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Diggity Marketing SEO News Roundup – October 2020

October 2020 SEO Roundup cover

You’ve got three months left to make this year the one that breaks all your records. With everything you’re going to learn in this roundup, that may be more than enough time.

We’ll start with a pack of guides. You’ll learn how (and when) to use tier 1 vs. tier 2 PBNs, why websites are an evergreen business, and how you need to change your tactics to handle in-house SEO.

Then, we’ve got data you can use to impact your operations. Learn how top SEO companies are optimizing their sites, whether emojis in subject lines can affect your open rates, and what causes rank volatility by the numbers.

Finally, we’ll close with two news items you can’t miss. Learn the results of SEOs voting on the best Facebook group and whether we have reason to believe that Google will soon be launching authority profiles.

PBNs: Tier 1 vs. Tier 2 (When to Use What)

Rob Rok of Rankclub brings us this look at modern PBNs, and two types of links that play different roles. He identifies tier 1 and tier 2 links and describes when you should use them.

Tier 1 PBN links are the links that you build directly to your site. Tier 2 links are the ones that you build to your inbound links. For example, if you land a link from a major news site, the tier 2 links you build toward that page (rather than your own site).

Tier 2 Link Building graphic

For both types, Rob explains the use cases where they do the most good.

He recommends that you build tier 1 links when:

  • You trust the PBNs you’re using
  • Your page doesn’t have too many homepage links already
  • You need some extra power to overcome a challenging competitor

He recommends that you build tier 2 links when:

  • Your competitors don’t have many links, and you don’t want to stand out from the crowd
  • You want to minimize your risk as much as possible while building links
  • When you just need a little more juice from your existing links

The advice applies to most situations where you need to build links, and the next piece is also going to be relevant to nearly everyone—both beginners and jaded veterans. The people at Flippa make the case that websites are an evergreen business.

Websites Are an Evergreen Business – Here’s Why

Ron Stefanski argues that websites represent an evergreen business model with nearly unlimited potential compared to brick & mortar enterprises.

He defines evergreen businesses as those that don’t need aggressive marketing to generate profits and offer investors less risk.

evergreen business from flippa

There aren’t many people in SEO who would disagree. However, understanding his arguments may help you get over some doubts or unlock some extra potential from your websites.

He points to the facts that websites:

  • Are always evolving
  • Never need to close
  • Have effortlessly-adjustable business models
  • Can be updated as needed
  • Have content strategies that can be adjusted as needed

To support these arguments, he lays out how they apply to sites in key niches.

He uses Weight Watchers as one example. WW is a site that has been around for more than a decade and benefitted from how easily websites can adapt.

weight watcher from flippa

That adaptability has allowed the site to effortlessly float from focusing on diets to lifestyle programs and devices without ever having to stick to just one. Wherever the audience for weight loss goes, WW can follow.

These kinds of transitions would be disastrous for a brick and mortar business whose customers expect to find specific items in stock. Websites chiefly focus on information, though, so they can go wherever the interest does.

As evergreen as websites are, their evolution isn’t always voluntary. What it takes to optimize a site is still in flux. The next guide is going to help you catch up with the latest strategies for in-house SEO.

How to Master the Art of Inhouse SEO

Kevin Indig brings us this comprehensive look into in-house SEO, why it’s different, and how you should do it. He starts by breaking down the differences between agency SEO and in-house SEO.

For example, in an SEO agency, account management is almost as important as SEO itself. You have to balance client demands with the ideas that produce results. You’ll often have to deal with lengthy approval processes.

In-house SEO is different, Kevin argues. Here, you’re much more likely to own your project and have free reign to experiment. However, that doesn’t mean in-house SEO is free of conflict.

For example, in-house SEOs may have trouble getting resources—especially design and engineering resources critical to their work. This often happens because SEO is slow to work, and these resources often have their own projects.

For this problem, Kevin identifies some solutions:

  • Make the business implications part of your pitch
  • Front-load the most effective tactics so that you can prove value in the first 30 days
  • Focus on serving the most influential teams of the company so that they can help you back
  • Imitate the people in the company who are the best at getting what they want
  • Be a storyteller

The guide is filled with additional advice, including how to solve the problem of technical SEO being lumped as a marketing expense and the challenges of showing SEOs value. It’s great advice for anyone starting in SEO or just making the transition to working in-house.

That covers the guides for this month, but there’s a lot more to learn in the upcoming case studies. To start, let’s look at how the top SEO companies optimize their websites by the numbers.

How Top SEO Companies Optimize Their Websites

Ivan Palii of Sitechecker has a lot to tell us about how the top SEOs in the world are optimizing their sites, but he’s happy to let the data do most of the talking.

top seo companies by domain age

The top tactics are broken down across 30+ graphs that cover:

  • Website score
  • Domain age
  • Linked domains
  • Page efficiency
  • # of pages
  • # of broken pages
  • Frequency of updates
  • Frequency of title and description changes
  • Frequency of H1 and content updates

After the graphs, he used public data to track exactly what top SEOs were doing to their websites.

He spotted SEOs like Nathan Gotch making small tweaks to meta data to improve CTR. In other examples, he caught Adam Enfroy doing some title experiments, and Brian Dean fixing some typos.

It’s a great look at the exact tweaks that practicing SEOs are using to keep their sites optimized. In the end, he showed that only 9 of 100 of the top SEO websites didn’t make any changes. In SEO at least, it seems that fortune favors the busy.

