SEO: Complete Course for Beginners: Learn to Rank #1 in Google | Search Engine Optimization


Hey everyone, my name is Sana Kakar, and welcome to the SEO fundamentals course by Ahrefs. In this course, I’ll be teaching you the fundamentals of SEO with a heavy focus on execution while it’s a beginner’s SEO course, I don’t want you to be fooled by the word “beginner.” Even for an 8-figure business like ours, we don’t do anything crazy technical or complicated.


Right from the start, we’ve stuck with the fundamentals of SEO that led to compounded growth. And today, our site gets over a million monthly visits from Google search alone, making SEO one of our most effective strategies to get traffic to our site. So the course is broken down into four modules plus this video, which is more of an introduction to the course as well as an SEO 101.

In this blog, we’ll go over the basics of SEO and cover things like what it is, why it’s important, and how it works. You’ll then move on to module 1 which is on keyword research. Throughout these lessons, I’ll show you how to find keywords to target that can benefit your business. It’ll also set the foundation for the next module, which is on-page SEO. In this module, we’ll talk about optimizing your pages to rank for those keywords. The next module will be on link building.

This is one of Google’s most prominent ranking signals which has proven to contribute to higher rankings in search. Finally, we’ll finish off the course with the basics of technical SEO, which will mostly be about your website and its maintenance. Alright, let’s kick things off with the SEO basics. We’ll talk about what search engine optimization is, why it’s important and how Google works.

SEO stands for search engine optimization. And it’s the process of optimizing content to be discovered through a search engine’s organic search results. Now, let’s talk a bit about how they work. If you’re completely new to SEO, then it’s easiest to think of search engines as libraries. But instead of storing books, they store copies of websites and web pages. So when you search for a query, the search engine will then look through all pages in its index and try to return the most relevant results. And SEO helps demonstrate to search engines that your page is that result.

Now, you might be thinking: why should I focus on SEO when there are so many other marketing mediums? Well, there are three major things that attract marketers to search engine optimization and in my opinion, these three things make SEO the best traffic source.


#1. Unlike paying for ads, search traffic is free.

#2. Organic traffic is typically consistent once you’re ranking high. Whereas other mediums like social media and email marketing often result in traffic spikes that usually end up fading to nothing. And it makes sense because social media networks are designed to surface fresh content. Emails often get marked as read, forgotten, or land in the spam box. Whereas search traffic is a result of users actively searching for information. And the number of searches for a given topic is typically consistent month to month.

#3. You have the opportunity to reach massive audiences you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. In fact, as of October 2019, there were nearly 4.39 billion internet users around the world. And almost 4 billion of those people are Google users. This is why search engine optimization is an 80-billion-dollar industry and why marketers from all walks of life are adopting and pursuing it today. Everyone wants their business to get discovered and SEO is the perfect way to do that. Now, let’s briefly talk about how Google works. And there are two parts to this.

The first is crawling and indexation. And these two things are what actually allow Google to discover web pages and create their search index. So to actually attain information, Google uses crawlers, also known as spiders, which gather publicly available information from all over the web. The spiders will start crawling from a list of known URLs called seeds. They then follow the hyperlinks on those pages and crawl those newly discovered pages. And this process goes on and on, allowing them to collect a ton of information.

They then take all of this data back to Google’s servers to be added to their “search index.” And that’s what people like you and I are searching through when we key in a query in Google. Now, if you were to search for something and Google returned every result that mentioned your words on the page, then you’d end up with really bad results. This brings us to the second part, which is Google’s ranking algorithm. Google has hundreds of ranking signals and they make tweaks to their algorithm 500 to 600 times per year.

So to be frank, no one knows exactly how their algorithms work. But they’ve given us clues and some guidelines to better understand the factors that are most important. In addition, third-party companies like ours have done studies to test and better understand these factors. Now, I won’t bore you with over 200 ranking signals, many of which are just speculation at best, but I do want to cover a few of the most important factors that you’ll need to understand from a fundamental standpoint. First are backlinks. Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another.

And Google has said on their How Search Works page that if other prominent websites link to a page, that’s proof to be a good sign that information is well trusted. The easiest way to understand the value of a backlink is to think of them as votes.

When a page receives a backlink, it’s essentially another website vouching for the content on the page. And the more “votes,” you get from credible sources, the higher the trust. And we also studied the effect of backlinks on search traffic and found a clear positive correlation between backlinks from unique websites and a page’s organic traffic. The second is search intent, which represents the reason behind a searcher’s query. And if you think of Google’s goal for search, their job is to return the most relevant results for any given query.

So with that said, you can discover search intent simply by looking at the top-ranking pages for the query you want to rank for. For example, if you search for “slow cooker recipes,” you’ll see that the search results are mostly blog posts with a list of slow cooker recipes. So if you try and rank a product page where you’re selling a slow cooker, you won’t be matching search intent and therefore, you won’t rank.

Now, if we change the query to just “slow cooker,” you’ll see that the dominant types of pages are eCommerce category pages. So if you try and rank your blog post on slow cooker recipes, then you probably won’t rank because you’re not matching search intent. This is a critical concept to understand and I’ll share a simple 3-step checklist you can use to determine search intent for any query in the next module. And third is content depth.

