of the penalty, site owners just lost the ability to do anything about it from within the console. Word came down shortly afterward that the missing actions were part of a bug.
Google is now reporting that the bug is fixed, so if you thought you had beaten a penalty, now may be the time to check and see if it’s come back. You may not be out of the woods, after all.
This was only the latest news about a bug in what was a turbulent month. Another one of them resulted in weeks of seemingly-random algorithmic penalties for hundreds of sites.
The mysterious source behind massive 1-month algorithmic penalties
Have you ever seen a site lose 90%+ of its traffic in a single day? Well, a lot of people experienced that last month, and this story covers one of the most in-depth responses to it—filled with thoughtful theories and data dives into everything that could have gone wrong.
There was no penalty anywhere, and no major change in the site’s architecture or pages. It was just hit really hard. The SEO team was simply stumped, but they documented as much as they possibly could.
But then the site came back. Not slowly, not in response to an action, but exactly one month later (to the minute!) from the time the penalty had first arrived.
Fortunately, the work wasn’t in vain. It inspired a “worst-case-scenario” action plan that you may want to apply to your own sites. Having all your eggs in one search engine basket is a big risk. Emergencies like these can be a helpful reminder of the importance of diversifying.
Did Google deliver incorrect search console data for…all of April?
Data is an SEOs best friend, and being without that data can be terrifying. Of course, having it available can be a cold comfort is there’s a chance that it might just be…flat out wrong.
Unfortunately, that was the case for more than a few sites between the dates of April 9-25th. Google’s Search Console experienced a data outage that meant most of the data collected during those days was not properly recorded and is not recoverable.
Data was still coming in, it just wasn’t complete and can’t be used properly. The good news is that the problem was reported fixed by April 26th. The functionality has returned even if the missing data hasn’t.