Ahrefs guest blog post

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Things I Learned About SEO as a Customer Success Specialist at Ahrefs

Here, at Ahrefs, we firmly believe that the key to building a successful SEO Tool (or any tool for that matter) lies in our customer base itself. Because who else is better to tell you what people who buy your product need?

Obviously, we do some filtering and adjusting. But, nevertheless, we are good listeners, always open to learning something new.

And by providing assistance to our customers, each person on our team feels like they do something bigger than just guiding or answering common questions. Well, the position is called Customer Success Specialist for a reason. 

Now, while we are not 100% marketeers, we don’t really limit ourselves to the Ahrefs tool expertise. A tool (no matter how great it is) without a practical understanding of how it can be used makes very little sense, doesn’t it? So, we explore the SEO and marketing world on a daily basis to make sure we are on the same page with our customers.

Sure, Ahrefs is not an SEO agency where you can get consulted on promoting your business. But every once in a while, we do go that extra mile to ensure complete and total satisfaction.

SEO Customer serviceAnd what I mean by that is that I might answer some questions outside of our support scope, just so the person on the other side has a clearer idea of how exactly Ahrefs can help them achieve what they want.

Through countless conversations with our users, I came to understand what kind of issues a regular SEO beginner, or site owner, encounters, and how they deal with them.

A unique experience in terms of immersing oneself into this niche, I must say.

In this post, I would like to share some useful take-aways that anyone who starts out in SEO should note. So, let’s get started!


Keyword Targeting

Starting your own business can be quite overwhelming, once you realise you need to keep a solid online presence. Otherwise, you’re running the risk of staying behind your competition.

One of the first things that comes to mind when planning a marketing campaign is, of course, what keywords to target. Obviously, it will depend on what kind of business you are running, but ranking within the top 10 in Google requires a thorough understanding of how it can be achieved.

On a daily basis, I answer tons of questions, like “What keywords should I go for?” or “How long will it take for me to rank for this keyword?”

I’ll level with you, there are no ultimate answers to those questions, as each niche is different, and some rules may not apply to your particular case.

However, there are always some universal guidelines and approaches to follow that should be a real treasure on your journey to successful online marketing.


Study Your Niche

This technique is fairly easy and doesn’t really take any deep knowledge. What you need to do is get into your customer’s shoes. How? Well, I would check forums first, where your potential customers seek advice or share their experience. It will help you understand what topics they are interested in, and it can also be a great source of awesome keywords to target.

Plus, it will be a good opportunity for you to share your piece of content right away, since forums are where people go before buying a product. But let’s take this one step at a time.

Another place to consider is the comments section on pretty much any other platform that sells the same products (or provides the same services) as you do. By gathering both negative and positive feedback, you can come up with some solid topics to cover on your blog. Let’s imagine you run an online mobile phone store. Here’s a couple of titles that you can create around keywords you found;

  1. 10 most anticipated mobile phones in 2018.
  2. Most popular misconceptions about Android.
  3. How to choose a budget mobile phone, and what are the requirements?

The beauty of this method lies in its convenience, as you get both questions and answers in the same place. Although, it doesn’t really mean that you shouldn’t do any research on your own to back your reasoning up.

Honestly, the world is your oyster here. Take some time to analyse what your potential customers look for and then think of the best way of breaking it down for them.


Start with Low Competition Keywords

Every site owner’s goal is to rank #1 in Google. And yes, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. But in the beginning, everyone starts small, right?

The same goes for keywords and how you target them. If you are new to the game, you might not have the resources to go after high competition keywords and it wouldn’t be sensible anyway, since you wouldn’t likely be able to keep up.

So, where and how do you start? You need to find keywords that are less popular, but that can still bring a decent amount of traffic to your site. There are different ways of how you can approach this, but here’s what I recommend:

First, find a reliable keyword research tool that will allow you to compare and analyse data. Don’t rush to buy expensive tools that you’re not sure how to use. Better start with some free solutions. Learn the basics and get practice to gain some confidence. Here’s a list of some great free keyword research tools that definitely deserve your attention.

Low competition keywords mean that it shouldn’t be hard to rank for them. But what is hard and what is easy? Since no one knows how Google rankings work, it’s kind of a matter of finding what works best for you. But, for your convenience, SEOs have come up with a score “keyword difficulty”. However, everyone has a different notion of it.