Search engines are made up of computer programs. So they can’t actually read and understand text like you and I would. Nevertheless, Google has poured billions of dollars into creating sophisticated technology that understands the content to a certain degree.

But it’s your job as a content creator to provide context about the subject. For example, if you look at the top-ranking pages for the query “how to drive a car,” you’ll find that they talk about things like, fastening your seatbelt, familiarizing yourself with the gas and brake pedals, adjusting your seat and mirrors, and other things that a first-time driver may not know. Basically, you want to be able to answer the searcher’s query the best that you possibly can.

And naturally, it should lead to content that has depth. Now, it’s important to note that depth doesn’t always translate to length. For example, a topic like “how to turn off iPhone 12” doesn’t need to and shouldn’t belong. In fact, the top-ranking page is only 185 words. But the content itself solves the user’s query from start to finish. Alright, so the basics are in the book and it’s time to move on to the keyword research module. Hey, it’s Sam Oh, and welcomes to the first module which is on keyword research. In this first lesson, we’re going to talk about what keywords are and how to choose them using a simple 4-point checklist.

Let’s get started. So what are keywords in the context of SEO? They’re simply just words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. For example, if you were shopping for running shoes, you might search for keywords like “men’s running shoes” or simply just “running shoes.” Now, keywords are actually super-important in SEO because it sets the entire foundation for search engine optimization. The basic goal of SEO is to rank your pages for keywords that your target audience or customers are searching for.

And if you’re not ranking for keywords that actually get searched, then your SEO efforts are kind of meaningless. For example, we rank #1 for the query “SEO checklist.” And this keyword is responsible for driving around 1,500 monthly visitors from Google. And that’s just in the US. So keyword research is the process of finding keywords that people are inputting into search engines. And we’ll get into this process in the upcoming lessons. So how do you actually choose keywords that are worth targeting? Let’s run through a checklist that should help you choose keywords effectively. The first thing to check is if your keyword has search demand. Search demand represents the volume of monthly searches made for a keyword.

This is measurable with a keyword metric that we call “search volume.” You can find the search volume for a keyword by using a keyword research tool like Ahrefs Keywords Explorer. For example, the query, “km to miles” gets searched around 478,000 times per month in the US alone. But as you can see here in Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, 80% of searches go without a click to a page. And that’s because Google has a handy calculator here that’ll solve the searcher’s problem.

So search volume alone can actually be a bit misleading. This is why it’s worth looking at the second checkpoint which is to check the traffic potential of the topic. Traffic potential represents the total search traffic you could get if you were to rank at the top of Google for your keyword. Let’s look at the stats for our SEO checklist page in Ahrefs Site Explorer. So again, we rank #1 for the query, “SEO checklist,” and it sends us approximately 1,500 monthly search visits from the US. But if we look at the total global organic traffic to the page, you’ll see that we get approximately 3,000 monthly visits from Google every single month because this page ranks for over 200 keywords! And this page isn’t an outlier.

In our study of 3 million keywords, we found that on average, the top-ranking page ranks for nearly a thousand other keywords in the top 10. So while you may be optimizing your pages for the main keyword, your page will likely rank for hundreds or even thousands of other relevant keywords. And because of that, the monthly search traffic potential of the topic “SEO checklist” is actually higher than its monthly search volume. This is what makes traffic potential a much more reliable metric than search volume.

The way you determine traffic potential is by looking at how much traffic the top-ranking pages are getting. For example, if we go to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and search for, “submit website to search engines,” you’ll see that it has a search volume of 1,100 monthly searches in the US. Now, if I scroll to the bottom of the page you’ll see a SERP overview, which shows you the top 10 ranking pages for that keyword. And SERP just stands for search engine results page. And as you can see, our page gets an estimated 5,300 monthly search visits from the US alone.

We rank for over 1,300 keywords making the traffic potential of this keyword higher than its search volume! Now, it doesn’t always work out this way. For example, the query “keyword cannibalization” has a search volume of 150 monthly searches. But the traffic potential is well under 100. So it becomes more of a business decision whether you want to tackle the topic or not. Now, choosing keywords based on metrics alone is not a good idea. This is why the rest of the checkpoints are meant to ground you. The next point on our checklist is to assess the business potential of the keyword or topic. Business potential simply represents the value a keyword has to your business.

And “value” really comes down to your niche as well as your business model. So an easy way to do this is by assigning scores between 1-3 to keywords you’re researching. The higher the number, the more important the topic is to your business. So let’s say you have a site about golf. And the way you make money is by selling used golf clubs. Bringing this back to business potential, means topics, where you can organically recommend products to visitors, would hold the highest business value. For example, people searching for something like “buy used golf clubs” are likely ready to make a purchase here and now.

So in my books, this would have a business value of 3. Now, a keyword like “best golf clubs” would also be relevant to your site. People are likely ready to make a purchase soon but just don’t know which clubs to buy. But it’s actually quite easy to plug your products. Because for the golf clubs you recommend, you can easily link back to your product pages leading visitors closer to making a purchase.

So I’d give this a business value of 2. Now, a keyword like “what is a handicap in golf” would be really tough to organically recommend your products. But nevertheless, it’s a way to attract relevant traffic to your site.

