Tag Archive | "Links"

How Google’s Nofollow, Sponsored, & UGC Links Impact SEO

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Google shook up the SEO world by announcing big changes to how publishers should mark nofollow links. The changes — while beneficial to help Google understand the web — nonetheless caused confusion and raised a number of questions. We’ve got the answers to many of your questions here.


14 years after its introduction, Google today announced significant changes to how they treat the “nofollow” link attribute. The big points:

  1. Link attribution can be done in three ways: ”nofollow”, “sponsored”, and “ugc” — each signifying a different meaning. (The fourth way, default, means no value attributed)
  2. For ranking purposes, Google now treats each of the nofollow attributes as “hints” — meaning they likely won’t impact ranking, but Google may choose to ignore the directive and use nofollow links for rankings.
  3. Google continues to ignore nofollow links for crawling and indexing purposes, but this strict behavior changes March 1, 2020, at which point Google begins treating nofollow attributes as “hints”, meaning they may choose to crawl them.
  4. You can use the new attributes in combination with each other. For example, rel=”nofollow sponsored ugc” is valid.
  5. Paid links must either use the nofollow or sponsored attribute (either alone or in combination.) Simply using “ugc” on paid links could presumably lead to a penalty.
  6. Publishers don’t have to do anything. Google offers no incentive for changing, or punishment for not changing.
  7. Publishers using nofollow to control crawling may need to reconsider their strategy.

Why did Google change nofollow?

Google wants to take back the link graph.

Google introduced the nofollow attribute in 2005 as a way for publishers to address comment spam and shady links from user-generated content (UGC). Linking to spam or low-quality sites could hurt you, and nofollow offered publishers a way to protect themselves.

Google also required nofollow for paid or sponsored links. If you were caught accepting anything of value in exchange for linking out without the nofollow attribute, Google could penalize you.

The system generally worked, but huge portions of the web—sites like Forbes and Wikipedia—applied nofollow across their entire site for fear of being penalized, or not being able to properly police UGC.

This made entire portions of the link graph less useful for Google. Should curated links from trusted Wikipedia contributors really not count? Perhaps Google could better understand the web if they changed how they consider nofollow links.

By treating nofollow attributes as “hints”, they allow themselves to better incorporate these signals into their algorithms.

Hopefully, this is a positive step for deserving content creators, as a broader swath of the link graph opens up to more potential ranking influence. (Though for most sites, it doesn’t seem much will change.)

What is the ranking impact of nofollow links?

Prior to today, SEOs generally believed nofollow links worked like this:

  • Not used for crawling and indexing (Google didn’t follow them.)
  • Not used for ranking, as confirmed by Google. (Many SEOs have believed for years that this was in fact not the case)

To be fair, there’s a lot of debate and speculation around the second statement, and Google has been opaque on the issue. Experimental data and anecdotal evidence suggest Google has long considered nofollow links as a potential ranking signal.

As of today, Google’s guidance states the new link attributes—including sponsored and ugc—are treated like this:

  • Still not used for crawling and indexing (see the changes taking place in the future below)
  • For ranking purposes, all nofollow directives are now officially a “hint” — meaning Google may choose to ignore it and use it for ranking purposes. Many SEOs believe this is how Google has been treating nofollow for quite some time.

Beginning March 1, 2020, these link attributes will be treated as hints across the board, meaning:

  • In some cases, they may be used for crawling and indexing
  • In some cases, they may be used for ranking

Emphasis on the word “some.” Google is very explicit that in most cases they will continue to ignore nofollow links as usual.

Do publishers need to make changes?

For most sites, the answer is no — only if they want to. Google isn’t requiring sites to make changes, and as of yet, there is no business case to be made.

That said, there are a couple of cases where site owners may want to implement the new attributes:

  1. Sites that want to help Google better understand the sites they—or their contributors—are linking to. For example, it could be to everyone’s benefit for sites like Wikipedia to adopt these changes. Or maybe Moz could change how it marks up links in the user-generated Q&A section (which often links to high-quality sources.)
  2. Sites that use nofollow for crawl control. For sites with large faceted navigation, nofollow is sometimes an effective tool at preventing Google from wasting crawl budget. It’s too early to tell if publishers using nofollow this way will need to change anything before Google starts treating nofollow as a crawling “hint” but it may be important to pay attention to.

To be clear, if a site is properly using nofollow today, SEOs do not need to recommend any changes be made. Though sites are free to do so, they should not expect any rankings boost for doing so, or new penalties for not changing.

That said, Google’s use of these new link attributes may evolve, and it will be interesting to see in the future—through study and analysis—if a ranking benefit does emerge from using nofollow attributes in a certain way.

Which link attribute should you use?

If you choose to change your nofollow links to be more specific, Google’s guidelines are very clear, so we won’t repeat them in-depth here. In brief, your choices are:

  1. rel=”sponsored” – For paid or sponsored links. This would assumingly include affiliate links, although Google hasn’t explicitly said.
  2. rel=”ugc” – Links within all user-generated content. Google has stated if UGC is created by a trusted contributor, this may not be necessary.
  3. rel=”nofollow” – A catchall for all nofollow links. As with the other nofollow directives, these links generally won’t be used for ranking, crawling, or indexing purposes.

Additionally, attributes can be used in combination with one another. This means a declaration such as rel=”nofollow sponsored” is 100% valid.

Can you be penalized for not marking paid links?

Yes, you can still be penalized, and this is where it gets tricky.

Google advises to mark up paid/sponsored links with either “sponsored” or “nofollow” only, but not “ugc”.

This adds an extra layer of confusion. What if your UGC contributors are including paid or affiliate links in their content/comments? Google, so far, hasn’t been clear on this.

For this reason, we may likely see publishers continue to markup UGC content with “nofollow” as a default, or possibly “nofollow ugc”.

Can you use the nofollow attributes to control  crawling and indexing?

Nofollow has always been a very, very poor way to prevent Google from indexing your content, and it continues to be that way.

If you want to prevent Google from indexing your content, it’s recommended to use one of several other methods, most typically some form of “noindex”.

Crawling, on the other hand, is a slightly different story. Many SEOs use nofollow on large sites to preserve crawl budget, or to prevent Google from crawling unnecessary pages within faceted navigation.

Based on Google statements, it seems you can still attempt to use nofollow in this way, but after March 1, 2020, they may choose to ignore this. Any SEO using nofollow in this way may need to get creative in order to prevent Google from crawling unwanted sections of their sites.

Final thoughts: Should you implement the new nofollow attributes?