There are more than 200 ranking factors, and it’s impossible to count in all of them. Here, at Ahrefs, we decided to focus on a website’s backlink profile, as it is a widely accepted major ranking factor.

The idea is simple, the fewer backlinks the top 10 results have, the lower the keyword difficulty score is.

Here’s a snapshot illustrating that;

AhrefsNo score is perfect, and you should always remember that. So, don’t consider KD score only. Look at different metrics that will give you a more complete picture.

Other essential aspects of keywords are search volume and clicks. One keyword may have a very moderate search volume but generate a lot of clicks, which translates into your organic traffic. On the other hand, some keywords are widely popular but hardly result in any clicks at all. Here’s an example, the answer is already given on the search results page;

AhrefsFor further reading, here’s a great article from Siege Media that deals with keywords that have low CTR.


Focus on Keywords That Will Bring You Income

Even if you find a perfect combination of KD, search volume and clicks, it still might not be the best fit for you. Why? Because your primary goal is to convert your visitors into your leads. Since income is what matters, at the end of the day, why spend time and resources on creating an outstanding piece of content if it attracts the wrong people?

To see what keywords already work, check one of your competitor’s pages. Using Ahrefs’ free Site Explorer tool, you can enter the URL, set exact URL mode to limit the scope to that very page, and look at their organic keywords report:

AhrefsIt will give you a list of keywords your competitor’s page ranks for, along with their metrics and even traffic estimates! By doing this competitor research, you save a lot of time and narrow down the number of potential keywords immensely. By the way, Stone Temple made a great video on why you should pursue relevant keywords.

At this stage, you can figure out what keywords you could go after and how profitable they are likely to be.

Another way to go is to use keyword modifiers that will predict user search intent. Like: best, buy, cheap, top, etc.


Link Building

Targeting the right keywords is, without a doubt, a big step ahead, but it doesn’t necessarily mean success. You might know that backlinks to your website are important, but do you know why?

Not only do backlinks drive traffic to your website, as people can click through to your page, it’s also a significant Google ranking factor. Put it simply, Google translates your backlink profile into your site’s domain authority.

This approach helps search engines determine if your site is worth ranking highly or not. This is why link building is such a big deal in SEO; the more quality backlinks you have, the better your chance of climbing up the ranking ladder.

The question is, how do I get a quality link? And what is a quality link?

Let’s break it down really quickly. A quality backlink is determined by numerous factors and every SEOer might have a different notion of it. But there are some key aspects that pretty much everyone considers:

  • The source you are getting a link from has to be relevant to your niche. Google analyzes the page content, the text around the anchor (and the anchor itself) etc. to evaluate your link. Try to acquire links from high authority websites, which means that they are deemed trustworthy by Google.
  • The easiest way to check it is to use some rank, like Google’s PageRank. Or Domain Rank (DR) and URL Rank (UR) by Ahrefs. The latter two are entirely based on backlinks profile but resemble PageRank in some ways.
  • Link placement and traffic are substantial for link building. Whether your link is in a prominent spot or not affects the number of clicks it will generate, and hence the traffic. So make sure it’s easily accessible and not hidden away somewhere in the footer. Your best bet is to put it right into the main content of the page.

If you find a perfect combination of the above, you will surely get a lot of “link juice” to boost your ratings.

As to how to acquire those quality backlinks. Again, you need to opt for whatever works best for you in terms of your resources and the results you get. So, you might need to put different techniques to the test to make an informed decision. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most used/famous link building techniques:



Linkbait is about creating content that people share organically. This is an ideal way of putting your site on the map. The more quality content you can produce, the higher the odds are that it will be shared. On the one hand, you don’t have to go to the trouble of finding link opportunities, on the other hand, how do you even crack the mystery of “viral” content?

I don’t think there is a formula to that. Keep in mind that, first of all, it has to be a well-thought piece of content. Something that was deliberately prepared and served in the most appealing way possible. Back it up with data, a survey, statistics, or any experiment you think can work.

If you write an article, also be sure to add some visual help, like graphs, images, maps or even videos. Keep it as transparent as possible to make sure every visitor has a clear idea of what the page is about and can easily extract some useful takeaways from it.

blogStand out. Turn your topic into a quiz, like “what smartphone suits you best”? It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem in the question, but if it’s fun and engaging, it’s worth sharing nevertheless. And it’s something that people can recommend to their friends easily.