So I’d give this a business value of 1. So these would hold the lowest priority. And anything that has a score of 0 is probably worth ignoring because it’s not going to impact your bottom line. So something like “happy Gilmore review” would have a business value of 0 because it has nothing to do with your business other than the fact that it’s a fantastic movie about golf. Alright, the next point on this checklist is to see if you can match searcher intent.

This is a concept that we covered in the first lesson of this course, but it’s something that I’m going to keep talking about because it’s super-important. So again, search intent represents the reason behind a searcher’s query. And the way we determine that is by looking at the top-ranking pages for the keyword we want to rank for. For example, let’s say you have a recipes blog and you wanted to rank for “toaster oven.” Looking at the top ranking pages, you’ll see that almost all of the pages are ecommerce category pages. This tells us that the intent of the searcher is likely to buy or at least to shop around for different toaster ovens.

So unless you can actually satisfy the intent of the searcher, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to rank high for this query. And we’ll dig deeper into search intent in the next lesson. The final point of this keyword checklist is to determine whether you can rank for your keyword.

Search volume, traffic potential, and business potential mean absolutely nothing if you can’t rank for your keyword in the not-so-distant future. And understanding the level of difficulty to rank for a given keyword takes a bit of analysis and practice. This is why I’ve created an entire lesson on assessing ranking difficulty because mastering this process will help you get predictable results in SEO.

So I’ll save that for a later lesson. Now, actually choosing keywords comes down to finding a balance in this checklist. You have to ask yourself… Does the topic drive enough traffic and have business value to make it worth the effort? And this is the question you should ask yourself before you create pages with the intent to rank in search. And these 5 points in the checklist are exactly what we’re going to dive deeper into throughout the rest of this module.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcomes to the second lesson which is on search intent. And I touched on this in the first lesson on SEO basics, but I really want to take some time to unpack what it is and how to use it in keyword research. The reason being, if you can’t match searcher intent, then you probably aren’t going to rank for your target keywords. So again, search intent represents the reason behind a searcher’s query. And matching search intent is one of those “must-do” things to show search engines that your page will fulfill their goal – to deliver the most relevant results for any given query. And while it might sound like you’re trying to satisfy Google, what you’re actually doing is learning what you need to do to satisfy the searcher’s intent. Identifying search intent is usually quite easy.

All you have to do is search for the keyword you want to rank for and then analyze the top-ranking results. And the top-ranking results are a great proxy to understand search intent because Google understands what searchers want, probably more than anyone else. Now, “analyzing” is kind of a jargony word, but I have a simple 3-prong formula you can use. It’s called the 3 C’s of search intent. The first C is the content type. Content type can usually be categorized into blog posts, videos, products, categories, and landing pages. For example, the dominant type of pages for the query “best golf shoes” are blog posts. The second C is the content format.

And this applies more to blog posts and landing pages. A few common blog formats you’ll see are “how-tos,” step-by-step tutorials, list posts, and opinion editorials. For a landing page, that might be something like a tool or calculator. Again for the query “best golf shoes,” you’ll see that all of the top results are listicles, which makes sense because the word “best” implies that a comparison needs to be made. And the third C is the content angle, which often depicts the “benefit.” It’s basically your hook as to why someone should click and visit your page. For “best golf shoes,” you’ll see that every post has gone with the “freshness angle,” which is evident based on the current year being in the titles. In my opinion, this is the least important and often least consistent among top-ranking pages.

Now, this is just one example of search intent for a keyword. Let’s go through a few more examples to really drill into this concept. The first example is for the query “how to swing a golf club.” The dominant content type is clearly blog posts. But you’ll also notice that a YouTube video is ranking ahead of the blog posts. So this tells us that it may be worth creating both a blog post and video to potentially get two different spots in the search results.

As for the content format, they’re clearly all how-tos. And seeing as the nature of the topic would require a step-by-step procedure, that’s probably the route you’d want to go too. And you can confirm this by actually visiting some of the top-ranking pages. Now, with the content angle, it appears as though “for beginners” or “basic” seems to be the right way to approach the topic.

The second example is for the query “golf clubs.” Looking at the SERP, you’ll see that they’re all e-commerce category pages. This tells us that when people search for this query, they’re likely in shopping mode. Now, seeing as content format applies mostly to blog posts and landing pages, it wouldn’t be applicable here since we’re looking at e-commerce category pages. As for the content angle, it seems to be mostly about deals — so saving money on golf clubs.

Alright, the final example is for something like “golf bags.” Looking at the SERP, you’ll see something a bit different. We have a mixed SERP. Content-type for the top-ranking page is an eCommerce category page. Then we have a couple of blog posts on “the best golf bags.” And we also have an outlier on how to buy golf bags. And towards the bottom half of the results, we have more eCommerce category pages. So what do you do? Well, in order to make an educated decision, we still need to lay some foundation work. So we’ll revisit this example in a later lesson. Hey, it’s Sam Oh, and welcomes to the third lesson in our keyword research module. In this lesson, I’m going to show you how to find keywords for your website based on the things you learned in lessons 1 and 2 of this module. Let’s get started.

So keyword research is the process of finding keywords that people are searching for in search engines. And the general process can be divided into two macro steps. Step 1 is to generate keyword ideas. And step 2 is to validate whether those keywords are worth going after. Now, this lesson is mostly about step 1: generating keyword ideas for your website.