While there is no obvious compelling reason to do so, this is a decision every SEO will have to make for themselves.

Given the initial confusion and lack of clear benefits, many publishers will undoubtedly wait until we have better information.

That said, it certainly shouldn’t hurt to make the change (as long as you mark paid links appropriately with “nofollow” or “sponsored”.) For example, the Moz Blog may someday change comment links below to rel=”ugc”, or more likely rel=”nofollow ugc”.

Finally, will anyone actually use the “sponsored” attribute, at the risk of giving more exposure to paid links? Time will tell.

What are your thoughts on Google’s new nofollow attributes? Let us know in the comments below.

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How to Get Started Building Links for SEO

Posted by KameronJenkins

Search for information about SEO, and you’ll quickly discover three big themes: content, user experience, and links. If you’re just getting started with SEO, that last theme will likely seem a lot more confusing and challenging than the others. That’s because, while content and user experience are under the realm of our control, links aren’t… at least not completely.

Think of this post as a quick-and-dirty version of The Beginner’s Guide to SEO’s chapter on link building. We definitely recommend you read through that as well, but if you’re short on time, this condensed version gives you a quick overview of the basics as well as actionable tips that can help you get started.

Let’s get to it!

What does “building links” mean?

Link building is a term used in SEO to describe the process of increasing the quantity of good links from other websites to your own.

Why are links so important? They’re one of the main (although not the only!) criteria Google uses to determine the quality and trustworthiness of a page. You want links from reputable, relevant websites to bolster your own site’s authority in search engines.

For more information on different types of links, check out Cyrus Shepard’s post All Links are Not Created Equal: 20 New Graphics on Google’s Valuation of Links.

“Building links” is common SEO vernacular, but it deserves unpacking or else you may get the wrong idea about this practice. Google wants people to link to pages out of their own volition, because they value the content on that page. Google does not want people to link to pages because they were paid or incentivized to do so, or create links to their websites themselves — those types of links should use the “nofollow” attribute. You can read more about what Google thinks about links in their webmaster guidelines.

The main thing to remember is that links to your pages are an important part of SEO, but Google doesn’t want you paying or self-creating them, so the practice of “building links” is really more a process of “earning links” — let’s dive in.

How do I build links?

If Google doesn’t want you creating links yourself or paying for them, how do you go about getting them? There are a lot of different methods, but we’ll explore some of the basics.

Link gap analysis

One popular method for getting started with link building is to look at the links your competitors have but you don’t. This is often referred to as a competitor backlink analysis or a link gap analysis. You can perform one of these using Moz Link Explorer’s Link Intersect tool.

Link Intersect gives you a glimpse into your competitor’s link strategy. My pal Miriam and I wrote a guide that explains how to use Link Explorer and what to do with the links you find. It’s specifically geared toward local businesses, but it’s helpful for anyone just getting started with link building.

Email outreach

A skill you’ll definitely need for link building is email outreach. Remember, links to your site should be created by others, so to get them to link to your content, you need to tell them about it! Cold outreach is always going to be hit-or-miss, but here are a few things that can help:

  • Make a genuine connection: People are much more inclined to help you out if they know you. Consider connecting with them on social media and building a relationship before you ask them for a link.
  • Offer something of value: Don’t just ask someone to link to you — tell them how they’ll benefit! Example: offering a guest post to a content-desperate publisher.
  • Be someone people would want to link to: Before you ask anyone to link to your content, ask yourself questions like, “Would I find this valuable enough to link to?” and “Is this the type of content this person likes to link to?”

There are tons more articles on the Moz Blog you can check out if you’re looking to learn more about making your email outreach effective:

Contribute your expertise using services like HARO

When you’re just getting started, services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) are great. When you sign up as a source, you’ll start getting requests from journalists who need quotes for their articles. Not all requests will be relevant to you, but be on the lookout for those that are. If the journalist likes your pitch, they may feature your quote in their article with a link back to your website.

Where do I go from here?

I hope this was a helpful crash-course into the world of link building! If you want to keep learning, we recommend checking out this free video course from HubSpot Academy that walks you through finding the right SEO strategy, including how to use Moz Link Explorer for link building.

Watch the video

Remember, link building certainly isn’t easy, but it is worth it!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Google doesn’t pass PageRank on nofollow links. Here’s why you still see them in GSC

Nofollow links will be included in your Link Report.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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"Study Finds:" How Data-Driven Content Marketing Builds Links and Earns Press Mentions

Posted by KristinTynski

In 2019, high-authority links remain highly correlated with rankings. However, acquiring great links is becoming increasingly difficult. Those of you who operate publications of any variety, especially those who enjoy high domain authority, have likely received several link building requests or offers like this each day:

“Please link to my suspect site that provides little or no value.”

“Please engage in my shady link exchange.”

“I can acquire 5 links of DA 50+ for $ 250 each.”

Or maybe slightly more effectively:

“This link is broken, perhaps you would like to link here instead.”

“You link to X resource, but my Y resource is actually better.”

This glut of SEOs who build links through these techniques above have been consistently eroding the efficacy of this style of little-to-no-value ad outreach link building. In the past, perhaps it was possible to convert 2% of outreach emails of this style to real links. Now, that number is more like 0.2 percent.

Link building outreach has become glorified email spam—increasingly ignored and decreasingly effective. And yet, high-authority links remain one of the single most important ranking factors.

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start with a few axioms.

The conclusion: Leveraging data journalism to tell newsworthy stories re-enables effective promotion of content via outreach/pitching. Doing so successfully results in the acquisition of high domain authority links that enjoy the potential for viral syndication. Overall data journalism and outreach represents one of the only remaining scaleable high-authority link building strategies.

How can I leverage data journalism techniques to earn coverage?

To answer this question, I conducted my own data journalism project about the state of data journalism-driven link building! (Meta, I know.)

The primary goal was to understand how major publications (the places worth pitching content) talk about data journalism findings from external sources. By understanding how data journalism is covered, we lay the groundwork for understanding what types of data journalism, themes, and strategies for outreach can be most effective for link building.

We pulled 8,400 articles containing the text “study finds.” This keyword was used as a heuristic for finding data-driven news stories created by outside sources (not done internally by the news publication themselves). We then supplemented these articles with additional data, including links built, social shares, and Google’s Machine Learning topic categorization.

The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us four ways to show the results within each category: The main topic area (containing all relevant subcategories), just the first subcategory, just the second subcategory, and just the third subcategory.

Which outlets most frequently cover data-driven stories from external pitches?