With the next case study, let’s look at some advice you can apply off-site. You’ll learn whether emojis boost your outreach or land you a 1-way ticket to the spam folder.

Emojis in Email Subject Lines: Do They Affect Open Rates? [DATA]

Shelley Walsh of Search Engine Journal brings us this massive case study involving nearly 4 million emails, and the impact emojis in subject lines have on open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes.

gordon ramsey email emoji meme

Using SEJs own massive mailing list as a test group, Shelley sent a series of messages through June and July. Emojis were added or withheld from SEJ’s:

  • Daily newsletters
  • Monthly newsletters
  • Merchandise & other announcements
  • Webinar emails
  • Sponsored emails

She hypothesized that the attention-drawing properties of emojis didn’t make up for the downsides. As she puts it: Just because you get attention, it doesn’t mean your reader likes it. The question, though, is what did the data say?

On the first measure—open rates—the results seemed clear. Subject lines without an emoji had an open rate of 52.94%, compared to 47.06% for emojis.

emoji open rate

CTR was a little different. In 11 out of 15 campaigns, the CTR was slightly higher when there was an emoji in the subject line. However, the news only got worse from there.

Emojis not only drove a higher rate of dropped subscriptions, but their use also resulted in more abuse reports to Google. Too many of those can cause your outreach address to be labeled as spam.

Let’s turn back to website optimization for the final case study of the month. We’re looking at what causes rank volatility, as demonstrated by several studies.

What Causes Rank Volatility and How to Deal With It

Darrell Mordecai of RankRanger brings us this look at the possible sources of long-term volatility. He does so by making case studies of volatile pages.

The first case study is a page on the website Allrecipes. This page jumped back and forth more than ten positions over 20 days for the keyword “learn to cook and bake.”

cook and bake serp rankranger

At least, in this case, he found the problem easy to diagnose. The SERP itself was a mess of different intents, and Google’s algorithm has not figured out which intent should be served for the keyword.

His recommendation for this problem was to research and include subtopics that had more stable SERPs. This wouldn’t stabilize the page’s position for the main keyword, but he theorizes it would ensure good traffic from other SERPs.

Another case study in the set looked at the performance of for the keyword “UK flights.” This page was reliably holding position 11 before it hit some turbulence that forced it either up or down, depending on the day.

Once again, this page was hardly alone in seeing shifts. The SERPs for UK flights did bizarre things like promoting a page 20 positions overnight, and then revoke all of that growth the next day.

volatility serp report rankranger

In this case, the volatility was traced back to a bug. Google admitted to the bug after some prompting, and the SERPs stabilized.

While this isn’t a fix, understanding whether you’re looking at a mistake, a Google update or a penalty should be a part of your problem-solving process. He reminds you that you can do so by checking bug reports on places like Search Engine Roundtable.

With the case studies out of the way, we’re ready to get to news and community updates. We’ll start by looking at the community’s choice of which Facebook Groups give the best SEO advice.

4 Best Facebook Groups for SEOs (Most Voted For)

seo group meme

The 10,000+ member Ahrefs Insider group and author Si Quan Ong bring us this poll on the best Facebook group for SEOs. The members nominated more than 20 groups, but in the end, only a handful shared most of the votes.

The top three were:

1. Affiliate SEO Mastermind
2. SEO Signals Lab
3. The Proper SEO Group

The winner was The Affiliate SEO Mastermind group that I founded. As Si notes, this group has nearly 15,000 people. It’s incredibly active on SEO and affiliate marketing topics and serves as both forum and marketplace.

affiliate mastermind fb group cover

The next runner-up was SEO Signals Labs. This beginner-friendly group is well-known for the helpfulness of its members. People who ask questions can often expect multiple replies within the first 20 minutes.

This group is known for its “Pick His Brain” events where top SEOs visit to answer community questions. I’ve been featured in the past, and so have people like Robbie Richards and Kevin Indig.

seo signal fb group

The Proper SEO Group was the 3rd most-voted. This group was recognized for welcoming everyone on the white-to-black-hat spectrum. In addition to that, it’s one of the few groups that regularly features agency and services-oriented discussions. It’s perfect for the professional.

If you hang out in any of these groups, you may have already heard about the possibility of an upcoming authority profile. In the next news item, you’ll learn a little more about them.

Did Google just hint at an authority profile?

Mordy Oberstein of Search Engine Land believes that Google has developed a system for assigning ‘authority profiles’ to sites. Google may have already developed profiles for the highest quality sites in YMYL (your-money-your-life) niches.

These profiles—or sets of recurring traits—could then be held up against newer or lower-ranking sites to see if they match.

authority profile quote from google

He caught a particular segment from one of Google’s recent blog posts that read:

We’ve learned that sites that demonstrate authoritativeness and expertise on a topic are less likely to publish false or misleading information”.

His analysis hones in on the phrase “we’ve learned.” That phrase suggests Google is at least moderately confident they have a process that works.

As further evidence, he reminds us of some reporting he’s already done on how the September 2019 update targeted loan niche sites. These pages had sales language on information pages, which made them an easy target once a working profile was ready.

Mordy has some advice if you think these profiles might play a larger role in upcoming updates. Start watching the super-authorities in your niche now.  Emulate their practices now so that you can be ready if they become the basis for a profile.


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Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.


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