And in order to do that, you need a keyword research tool. Keyword research tools show you information on keywords like their search volume, keyword difficulty scores, and other SEO metrics. Plus, they should help you discover potential topics worth going after. There are a lot of tools out there and you’re free to use whichever ones you want. But for this course, I’ll be using Ahrefs Keywords Explorer. Now, I also understand that some people may not be in a place to purchase SEO software right now. If that’s you, then we also have a free tool called Ahrefs Keyword Generator, which is a good place to start. I’ll leave links to both tools in the description.

Alright, so we’re going to be doing some keyword research for the rest of this lesson. So let’s say that the website we’re doing keyword research for is a golf blog. And the way this blog generates revenue is through affiliate commissions, meaning they promote other people’s products and when someone clicks on one of the links and makes a purchase, you’re compensated with a commission. So the first step is to come up with a list of seed keywords. And a seed keyword is just a broad keyword related to your niche. So I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and add a few seeds for our golf site. So that might be “golf balls,” “golf clubs,” and “golf hats” to name a few.

Next, I’ll go to the Phrase match report which will show us keywords that include any of these phrases. And just like that, we have around 125,000 keyword ideas with search volumes and a ton of other helpful metrics, some of which we’ll touch on later. Now, 125,000 keywords is just way too much to filter through. So before we continue, let’s take a second and revisit the 5-point checklist from the first lesson in this module. Again, the five things we’re looking for when it comes to choosing keywords are: 1. We want keywords that have search demand. 2. Keywords with traffic potential. 3. Keywords with business potential. 4. We need to be able to match search intent. And 5. We want to know how hard it’ll be to rank at the top of Google for that keyword.

So when we’re generating keyword ideas, we’ll be able to check off the first 4 points. As for the fifth, we’ll tackle that in the next lesson. Alright, let’s look back at our list of keyword ideas and start checking off some of these boxes. So first, we need to find keywords that have search demand. To do that, you can set a search volume filter to show keywords with a minimum volume of at least 300 monthly searches. And now that list has just shrunk to 351 keyword ideas which will be easy to manually filter through. The next point on this list is to see if they have traffic potential. Again, traffic potential is a more reliable metric than search volume because not all searches result in clicks.

And at the end of the day, we want traffic, not searches. To check the traffic potential of a topic, you need to look at the top ranking pages and see how much traffic they’re getting. To do that, you can click on the SERP button beside any of these keywords. So if we do that for the query, “golf clubs,” you’ll see that the top page gets around 16,000 monthly search visits from the US. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can get a free version of the SERP using Ahrefs SERP checker tool.

Next up is business potential. Again, business potential is simply the value a keyword has to your business. And while 16,000 monthly search visits seems great, you need to consider the fourth point on the checklist which is to ask yourself if you can match search intent. As you can see, almost all of the top-ranking pages are ecommerce category pages. So searchers are probably in shopping mode.

But we have a golf affiliate blog, so the site probably isn’t selling golf clubs. Meaning, we can’t create an ecommerce category page and therefore, we won’t be able to match search intent. So seeing as this query doesn’t fulfill the points on our checklist, we wouldn’t go after this keyword. Now, looking further down the list, you’ll see the query “best golf balls.” It has high search volume and if I click on the SERP button, you’ll see that the traffic potential is around 5,000 monthly visits from the US. Pretty good. Now, in terms of business potential, this keyword would have a value of 3 because our site makes money by reviewing and recommending products.

So it would be super-easy to organically recommend products in a “best of” post, which I assume would lead to a fair amount of affiliate commissions. As for search intent, these are blog posts in the listicle format with the freshness content angle as you can see from titles of the top-ranking pages. So this query checks all boxes and passed our initial sniff test. So I’ll click on the checkbox and add it to my “golf” keyword list. Now, checking the SERP for all of these keywords would be pretty time consuming. So there’s a quick technique you can use to find relevant keywords. And that’s to use keyword modifiers. A modifier is an-add-on to a base keyword. For example, if our base keyword is “golf hats,” we can modify this keyword by adding “best,” “top”, or the current year. And modifiers tell us a lot about search intent. A word like “best,” again, tells us that a comparison needs to be made.

So searchers are probably looking for listicle blog posts with various different product recommendations. Now, if a word like “how” or “what” is in the keyword, then it tells us that the top pages will likely be blog posts or videos with step-by-step tutorials, or some other informational content. So with this knowledge, we can actually filter this keyword list down to a) keywords that likely have business potential, and b) keywords where we can match searcher intent. For example, since we’re doing keyword research for an affiliate site, modifiers like “best,” “top”, “vs” and “review” would likely bring up topics where we can organically recommend products. So if we go back to the keyword list, we can click on the Include filter and paste this list there. Next, I’ll hit the Any word tab since we want to find keywords that include any of these modifiers as well as one of our seed keywords. Hit Apply, and we now have a list of around 30 keywords that are most likely going to have high business potential.