Let’s begin by taking a look at which top-tier news outlets cover “study finds” (AKA, any project pitched by an outside source that ran a survey or study that had “findings”).

For companies conducting studies, they hope to win press coverage for, these top sites are prime targets, with editorial guidelines that clearly see outside pitches of study findings as attractive.

It’s not surprising to see science-based sites ranking at the top, as they’re inherently more likely to talk about studies than other publications. But sites like The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, and NBC News all ranked highly as well, providing great insight into which established, trusted news sources are willing to publish external research.

Which topic areas do these publishers write about most?

Diving a little deeper, we can explore which topics are covered in these publications that are associated with these external studies, providing us insight into which verticals might be the best targets for this strategy.

There are many unique insights to be gleaned from the following charts depending on your niche/topical focus. This data can easily be used as a pitching guide, showing you which publishers are the most likely to pick up and cover your pitches for the findings of your study or survey.

Here is a view of the overall category and subcategory distribution for the top publishers.

As you can see, it’s…a lot. To get more actionable breakdowns, we can look at different views of the topical categories. The categories derived by Google’s classifier can have multiple tiers based on the keywords in the article titles, giving us several ways to show the results within each category.

You can explore the Tableau sheets to get into the nitty-gritty, but even with these views, a few more specialized publications, like InsideHigherEd.com and blogs.edweek.org, emerge.

Which topic areas drive the most links?

Press mentions are great, but syndication is where data journalism and content-based outreach strategy really shines. I also wanted to understand which topic areas drive link acquisition. As it turns out, some topics are significantly better at driving links than others.

Note that the color of the bar charts is associated with volume of sharing by topic—the darker the bar on the chart, the higher it was shared. With this additional sharing data, it’s plain to see that while links and social shares are highly correlated, there are some categories that are top link builders but do not perform as well on social and vice versa.

This next set of data visualizations again explore these topic areas in detail. In each batch, we see the median number of links built as an overall category aggregate and then by each category.

Which domains generate the most links when they pick up a data-driven story?

Another interesting question is which domains overall result in the largest number of links generated for “study finds” stories. Below is that ranking, colored by the median number of total shares for that domain.

Notice that while The Independent ranked supreme in the earlier graph about including the most “study finds” pieces, they don’t appear at all on this graph. Sites like The Guardian, CNN, The Washington Post, and NBC News, however, score highly on both, meaning they’re probably more likely to publish your research (relatively speaking, since all high-authority sites are tough to get coverage on), and if you’re successful, you’re probably more likely to get more syndicated links as a result.

Which topic areas are the most evergreen?

Now, let’s look at each category by BuzzSumo’s “evergreen score” to see what kind of content will get you the most bang for your buck.

The evergreen score was developed by BuzzSumo to measure the number of backlinks and social shares an article receives more than a month after it’s published.

When you’re considering doing a study and you want it to have lasting power, brainstorm whether any of these topics tie to your product or service offering, because it appears their impact lingers for longer than a month:

What this all means

Link building through data-driven content marketing and PR is a predictable and scalable way to massively impact domain authority, page authority, and organic visibility.

Always consider:

1. Which publishers make sense to pitch to?

  • Do they often cover external studies?
  • Do they cover topics that I write about?
  • Does their coverage lead to a high volume of syndicated links?

2. Does my topic have lasting power?

To really make the most of your content and outreach strategy, you’ll need to incorporate these tips and more into your content development and pitching.

In previous articles on Moz I’ve covered:

These ideas and methodologies are at the heart of the work we do at Fractl and have been instrumental in helping us develop best practices for ideation, content creation, and successful outreach to press. Pulling on each of these levers (and many others), testing, and accumulating data that can then be used to refine processes is what begins to make a real impact on success rates and allows you to break through the noise.

If you want to discuss the major takeaways for your industry, feel free to email me at kristin@frac.tl.

Did anything surprise you in the data? Share your thoughts below!

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Back to Basics: Do outbound links matter for SEO?

Google cautions SEOs to be mindful about outbound linking.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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All Links are Not Created Equal: 20 New Graphics on Google’s Valuation of Links

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Twenty-two years ago, the founders of Google invented PageRank, and forever changed the web. A few things that made PageRank dramatically different from existing ranking algorithms:

  • Links on the web count as votes. Initially, all votes are equal.
  • Pages which receive more votes become more important (and rank higher.)
  • More important pages cast more important votes.

But Google didn’t stop there: they innovated with anchor text, topic-modeling, content analysis, trust signals, user engagement, and more to deliver better and better results.

Links are no longer equal. Not by a long shot.

Rand Fishkin published the original version of this post in 2010—and to be honest, it rocked our world. Parts of his original have been heavily borrowed here, and Rand graciously consulted on this update.

In this post, we’ll walk you through 20 principles of link valuation that have been observed and tested by SEOs. In some cases, they have been confirmed by Google, while others have been patented. Please note that these are not hard and fast rules, but principles that interplay with one another. A burst of fresh link can often outweigh powerful links, spam links can blunt the effect of fresh links, etc.

We strongly encourage you to test these yourselves. To quote Rand, “Nothing is better for learning SEO than going out and experimenting in the wild.”

1. Links From Popular Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

Let’s begin with a foundational principle. This concept formed the basis of Google’s original PageRank patent, and quickly help vault it to the most popular search engine in the world.

PageRank can become incredibly complex very quickly—but to oversimplify—the more votes (links) a page has pointed to it, the more PageRank (and other possible link-based signals) it accumulates. The more votes it accumulates, the more it can pass on to other pages through outbound links.

In basic terms, popular pages are ones that have accumulated a lot of votes themselves. Scoring a link from a popular page can typically be more powerful than earning a link from a page with fewer link votes.

Links From Popular Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

2. Links “Inside” Unique Main Content Pass More Value than Boilerplate Links

Google’s Reasonable Surfer, Semantic Distance, and Boilerplate patents all suggest valuing content and links more highly if they are positioned in the unique, main text area of the page, versus sidebars, headers, and footers, aka the “boilerplate.”

It certainly makes sense, as boilerplate links are not truly editorial, but typically automatically inserted by a CMS (even if a human decided to put them there.) Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines encourage evaluators to focus on the “Main Content” of a page.

Links Inside Unique Main Content Pass More Value than Boilerplate Links

Similarly, SEO experiments have found that links hidden within expandable tabs or accordions (by either CSS or JavaScript) may carry less weight than fully visible links, though Google says they fully index and weight these links.