Linkbait might seem easier for news sites. In this case, you need to think of a title (as well as a thumbnail) that will trigger the urge to click through and find out what actually happened. It’s a true art and takes a lot of practice. However, you shouldn’t exaggerate, as you can undermine your site’s credibility. So think outside of the box, but don’t make up stuff.

The last thing that I would like to mention is that you need to define your target audience. It will make the creating process much easier, as you can imagine what a regular representative of that group is looking for. Your goal is to appeal to the audience’s value, only in doing so can you secure some backlinks. Otherwise, your piece of content can turn out to be completely irrelevant.

All in all, Linkbait represents the main idea behind search engines, which is delivering top-notch content that is organically shared. I would strongly recommend you invest time into producing quality content, as people might simply click away from your page if they don’t like what they see. And no one wants that.


Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is another effective way of getting backlinks. Sure, it’s somewhat time-consuming, but it does yield great results if well executed.

The hardest thing might be to find the right resource and persuade the site owner that your contribution to their blog will be epic. The latter part shouldn’t be an issue if you genuinely care about your audience and have had some practice. But what about backlink opportunities?

Luckily, you can always peek at your competitors to see who links to them and simply steal those links. One way to go is to use Site Explorer by Ahrefs that allows you to study your competitor’s backlinks profile in no time. All you need to do is enter a URL and go to the backlink reports.

By using filters, you can find a perfect match for your website that you can pitch with your topic idea right away. The tool also shows traffic estimates the page gets, which is an awesome metric that you should consider using.

AhrefsOnce you have found a good link prospect, you need to pick the right approach for them. This is where your soft writing skills come into play. Along with some common sense!

My key piece of advice here is do not attempt to use outreach templates. First of all, they are often boring and don’t generate any interest. Second, a lot of the time, it shows that it’s a template. You must have received a couple of identical outreach templates as well; how many did you actually reply to? Or take the time to read? If you don’t bother tailoring a personalised email for me, why should I even open it?

Be creative, find a way to win their heart. Like complimenting them on the blog by mentioning some of their works that you actually enjoyed reading. Explain why they should accept your offer and how exactly their users will benefit from it.

Your email might be one of the hundreds they receive on a daily basis, so get noticed, not buried under that pile forever.

Here’s a fantastic post I highly recommend on how to do outreach right.


Broken Link Building

Broken link building is a tactic that pretty much anyone can do. How? You find pages with broken links, you recreate the content and then ask the site owner to link to your page instead. It’s mutually beneficial, as you get a backlink, and they replace a dead link with a correctly working one.

But checking tons of pages manually for broken links sounds crazy. So how do you proceed? Here’s how Ahrefs Backlink checker can be just the thing for you. Enter your competitor’s URL, go to Best by links report and filter the results by 404 HTTP code. You can also sort the pages by the number of dofollow backlinks:

AhrefsAs you see, a bunch of pages have a very solid amount of dofollow backlinks. If you reach out to those people, at least some of them should link to you. It’s all about how well you articulate your request, and of course, about the replacement you are going to offer.

Now, you certainly don’t need to contact all of them. Choose the pages with decent traffic and DR and that are related to your niche. It will also increase your chances of getting a response.


Final Thoughts

Actively promoting your product online has become an essential part of every business. These days, it’s the only way not only to be successful but to stay afloat in the harsh competition. As you are required to play by the rules, which are not clearly defined, you should focus on things that never fail to prove effective.

The easiest way to get started is to study your competitors by analysing their backlink profile and the keywords they already target. This should give you an insight into what strategies they pursue, how they get their traffic and what keywords can generate leads.

With that said, you should also stay on top of things in your niche. Get to know your potential customers in forums, comments, other related sites. Try to understand what advice they are seeking and give it to them in the best way possible.

Last but not least, collaborate and share your pieces of content with others. Establish relationships through link building to reach a greater audience.

Hopefully, this article will help you outplay your competitors and get the recognition your site deserves. Good luck!                                                         


Get In Touch

If you’d like to find out more, either about Ahrefs or how to do link building properly, then you can get in touch with Vlad Koval directly, by emailing him at vlad.koval@ahrefs.com, or contacting him via LinkedIn.

Alternatively, to speak to us about our link building services, you can contact GrowTraffic by email at info@growtraffic.co.uk or on the phone by calling 0161 706 0012.


About The Author

Vlad is a marketer and customer success specialist at Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors and dominate your niche. He’s passionate about all things SEO, foreign languages, and pizza. You can contact him via his Facebook or LinkedIn profiles.

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