Plus, we know that 99% of the time, the results for any “best” type keyword will be listicle blog posts. And we know that we can match searcher intent with our affiliate blog. Now, if we switch the modifiers in the Include filter to words like “how,” “what,” “who,” “where,” “why,” “guide,” and “tutorial,” then we can apply the list to find informational topics that we could write about on our blog. And pretty much all of these keywords would be fair game for our hypothetical golf blog. Now, if you plan to use a list of modifiers, then it’s worth noting that you should probably do it with much broader seeds. For example, you’ll see that we only have 10 keywords when using the search volume filter paired with our list of informational modifiers.

Now, if I change the seed to just “golf,” set the volume filter to a minimum of 300 monthly searches, and then paste in my list of informational modifiers, hit the Any tab, and click Apply, then you’ll see we have a lot more topics that we could potentially create content around. So if this is a method you want to try, then take a screenshot of this list of modifiers and feel free to use them in your keyword research. Now, after doing keyword research for exactly 33 minutes and 14 seconds, I was able to compile a list of over 190 keyword ideas in my golf keyword list.

Now, one downside to using keyword research tools is that the list of keyword ideas will usually be limited to words and phrases that include your seeds. But there are other great keywords that won’t necessarily include your seeds. So how do you find them? Well, the best way to find these keywords is to look at pages that drive the most search traffic to your competitors’ sites. Because if your competitors are ranking for keywords that are sending them a ton of search traffic, then I’m sure you’d want to get in on the action, right? Now, by competitor, I’m not necessarily talking about your direct business competitors.

I’m referring to your organic search competitors, which are websites that rank for keywords that you’d want to rank for. So to find these competitors, I’ll go back to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer, but this time, I’ll click on my golf keyword list. Next, I’ll go to the Traffic Share by Domains report, which will show you the websites that get the most search traffic based on your keyword input; in this case, our golf keyword list. So as you can see, sites like golf digest,, and golfwrx are getting the most search traffic from the keywords that I want to hypothetically rank for. But we already know these keywords since we created the list. So what you can do is click on the caret beside a domain you want to research further, and then click Top Pages, which will show you the pages that send the most search traffic to a website.

And check this out. Golf Digest’s page on game improvement irons gets around 7,700 monthly search visits from the US. This page that ranks for “what degree is a sand wedge” gets around 5,600 monthly search visits. And we wouldn’t have seen these in the keyword ideas report because they don’t contain our seeds. So you can just skim through this list, look for potential topics, then go through those four points in the checklist for keywords that are interesting to you.

Add them to your keyword list and once you’ve exhausted a website’s top pages, rinse and repeat for the other organic search competitors until you’re satisfied with your list. And if you’re still unhappy with your list, you can try and find other seeds within this report. The two that stand out to me right away are “sand wedge” and “fairway woods.” So I’ll go back to Keywords Explorer and type those into the search box.

And seeing as both of these are different types of golf clubs, you can add “pitching wedge,” “putter,” “putting,” and so on and so forth. Bottomline: there should be no shortage of keyword ideas and you should be able to use these two methods to build a solid list of topics to keep you busy for years. But here’s the thing: even if you’ve checked off these 4 boxes on the checklist, there’s still one left. And it won’t matter if you don’t rank for your keywords.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourth lesson in our keyword research module. Today, I’m going to show you how to determine ranking difficulty for a keyword. This will help you understand how hard it’ll be to rank high in Google for your target keywords. Let’s get started. So when it comes to ranking in Google, you need to understand who you’ll be up against before you target a keyword. Otherwise, you could be entering a battle you won’t be able to win.

From an SEO perspective, competitors are pages and websites that rank at the top of Google for your target keywords. So that means your competitors can be different for every single keyword you target. So there are three main things you’ll want to consider before you decide to pick a fight. And those are: Search intent; Metrics of the top-ranking pages and websites; And topical authority of the top-ranking websites.

Now, as we go through these points, we’re going to create a list of self-check questions which should help you make informed decisions in your keyword targeting. Also, in order to see things like metrics of top ranking pages, you need an SEO tool since Google won’t show you data on other pages. So I’ll be using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer throughout this lesson.

Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can use our free SERP checker tool which will give you data on the top three pages. Alright, let’s start with search intent. The first thing you need to do is look at the SERP and ask yourself: “Do some of the top-ranking pages fail to closely match search intent?” To find this out, you can go through the 3 C’s of search intent as we discussed in lesson 2 of this module. And by the looks of it, they’re all listicle blog posts using the freshness angle. So they do match it. Also, pay close attention to the titles and URLs of the ranking pages. In general, if the top pages include the primary keyword or a variation of it in the title and/or URL, they’re likely targeting that keyword. For example, all of the top-ranking pages for the query, “how to save money” are exaclty about that. Whereas a query like “best convertible car seat for small cars” is a bit mixed.

As you can see, some pages have gone specifically with the angle “for small cars.” As a result, it’s probably matching searcher intent better than the more broad posts about the best convertible car seats for any car. This is a sign of weakness in the SERP because it means there’s probably a lack of rank-worthy content out there about the best convertible car seats for small cars. Now, I don’t want you to take this as advice that you must include the exact keyword phrase in your titles and/or URLs.

With this example, finding convertible car seats for small cars is actually a very specific need for a specific person. Alright, let’s talk about the metrics. The first metric to look at is the number of websites that are linking to the page. At Ahrefs, we call this “referring domains.” As I mentioned in module one, backlinks are one of Google’s most prominent ranking signals. So if a page has a lot of quality links pointing at it, then it’ll be more competitive to rank. So before choosing a keyword, you need to ask yourself: “Can I get more quality backlinks than the top-ranking pages?” The second metric is website authority.