3. Links Higher Up in the Main Content Cast More Powerful Votes

If you had a choice between 2 links, which would you choose?

  1. One placed prominently in the first paragraph of a page, or
  2. One placed lower beneath several paragraphs

Of course, you’d pick the link visitors would likely click on, and Google would want to do the same. Google’s Reasonable Surfer Patent describes methods for giving more weight to links it believes people will actually click, including links placed in more prominent positions on the page.

Links Higher Up in the Main Content Cast More Powerful Votes

Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s Webspam team, once famously encouraged SEOs to pay attention to the first link on the page, and not bury important links. (source)

4. Links With Relevant Anchor Text May Pass More Value

Also included in Google’s Reasonable Surfer patent is the concept of giving more weight to links with relevant anchor text. This is only one of several Google patents where anchor text plays an important role.

Multiple experiments over the years repeatedly confirm the power of relevant anchor text to boost a page’s ranking better than generic or non-relevant anchor text.

It’s important to note that the same Google patents that propose boosting the value of highly-relevant anchors, also discuss devaluing or even ignoring off-topic or irrelevant anchors altogether.

Not that you should spam your pages with an abundance of exact match anchors. Data typically shows that high ranking pages typically have a healthy, natural mix of relevant anchors pointing to them.

Links With Relevant Anchor Text May Pass More Value

Similarly, links may carry the context of the words+phrases around/near the link. Though hard evidence is scant, this is mentioned in Google’s patents, and it makes sense that a link surrounded by topically relevant content would be more contextually relevant than the alternative.

5. Links from Unique Domains Matter More than Links from Previously Linking Sites

Experience shows that it’s far better to have 50 links from 50 different domains than to have 500 more links from a site that already links to you.

This makes sense, as Google’s algorithms are designed to measure popularity across the entire web and not simply popularity from a single site.

In fact, this idea has been supported by nearly every SEO ranking factor correlation study ever performed. The number of unique linking root domains is almost always a better predictor of Google rankings than a site’s raw number of total links.

Links from Unique Domains Matter More than Links from Previously Linking Sites

Rand points out that this principle is not always universally true. “When given the option between a 2nd or 3rd link from the NYTimes vs. randomsitexyz, it’s almost always more rank-boosting and marketing helpful to go with another NYT link.”

6. External Links are More Influential than Internal Links

If we extend the concept from #3 above, then it follows that links from external sites should count more than internal links from your own site. The same correlation studies almost always show that high ranking sites are associated with more external links than lower ranking sites.

Search engines seem to follow the concept that what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

External Links are More Influential than Internal Links

That’s not to say that internal links don’t count. On the contrary, internal linking and good site architecture can be hugely impactful on Google rankings. That said, building external links is often the fastest way to higher rankings and more traffic.

7. Links from Sites Closer to a Trusted Seed Set May Pass More Value

The idea of TrustRank has been around for many years. Bill Slawski covers it here.

More recently, Google updated its original PageRank patent with a section that incorporates the concept of “trust” using seed sites. The closer a site is linked to a trusted seed site, the more of a boost it receives.

In theory, this means that black hat Private Blog Networks (PBNs) would be less effective if they were a large link distance away from more trusted sites.

Links from Sites Closer to a Trusted Seed Set May Pass More Value

Beyond links, other ways that Google may evaluate trust is through online reputation—e.g. through online reviews or sentiment analysis—and use of accurate information (facts). This is of particular concern with YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages that “impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users.”

This means links from sites that Google considers misleading and/or dangerous may be valued less than links from sites that present more reputable information.

8. Links From Topically Relevant Pages May Cast More Powerful Votes

You run a dairy farm. All things being equal, would you rather have a link from:

  1. The National Dairy Association
  2. The Association of Automobile Mechanics

Hopefully, you choose “a” because you recognize it’s more relevant. Though several mechanisms, Google may act in the same way to toward topically relevant links, including Topic-Sensitive PageRank, phrase-based indexing, and local inter-connectivity.

These concepts also help discount spam links from non-relevant pages.

Links From Topically Relevant Pages Cast More Powerful Votes

While I’ve included the image above, the concepts around Google’s use of topical relevance is incredibly complex. For a primer on SEO relevance signals, I recommend reading: 

  1. Topical SEO: 7 Concepts of Link Relevance & Google Rankings
  2. More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO

9. Links From Fresh Pages Can Pass More Value Than Links From Stale Pages

Freshness counts.

Google uses several ways of evaluating content based on freshness. One way to determine the relevancy of a page is to look at the freshness of the links pointing at it.

The basic concept is that pages with links from fresher pages—e.g. newer pages and those more regularly updated—are likely more relevant than pages with links from mostly stale pages, or pages that haven’t been updated in a while. 

For a good read on the subject, Justing Briggs has described and named this concept FreshRank.

    A page with a burst of links from fresher pages may indicate immediate relevance, compared to a page that has had the same old links for the past 10 years. In these cases, the rate of link growth and the freshness of the linking pages can have a significant influence on rankings.

    Links From Fresh Pages Can Pass More Value Than Links From Stale Pages

    It’s important to note that “old” is not the same thing as stale. A stale page is one that:

    • Isn’t updated, often with outdated content
    • Earns fewer new links over time
    • Exhibits declining user engagement

    If a page doesn’t meet these requirements, it can be considered fresh – no matter its actual age. As Rand notes, “Old crusty links can also be really valuable, especially if the page is kept up to date.”

    10. The Rate of Link Growth Can Signal Freshness

    If Google sees a burst of new links to a page, this could indicate a signal of relevance.

    By the same measure, a decrease in the overall rate of link growth would indicate that the page has become stale, and likely to be devalued in search results.

    All of these freshness concepts, and more, are covered by Google’s Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data patent.

    The Rate of Link Growth Can Signal Freshness

    If a webpage sees an increase in its link growth rate, this could indicate a signal of relevance to search engines. For example, if folks start linking to your personal website because you’re about to get married, your site could be deemed more relevant and fresh (as far as this current event goes.)

    11. Google Devalues Spam and Low-Quality Links

    While there are trillions of links on the web, the truth is that Google likely ignores a large swath of them.

    Google’s goal is to focus on editorial links, e.g. “links that you didn’t even have to ask for because they are editorially given by other website owners.” Since Penguin 4.0, Google has implied that their algorithms simply ignore links that they don’t feel meet these standards. These include links generated by negative SEO and link schemes.

    Google Devalues Spam and Low-Quality Links

    That said, there’s lots of debate if Google truly ignores all low-quality links, as there’s evidence that low-quality links—especially those Google might see as manipulative—may actually hurt you.

    12. Link Echos: The Influence Of A Link May Persist Even After It Disappears

    Link Echos (a.k.a. Link Ghosts) describe the phenomenon where the ranking impact of a link often appears to persist, even long after the link is gone.

    Rand has performed several experiments on this and the reverberation effect of links is incredibly persistent, even months after the links have dropped from the web, and Google has recrawled and indexed these pages several times.

    Speculation as to why this happens includes: Google looking at other ranking factors once the page has climbed in rankings (e.g. user engagement), Google assigning persistence or degradation to link value that isn’t wholly dependent on its existence on the page, or factors we can’t quite recognize.

    Link Echos: The Influence Of A Link May Persist Even After It Disappears

    Whatever the root cause, the value of a link can have a reverberating, ethereal quality that exists separately from its HTML roots.

    As a counterpoint, Niel Patel recently ran an experiment where rankings dropped after low-authority sites lost a large number of links all at once, so it appears possible to overcome this phenomenon under the right circumstances.

    13. Sites Linking Out to Authoritative Content May Count More Than Those That Do Not

    While Google claims that linking out to quality sites isn’t an explicit ranking factor, they’ve also made statements in the past that it can impact your search performance.

    “In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.” – Matt Cutts

    Sites Linking Out to Authoritative Content May Count More Than Those That Do Not

    Furthermore, multiple SEO experiments and anecdotal evidence over the years suggest that linking out to relevant, authoritative sites can result in a net positive effect on rankings and visibility.

    14. Pages That Link To Spam May Devalue The Other Links They Host

    If we take the quote above and focus specifically on the first part, we understand that Google trusts sites less when they link to spam.

    This concept can be extended further, as there’s ample evidence of Google demoting sites it believes to be hosting paid links, or part of a private blog network.

    Pages That Link To Spam May Devalue The Other Links They Host

    Basic advice: when relevant and helpful, link to authoritative sites (and avoid linking to bad sites) when it will benefit your audience.

    15. Nofollowed Links Aren’t Followed, But May Have Value In Some Cases

    Google invented the nofollow link specifically because many webmasters found it hard to prevent spammy, outbound links on their sites – especially those generated by comment spam and UGC.

    A common belief is that nofollow links don’t count at all, but Google’s own language leaves some wriggle room. They don’t follow them absolutely, but “in general” and only “essentially” drop the links from their web graph.

    Nofollowed Links Aren't Followed, But May Have Value In Some Cases

    That said, numerous SEO experiments and correlation data all suggest that nofollow links can have some value, and webmasters would be wise to maximize their value.

    16. ManyJavaScript Links Pass Value, But Only If Google Renders Them

    In the old days of SEO, it was common practice to “hide” links using JavaScript, knowing Google couldn’t crawl them.

    Today, Google has gotten significantly better at crawling and rendering JavaScript, so that most JavaScript links today will count.

    ManyJavaScript Links Pass Value, But Only If Google Renders Them

    That said, Google still may not crawl or index every JavaScript link. For one, they need extra time and effort to render the JavaScript, and not every site delivers compatible code. Furthermore, Google only considers full links with an anchor tag and href attribute.

    17. If A Page Links To The Same URL More Than Once, The First Link Has Priority

    … Or more specifically, only the first anchor text counts.

    If Google crawls a page with two or more links pointing to the same URL, they have explained that while PageRank flows normally through both, they will only use the first anchor text for ranking purposes.

    This scenario often comes into play when your sitewide navigation links to an important page, and you also link to it within an article below.

    If A Page Links To The Same URL More Than Once, The First Link Has Priority

    Through testing, folks have discovered a number of clever ways to bypass the First Link Priority rule, but newer studies haven’t been published for several years.

    18. Robots.txt and Meta Robots May Impact How and Whether Links Are Seen

    Seems obvious, but in order for Google to weigh a link in it’s ranking algorithm, it has to be able to crawl and follow it. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of site and page-level directives which can get in Google’s way. These include:

    • The URL is blocked from crawling by robots.txt
    • Robots meta tag or X-Robots-Tag HTTP header use the “nofollow” directive
    • The page is set to “noindex, follow” but Google eventually stops crawling
    Robots.txt and Meta Robots May Impact How and Whether Links Are Seen

    Often Google will include a URL in its search results if other pages link to it, even if that page is blocked by robots.txt. But because Google can’t actually crawl the page, any links on the page are virtually invisible.

    19. Disavowed Links Don’t Pass Value (Typically)

    If you’ve built some shady links, or been hit by a penalty, you can use Google’s disavow tool to help wipe away your sins.

    By disavowing, Google effectively removes these backlinks for consideration when they crawl the web.

    Disavowed Links Don’t Pass Value (Typically)

    On the other hand, if Google thinks you’ve made a mistake with your disavow file, they may choose to ignore it entirely – probably to prevent you from self-inflicted harm.

    20. Unlinked Mentions May Associate Data or Authority With A Website

    Google may connect data about entities (concepts like a business, a person, a work of art, etc) without the presence of HTML links, like the way it does with local business citations or with which data refers to a brand, a movie, a notable person, etc.

    In this fashion, unlinked mentions may still associate data or authority with a website or a set of information—even when no link is present.

    Unlinked Mentions May Associate Data or Authority With A Website

    Bill Slawski has written extensively about entities in search (a few examples here, here, and here). It’s a heady subject, but suffice to say Google doesn’t always need links to associate data and websites together, and strong entity associations may help a site to rank.

    Below, you’ll find all twenty principals combined into a single graphic. If you’d like to print or embed the image, click here for a higher-res version.

    Please credit Moz when using any of these images.

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    Google: Disavowing Bad Links May Help Google Algorithmically Trust Your Links

    Google’s John Mueller said in a webmaster hangout on Tuesday at the 16:44 mark that in some cases, disavowing or cleaning up bad links to your site may help Google’s algorithm trust other links to your site. Let me quote what the question was and how John responded, plus you can watch it yourself below.


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    Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Algorithm Chatter, Bad Links, News Bugs, Bing Machine Learning & More

    This week I covered a possible small Google algorithm update that touched down sometime over the week. Google said you really shouldn’t have to worry about bad links but if you do…


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    Building Links with Great Content – Natural Syndication Networks

    Posted by KristinTynski

    The debate is over and the results are clear: the best way to improve domain authority is to generate large numbers of earned links from high-authority publishers.