At Ahrefs, we call this Domain Rating, which represents the overall strength of a website’s backlink profile. Very generally speaking, you should be going after keywords where your website’s DR is in a similar ballpark range as the top-ranking pages. Or at the very least, one of the top-ranking pages should be in the same range as your website.

For example, if all of the websites that rank in the top 10 have high DRs and you have a DR of let’s say, 10, then you may want to consider competing when you’re at a similar level. So let’s add that question to our checklist: “Is my website in a similar DR range or higher than the top-ranking websites?” Again, this is a very general recommendation but still a decent one to follow if you’re a beginner to SEO. To see the Domain Rating of your own site, you can enter your domain in Site Explorer and see it here on the Overview page. Or you can enter your domain in our free Website Authority Checker.

I’ll be leaving links to all of these tools in the description. Alright, let’s move on to the third part which is topical authority of the top-ranking websites. Google wants to rank pages from authoritative sources. And this goes beyond backlinks. For example, if we look at the SERP for “how to unclog a toilet,” you’ll see that this DR 42 site is outranking much more powerful websites with significantly more referring domains. Well, this page comes from a website that’s just about plumbing so it’s likely more authoritative on the topic. So the question you need to ask yourself is: “Is my website equally or more topically authoritative than the top-ranking websites” If the answer is yes, then that’s a positive thing for you.

The easiest and quickest way to find out is to just look at the domain names and use some common sense. For example, looking at the SERP for “best convertible car seat for small cars,” you’ll see sites like Experienced mommy, Baby center, Parenting pod, Babylist, and other relevant sites that talk about products for children. And for domains that aren’t as easily distinguishable, like, you can just visit the site, hit the About page and get a general idea of what the site is about. In this case, you’ll see that they talk about car seat recalls and review car seat brands. So yes, it is topically authoritative on car seats. Alright, let’s look at our full list of “yes or no” questions.

As a very general rule of thumb, the more yeses you can check off, the better your chances of ranking. Again, very general because SEO is quite nuanced. With that said, let’s go through a couple of hypothetical examples for our golf site. To set the scene, let’s say you have a website that’s about golf instruction and you also review golf equipment. And your website’s Domain Rating is low at around 15. Alright, so the first example is for the query “best golf grips.” Let’s start with the first question: “Do some of the top-ranking pages fail to closely match search intent?” From the looks of it they all look decent, so I’ll check the no box. Next up. “Can I get more quality backlinks than the top-ranking pages?” Again, we haven’t covered anything about “quality” backlinks yet. So for now, let’s just look at quantity.

Most of the sites have very few referring domains. So I’d say this is a “yes.” Next question: “Is my website in a similar DR range or higher than the top-ranking websites?” Based on the SERP, there are a few sites with similar website authority, so let’s give this a “yes” as well. And finally, “Is my website equally or more topically authoritative than the top-ranking websites?” Well, all of the top pages are from golf sites and so is mine, so let’s give this a “yes” as well. So based on our analysis, it looks like this would be a topic worth going after. Alright, the next analysis is for the keyword “best putters.” Looking at search intent, overall, it looks like the majority of pages are good so I’ll check the “no” box.

But, I do want to touch on this page on the “best blade putters.” This is more of a focused post and they’re likely ranking high for this because of all of the other factors like – high website authority, lots of referring domains and topical authority. So I would actually exclude them from the rest of this analysis. Alright, next up, can I get more quality backlinks than the top-ranking pages. Again, just looking at the quantity of links to these pages, the answer would likely be a “yes,” seeing as we’re still looking at about a dozen referring domains. But it’s important to realize that getting more links than the #1 page probably won’t happen in the near future. Meaning, getting the top-ranking spot will be tough. Next, is my website in a similar DR range or higher than the top-ranking websites? The answer is “no.” And finally my website is topically authoritative so I’ll give this a “yes.” Now, it looks like we’re at a tie between “yes” and “noes.” And this is exactly why I said: “As a very general rule of thumb, the more yeses you can check off, the better your chances of ranking.” Again, SEO is nuanced.

Plus, you need to weigh out some of the other principles we discussed like traffic potential and business value. And the best way to make sound judgement calls is through experience. So it will take time to hone your skills and gain a better grasp of keyword analysis. So as you can see, understanding how hard it’ll be to rank in Google will be a key skill to your success in search. Why? Because it’s the first step to getting predictable results. Afterall, if you know what it’ll take to rank ahead of your competition, then it all comes down to execution. And that’s what the next two modules are all about.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the second module which is about on-page SEO. If you haven’t seen the introduction to SEO video and the module on keyword research, then I highly recommend watching those first. They’ll help you get the foundational knowledge you’ll need to get the most out of this module.

I’ll leave links in the description. Alright, so what is on-page SEO? It’s simply the practice of optimizing web pages to rank higher in search engines. It revolves heavily around optimizing pages for search intent. But on-page optimizations also involve creating and optimizing HTML tags like titles and meta descriptions.