    Getting these links is not possible via:

    • Link exchanges
    • Buying links
    • Private Blog Networks, or PBNs
    • Comment links
    • Paid native content or sponsored posts
    • Any other method you may have encountered

    There is no shortcut. The only way to earn these links is by creating content that is so interesting, relevant, and newsworthy to a publisher’s audience that the publisher will want to write about that content themselves.

    Success, then, is predicated on doing three things extremely well:

    1. Developing newsworthy content (typically meaning that content is data-driven)
    2. Understanding who to pitch for the best opportunity at success and natural syndication
    3. Writing and sending pitches effectively

    We’ve covered point 1 and point 3 on other Moz posts. Today, we are going to do a deep dive into point 2 and investigate methods for understanding and choosing the best possible places to pitch your content. Specifically, we will reveal the hidden news syndication networks that can mean the difference between generating less than a handful or thousands of links from your data-driven content.

    Understanding News Syndication Networks

    Not all news publishers are the same. Some publishers behave as hubs, or influencers, generating the stories and content that is then “picked up” and written about by other publishers covering the same or similar beats.

    Some of the top hubs should be obvious to anyone: CNN, The New York Times, BBC, or Reuters, for instance. Their size, brand authority, and ability to break news make them go-to sources for the origination of news and some of the most common places journalists and writers from other publications go to for story ideas. If your content gets picked up by any of these sites, it’s almost certain that you will enjoy widespread syndication of your story to nearly everywhere that could be interested without any intervention on your part.

    Unfortunately, outside of the biggest players, it’s often unclear which other sites also enjoy “Hub Status,” acting as a source for much of the news writing that happens around any specific topic or beat.

    At Fractl, our experience pitching top publishers has given us a deep intuition of which domains are likely to be our best bet for the syndication potential of content we create on behalf of our clients, but we wanted to go a step further and put data to the question. Which publishers really act as the biggest hubs of content distribution?

    To get a better handle on this question, we took a look at the link networks of the top 400 most trafficked American publishers online. We then utilized Gephi, a powerful network visualization tool to make sense of this massive web of links. Below is a visualization of that network.

    An interactive version is available here.

    Before explaining further, let’s detail how the visualization works:

    • Each colored circle is called a node. A node represents one publisher/website
    • Node size is related to Domain Authority. The larger the node, the more domain authority it has.
    • The lines between the nodes are called edges, and represent the links between each publisher.
    • The strength of the edges/links corresponds to the total number of links from one publisher to another. The more links from one publisher to another, the stronger the edge, and the more “pull” exerted between those two nodes toward each other.
    • You can think of the visualization almost like an epic game of tug of war, where nodes with similar link networks end up clustering near each other.
    • The colors of the nodes are determined by a “Modularity” algorithm that looks at the overall similarity of link networks, comparing all nodes to each other. Nodes with the same color exhibit the most similarity. The modularity algorithm implemented in Gephi looks for the nodes that are more densely connected together than to the rest of the network

    Once visualized, important takeaways that can be realized include the following:

    1. The most “central” nodes, or the ones appearing near the center of the graph, are the ones that enjoy links from the widest variety of sites. Naturally, the big boys like Reuters, CNN and the NYTimes are located at the center, with large volumes of links incoming from all over.
    2. Tight clusters are publishers that link to each other very often, which creates a strong attractive force and keeps them close together. Publishers like these are often either owned by the same parent company or have built-in automatic link syndication relationships. A good example is the Gawker Network (at the 10PM position). The closeness of nodes in this network is the result of heavy interlinking and story syndication, along with the effects of site-wide links shared between them. A similar cluster appears at the 7PM position with the major NBC-owned publishers (NBC.com, MSNBC.com, Today.com, etc.). Nearby, we also see large NBC-owned regional publishers, indicating heavy story syndication also to these regional owned properties.
    3. Non-obvious similarities between the publishers can also be gleaned. For instance, notice how FoxNews.com and TMZ.com are very closely grouped, sharing very similar link profiles and also linking to each other extensively. Another interesting cluster to note is the Buzzfeed/Vice cluster. Notice their centrality lies somewhere between serious news and lifestyle, with linkages extending out into both.
    4. Sites that cover similar themes/beats are often located close to each other in the visualization. We can see top-tier lifestyle publishers clustered around the 1PM position. News publishers clustered near other news publishers with similar political leanings. Notice the closeness of Politico, Salon, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. Similarly, notice the proximity of Breitbart, The Daily Caller, and BizPacReview. These relationships hint at hidden biases and relationships in how these publishers pick up each other’s stories.

    A More Global Perspective

    Last year, a fascinating project by Kalev Leetaru at Forbes looked at the dynamics Google News publishers in the US and around the world. The project leveraged GDelt’s massive news article dataset, and visualized the network with Gephi, similarly to the above network discussed in the previous paragraph.

    This visualization differs in that the link network was built looking only at in-context links, whereas the visualization featured in the previous paragraph looked at all links. This is perhaps an even more accurate view of news syndication networks because it better parses out site-wide links, navigation links, and other non-context links that impact the graph. Additionally, this graph was generated using more than 121 million articles from nearly every country in the world, containing almost three-quarters of a billion individual links. It represents one of the most accurate pictures of the dynamics of the global news landscape ever assembled.

    Edge weights were determined by the total number of links from each node to each other node. The more links, the stronger the edge. Node sizes were calculated using Pagerank in this case instead of Domain Authority, though they are similar metrics.

    Using this visualization, Mr. Leetaru was able to infer some incredibly interesting and potentially powerful relationships that have implications for anyone who pitches mainstream publishers. Some of the most important include:

    1. In the center of the graph, we see a very large cluster. This cluster can be thought of as essentially the “Global Media Core,” as Mr. Leetaru puts it. Green nodes represent American outlets. This, as with the previous example, shows the frequency with which these primary news outlets interlink and cover each other’s stories, as well as how much less frequently they cite sources from smaller publications or local and regional outlets.
    2. Interestingly, CNN seems to play a unique role in the dissemination to local and regional news. Note the many links from CNN to the blue cluster on the far right. Mr. Leetaru speculates this could be the result of other major outlets like the NYTimes and the Washington Post using paywalls. This point is important for anyone who pitches content. Paywalls should be something taken into consideration, as they could potentially significantly reduce syndication elsewhere.
    3. The NPR cluster is another fascinating one, suggesting that there is heavy interlinking between NPR-related stories and also between NPR and the Washington Post and NYTimes. Getting a pickup on NPR’s main site could result in syndication to many of its affiliates. NYTimes or Washington Post pickups could also have a similar effect due to this interlinking.
    4. For those looking for international syndication, there are some other interesting standouts. Sites like NYYibada.com cover news in the US. They are involved with Chinese language publications, but also have versions in other languages, including English. Sites like this might not seem to be good pitch targets, but could likely be pitched successfully given their coverage of many of the same stories as US-based English language publications.
    5. The blue and pink clusters at the bottom of the graph are outlets from the Russian and Ukrainian press, respectively. You will notice that while the vast majority of their linking is self-contained, there seem to be three bridges to international press, specifically via the BBC, Reuters, and AP. This suggests getting pickups at these outlets could result in much broader international syndication, at least in Eastern Europe and Russia.
    6. Additionally, the overall lack of deep interlinking between publications of different languages suggests that it is quite difficult to get English stories picked up internationally.
    7. Sites like ZDnet.com have foreign language counterparts, and often translate their stories for their international properties. Sites like these offer unique opportunities for link syndication into mostly isolated islands of foreign publications that would be difficult to reach otherwise.

    I would encourage readers to explore this interactive more. Isolating individual publications can give deep insight into what syndication potential might be possible for any story covered. Of course, many factors impact how a story spreads through these networks. As a general rule, the broader the syndication network, the more opportunities that exist.

    Link Syndication in Practice

    Over our 6 years in business, Fractl has executed more than 1,500 content marketing campaigns, promoted using high-touch, one-to-one outreach to major publications. Below are two views of content syndication we have seen as a result of our content production and promotion work.

    Let’s first look just at a single campaign.

    Recently, Fractl scored a big win for our client Signs.com with our “Branded in Memory” campaign, which was a fun and visual look at how well people remember brand logos. We had the crowd attempt to recreate well-known brand logos from memory, and completed data analysis to understand more deeply which brands seem to have the best overall recall.

    As a result of strategic pitching, the high public appeal, and the overall “coolness” factor of the project, it was picked up widely by many mainstream publications, and enjoyed extensive syndication.

    Here is what that syndication looked like in network graph form over time:

    If you are interested in seeing and exploring the full graph, you can access the interactive by clicking on the gif above, or clicking here. As with previous examples, node size is related to domain authority.

    A few important things to note:

    • The orange cluster of nodes surrounding the central node are links directly to the landing page on Signs.com.
    • Several pickups resulted in nodes (publications) that themselves generated many numbers of links pointing at the story they wrote about the Signs.com project. The blue cluster at the 8PM position is a great example. In this case it was a pickup from BoredPanda.com.
    • Nodes that do not link to Signs.com are secondary syndications. They pass link value through the node that links to Signs.com, and represent an opportunity for link reclamation. Fractl follows up on all of these opportunities in an attempt to turn these secondary syndications into do-follow links pointing directly at our client’s domain.
    • An animated view gives an interesting insight into the pace of link accumulation both to the primary story on Signs.com, but also to the nodes that garnered their own secondary syndications. The GIF represents a full year of pickups. As we found in my previous Moz post examining link acquisition over time, roughly 50% of the links were acquired in the first month, and the other 50% over the next 11 months.

    Now, let’s take a look at what syndication networks look like when aggregated across roughly 3 months worth of Fractl client campaigns (not fully comprehensive):

    If you are interested in exploring this in more depth, click here or the above image for the interactive. As with previous examples, node size is related to domain authority.

    A few important things to note:

    1. The brown cluster near the center labeled “placements” are links pointing back directly to the landing pages on our clients’ sites. Many/most of these links were the result of pitches to writers and editors at those publications, and not as a result of natural syndication.
    2. We can see many major hubs with their own attached orbits of linking nodes. At 9PM, we see entrepreneur.com, at 12PM we see CNBC.com, 10PM we see USAToday, etc.
    3. Publications with large numbers of linking nodes surrounding them are examples of prime pitching targets, given how syndications link back to stories on those publications appear in this aggregate view.

    Putting it All Together

    New data tools are enabling the ability to more deeply understand how the universe of news publications and the larger “blogosphere” operate dynamically. Network visualization tools in particular can be put to use to yield otherwise impossible insights about the relationships between publications and how content is distributed and syndicated through these networks.

    The best part is that creating visualizations with your own data is very straightforward. For instance, the link graphs of Fractl content examples, along with the first overarching view of news networks, was built using backlink exports from SEMrush. Additionally, third party resources such as Gdelt offer tools and datasets that are virtually unexplored, providing opportunity for deep understanding that can convey significant advantages for those looking to optimize their content promotion and syndication process.

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    Can You Still Use Infographics to Build Links?

    Posted by DarrenKingman

    Content link building: Are infographics still the highest ROI format?

    Fun fact: the first article to appear online proclaiming that “infographics are dead” appeared in 2011. Yet, here we are.

    For those of you looking for a quick answer to this strategy-defining question, infographics aren’t as popular as they were between 2014 and 2015. Although they were the best format for generating links, popular publications aren’t using them as often as they used to, as evidenced in this research. However, they are still being used daily and gaining amazing placements and links for their creators — and the data shows, they are already more popular in 2018 than they were in 2013.

    However, if there’s one format you want to be working with, use surveys.

    Note: I am at the mercy of the publication I’ve reviewed as to what constitutes their definition of an infographic in order to get this data at scale. However, throughout my research, this would typically include a relatively long text- and data-heavy visualization of a specific topic.

    The truth is that infographics are still one of the most-used formats for building links and brand awareness, and from my outreach experiences, with good reason. Good static visuals or illustrations (as we now call them to avoid the industry-self-inflicted shame) are often rich in content with engaging visuals that are extremely easy for journalists to write about and embed, something to which anyone who’s tried sending an iframe to a journalist will attest.

    That’s why infographics have been going strong for over a decade, and will continue to for years to come.

    My methodology

    Prophecies aside, I wanted to take a look into the data and discover whether or not infographics are a dying art and if journalists are still posting them as often as they used to. I believe the best way to determine this is by taking a look at what journalists are publishing and mapping that over time.

    Not only did I look at how often infographics are being used, but I also measured them against other content formats typically used for building links and brand awareness. If infographics are no longer the best format for content-based link building, I wanted to find out what was. I’ve often used interactives, surveys, and photographic content, like most people producing story-driven creatives, so I focused on those as my formats for comparison.