Now, if you’ve been exposed to the practice of on-page SEO, then it’s quite likely that you’ve heard conflicting advice. And for that reason, we’re going to discuss both what on-page SEO is and what it is not. Let’s talk about common advice you might see on on-page SEO best practices which just aren’t true today. And while there are many old school tactics that are still being recommended, I want to focus on just three points to help you navigate the noise.

#1. On-page SEO is not about stuffing exact match keywords. It used to be common practice to include the exact keyword you wanted to rank for in your title, URL, and content. For example, if you wanted to rank for “car dealer San Diego” you would stuff that keyword throughout your page despite the fact it doesn’t make sense – grammatically speaking. Google is smart enough to understand things like connecting words, synonyms, and closely related words and phrases. In fact, for all of these queries, the top 10 pages are nearly identical. Unfortunately, stuffing exact match keywords is still being practiced today which can lead to poor user experience and poor readability; all things that on-page SEO should not do.

The second thing is that on-page SEO is not about using your keyword a specific number of times on the page. In our study of 3 million search queries, we found that on average, the top-ranking page ranks for around 1,000 other relevant keywords in the top 10. Now, can you imagine what it would be like if a top-ranking page had to mention all 1,000 of those keywords at least three times? It makes no sense. The content would be unnecessarily lengthy and create an awful user experience for visitors.

Here’s an example. Look at the SERP for the query “diet plan.” You’ll see that Healthline’s article on “how to lose weight” ranks #1. And there’s no mention of a “diet plan” in their title or URL. In fact, there’s only one fleeting mention of it on the page. Not even a subheading. Here’s another example. GQ ranks in the top spot for “classiest watch.” But if we look at the page, you’ll see that the word “classiest” isn’t there. And neither is the word “classy.” The third point is that on-page SEO isn’t about meeting a minimum word count. Some studies have shown that the average content length of the top 10 results is over 2,000 words. As a result, many SEOs have recommended that you create pages that are at least that length. But that isn’t exactly sound advice. For example, our Backlink Checker is 628 words, yet we rank #1 for our target keyword and the page generates around 130,000 monthly visits from Google search alone.

Here’s another example. This page only has 76 words on it. The majority of content are images. According to Ahrefs Site Explorer, the page gets over 170,000 monthly search visits. Now, let’s talk about what on-page SEO is today in 2021 and beyond. Looking at the definition again, on-page SEO is the practice of optimizing web pages to rank higher in search engines. And as I mentioned, this revolves heavily around optimizing pages for search intent. The keyword here is “search intent.” Translation: the goal of your pages should be to satisfy the searcher’s intent. How?

Well, we talked about the 3 C’s of search intent which should help you get the basic stuff down like the content type, format, and angle. In addition to this, your content needs to address the things people expect to see. You’ll also want to nail the more “tangible” items like titles, subheadings, internal linking, readability, and of course, the actual content itself.

These are the things we’ll be answering in part 2 of our on-page SEO module, where we’ll get more tactical and talk about how you can create content that’s optimized for search. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the second lesson in the on-page SEO module. Today, I’m going to show you how to create a page that’s optimized for search. Let’s get started. So as I showed you in the last lesson, on average, the top ranking page ranks for nearly 1,000 keywords. For example, Healthline’s page is clearly targeting the query “how to lose weight fast.” And sure enough, they’re ranking in the top spot. Now, the traffic to this page doesn’t come from just their target keyword.

It comes from the combined effect of ranking for thousands of queries. And when we sum up the traffic from all keywords, it makes up well over 100,000 monthly search visits just from the US. In fact, if we look at the page’s keyword rankings, you’ll see that the target query “how to lose weight fast” only sends them a small percentage of the total monthly search traffic. Now, in order to rank for a ton of keywords and get a ton of search traffic you need two things. The first is a page that’s optimized to rank. And the second are backlinks. In this lesson, we’ll cover how to create an optimized page and we’ll tackle links in the next module. Okay, so with on-page SEO, there are two main things we need to cover. The first is arguably the most important and that’s to ensure your page satisfies searcher intent.

We’ve already covered the 3 C’s of search intent which again will give you very basic guidance on the type of content to create, the format to use, and the angle to go with. But the actual content itself is what’ll leave your visitors satisfied or dissatisfied. So you might be wondering: “What exactly do I write about in order to satisfy searchers?” The short answer is to learn from your competitors. The top-ranking pages are ranking at the top for a reason. Google and other search engines deem them as the best candidates to satisfy a searcher’s query. So they’re clearly doing something right, at least from the perspective of a search engine.

Now, while the content will vary from topic to topic, the way you research your competitors’ content will be more or less the same. Let’s go through an example. So let’s say that we want to create content that targets the query “best golf club sets.” To start, I’ll go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and search for the query. Then, I’ll scroll down to the SERP overview to see the top-ranking pages. Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can use our free SERP checker tool to do everything I’m about to do. Alright, so looking at the SERP, we want to pick out the top 3 or so relevant ranking results.