    Internally, you can learn a ton by cross-referencing this sort of data (or data from any key publication clients or stakeholders have tasked you with) with your own data highlighting where you’re seeing most of your successes and identifying which formats and topics are your strengths or weaknesses. You can quickly then measure up against those key target publications and know if your strongest format/topic is one they favor most, or if you might need to rethink a particular process to get featured.

    I chose to take a look at Entrepreneur.com as a base for this study, so anyone working with B2B or B2C content, whether in-house or agency-side, will probably get the most use out of this (especially because I scraped the names of journalists publishing this content — shh! DM me for it. Feels a little wrong to publish that openly!).

    Disclaimer: There were two methods of retrieving this data that I worked through, each with their own limitations. After speaking with fellow digital PR expert, Danny Lynch, I settled on using Screaming Frog and custom extraction using XPath. Therefore, I am limited to what the crawl could find, which still included over 70,000 article URLs, but any orphaned or removed pages wouldn’t be possible to crawl and aren’t included.

    The research

    Here’s how many infographics have been featured as part of an article on Entrepreneur.com over the years:

    As we’ve not yet finished 2018 (3 months to go at the time this data was pulled), we can estimate the final usage will be in the 380 region, putting it not far from the totals of 2017 and 2016. Impressive stuff in comparison to years gone by.

    However, there’s a key unknown here. Is the post-2014/15 drop-off due to lack of outreach? Is it a case of content creators simply deciding infographics were no longer the preferred format to cover topics and build links for clients, as they were a few years ago?

    Both my past experiences agency-side and my gut feeling would be that content creators are moving away from it as a core format for link building. Not only would this directly impact the frequency they are published, but it would also impact the investment creators place in producing infographics, and in an environment where infographics need to improve to survive, that would only lead to less features.

    Another important data point I wanted to look at was the amount of content being published overall. Without this info, there would be no way of knowing if, with content quality improving all the time, journalists were spending a significantly more time on posts than they had previously while publishing at diminishing rates. To this end, I looked at how much content Entrepreneur.com published each year over the same timeframe:

    Although the data shows some differences, the graphs are pretty similar. However, it gets really interesting when we divide the number of infographics by the number of articles in total to find out how many infographics exist per article:

    There we have it. The golden years of infographics were certainly 2013 and 2014, but they’ve been riding a wave of consistency since 2015, comprising a higher percentage of overall articles that link builders would have only dreamed of in 2012, when they were way more in fashion.

    In fact, by breaking down the number of infographics vs overall content published, there’s a 105% increase in the number of articles that have featured an infographic in 2018 compared to 2012.

    Infographics compared to other creative formats

    With all this in mind, I still wanted to uncover the fascination with moving away from infographics as a medium of creative storytelling and link building. Is it an obsession with building and using new formats because we’re bored, or is it because other formats provide a better link building ROI?

    The next question I wanted to answer was: “How are other content types performing and how do they compare?” Here’s the answer:

    Again, using figures publisher-side, we can see that the number of posts that feature infographics is consistently higher than the number of features for interactives and photographic content. Surveys have more recently taken the mantle, but all content types have taken a dip since 2015. However, there’s no clear signal there that we should be moving away from infographics just yet.

    In fact, when pitting infographics against all of the other content types (comparing the total number of features), apart from 2013 and 2014 when infographics wiped the floor with everything, there’s no signal to suggest that we need to ditch them:

    Year

    Infographics vs Interactives

    Infographics vs Photography

    Infographics vs Surveys

    2011

    -75%

    -67%

    -90%

    2012

    -14%

    -14%

    -65%

    2013

    251%

    376%

    51%

    2014

    367%

    377%

    47%

    2015

    256%

    196%

    1%

    2016

    186%

    133%

    -40%

    2017

    195%

    226%

    -31%

    2018

    180%

    160%

    -42%

    This is pretty surprising stuff in an age where we’re obsessed with interactives and “hero” pieces for link building campaigns.

    Surveys are perhaps the surprise package here, having seen the same rise that infographics had through 2012 and 2013, now out-performing all other content types consistently over the last two years.

    When I cross-reference to find the number of surveys being used per article, we can see that in every year since 2013 their usage has been increasingly steadily. In 2018, they’re being used more often per article than infographics were, even in their prime:

    Surveys are one of the “smaller” creative campaigns I’ve offered in my career. It’s a format I’m gravitating more towards because of their speed and potential for headlines. Critically, they’re also cheaper to produce, both in terms of research and production, allowing me to not only create more of them per campaign, but also target news-jacking topics and build links more quickly compared to other production-heavy pieces.

    I think, conclusively, this data shows that for a solid ROI when links are the metric, infographics are still competitive and viable. Surveys will serve you best, but be careful if you’re using the majority of your budget on an interactive or photographic piece. Although the rewards can still be there, it’s a risk.

    The link building potential of our link building

    For one last dive into the numbers, I wanted to see how different content formats perform for publishers, which could provide powerful insight when deciding which type of content to produce. Although we have no way of knowing when we do our outreach which KPIs different journalists are working towards, if we know the formats that perform best for them (even if they don’t know it), we can help their content perform by proxy — which also serves the performance of our content by funneling increased equity.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to extract a comment count or number of social shares per post, which I thought would be an interesting insight to review engagement, so I focused on linking root domains to discover if there is any difference in a publisher’s ability to build links based on the formats they cover, and if that could lead to an increase in link equity coming our way.

    Here’s the average number of links from different domains for each post featuring a different content type received:

    Impressively, infographics and surveys continue to hold up really well. Not only are they the content types that the publisher features more often, they are also the content types that build them the most links.

    Using these formats to pitch with not only increases the chances that a publisher’s post will rank more competitively in your content’s topic area (and put your brand at the center of the conversation), it’s also important for your link building activity because it highlights the potential link equity flowing to your features and, therefore, how much ends up on your domain.

    This gives you the potential to rank (directly and indirectly) for a variety of phrases centered around your topic. It also gives your domain/target page and topically associated pages a better chance of ranking themselves — at least where links play their part in the algorithm.

    Ultimately, and to echo what I mentioned in my intro-summary, surveys have become the best format for building links. I’d love to know how many are pitched, but the fact they generate the most links for our linkers is huge, and if you are doing content-based link building with SEO-centric KPIs, they give you the best shot at maximizing equity and therefore ranking potential.

    Infographics certainly still seem to have a huge part in the conversation. Only move away from them if there’s proof in your data. Otherwise, you could be missing out for no reason.

    That’s me, guys. I really hope this data and process is interesting for everyone, and I’d love to hear if you’ve found or had experiences that lead to different conclusions.

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