And by relevant, I’m talking about pages that match the dominant search intent based on the 3 C’s we’ve discussed SO many times now. So in this case, the majority of pages are blog posts in the listicle format with freshness as the content angle. So that means, we wouldn’t look at pages from Amazon or Golf Galaxy because these pages are clearly ecommerce category pages, and are therefore outliers to the dominant search intent. We’ll also exclude the pages from Golf Digest and Business Insider, since it doesn’t look like they’re intentionally targeting our query. So I’ll open up these three pages in new tabs. And what we’re going to look for are similarities in their content – specifically in the subtopics. And we’ll also look to deepen our understanding of content format and content angle. Looking at the first page, you’ll see that they’ve created a list of categories for the best golf club sets. So there’s best selling, best game improving irons, and so on. Looking further down, they have a subheading which is the make and model of the golf club set followed by a brief review of the clubs.

The next page also has a summary based on more broad categories like “best value,” “premium pick,” and “best choice.” And based on the table of contents, you’ll see that they followed a similar structure where the make and model of the clubs are used as subheadings. They also add a brief description of the clubs, as well as some skimmable bullet points. And the final page does pretty much the same thing. They use subheadings as the make and model followed by a short review. Now, unless you’re a golfer, you may not have caught this minor, but perhaps important detail.

All of the pages talk about sets that would appeal more to beginners. For example, they all talk about Callaway’s Strata set. And they all include sets from Wilson Staff. In my opinion, these wouldn’t appeal to an intermediate or advanced level golfer. Alright, so at this point, we know that we should create a listicle blog post with freshness as the angle. We also know that the content should likely be targeted at beginners. A couple common sets that were mentioned in all posts were the Callaway Stratas as well as a set from Wilson Staff.

Now, it’s important to note that you don’t have to include these in your post, but it’s simply an observation I had made. We also saw that the top 2 out of 3 pages had top picks for categories like “best game improvement clubs” as well as “best clubs for the money.” Finally, we know that the subheadings should be the name of the club set.

Another thing I recommend before you start writing is to do a content gap analysis at the page level. A content gap analysis at the page level will show you common keywords that the top pages are ranking for where your page isn’t. But since we don’t have a page, we can still find common keyword rankings amongst a few top ranking pages using Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool. To get started, go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and paste in any one of the URLs.

Next, head on over to the Content Gap tool. Now, I’m going to take the 3 URLs we analyzed and put them all in the top section of this tool. So what this is saying is show us keywords that any of these targets rank for where at least one of them ranks in the top 10. Now, if I run the search, you’ll be able to see the keywords that these pages rank for and the position that they’re ranking in. As a general rule of thumb, the more URLs that rank high for the keywords, the more relevant it’ll be to your content. So to narrow our search down a bit, I’ll click on the “intersections” dropdown and select both 2 and 3 intersections. Meaning, only show me keywords where at least 2 of our targets are ranking in Google and at least one of those targets is ranking in the top 10.

From here, just skim through the list and look for interesting subtopics that might be worth adding to your post. In addition, you may be able to learn some interesting things about the audience as well as the language they use. So as you can see, people who search for this query are mostly looking for men’s clubs. People want to know the best clubs for the money. They want to see cheaper options. And others are looking specifically for a set of irons. These are all things you should consider as you craft your content. Alright, so armed with this information, you should be able to create a great post with the searcher in mind. And while the content is the most important part, there are also a few more “technical” on-page optimizations you should do.

Let’s go through a few of the most important ones. First is to include your target keyword in your title when it makes sense. Adding your target keyword to your title should come naturally. For example, our title for this post is “45 Best Free SEO Tools (Tried and Tested).” And “free SEO tools” is our target keyword.

Now, there will be times when it makes more sense to use a close variant of your target keyword. For example, this post is targeting the query, “how to get YouTube subscribers.” But our title is “9 Ways to Get More YouTube Subscribers” because we went for the listicle angle. The next thing you can do is to use a short and descriptive URL slug. Short and descriptive URLs help people immediately understand what the page is about before even visiting them. Just look at these two URLs. They’re on the exact same topic, but one is much more descriptive than the other. This part of the URL is called the slug. And the easiest way to choose your slug is to use your target keyword where spaces will be replaced with hyphens. Again, you should only do this when it makes sense, so you don’t need to worry about forcing it. Now, if you’re wondering if you should use subfolders to describe categories, that’s entirely up to you. Alright, next is the meta description. The meta description is HTML code that’s meant to briefly summarize your page. And search engines often use this text right within the SERP. To my best knowledge, meta descriptions aren’t used as a ranking signal, but they can influence click-through rates.

And for that reason, I think it’s important to add to your pages. Now, it’s important to note that according to our study of 192,000 pages, we found that Google rewrote meta descriptions nearly 63% of the time. So I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on them, but you should still include them. Alright, next up is to add internal links to and from your pages. Internal links are links from one page on the same domain to another. And they’re super-powerful because they can pass link authority to other relevant pages and they also help search engines better understand a page’s contents. For example, if I had a site in the careers niche, and I was writing a post about how to write a cover letter, then I’d definitely want to add internal links from other relevant pages like one on how to write a resume.

More importantly, visitors who want to learn how to write a resume would probably want to know how to write a cover letter and vice versa. To find opportunities, you can go to Google and search for and then add the topic you’re writing about. Then visit relevant pages and see if there’s an opportunity to add an internal link to your new post. Alternatively, you can use Ahrefs’ Site Audit tool completely free. Just sign up for an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account, verify your site and then run a crawl. Then you can head over to Link Explorer to find internal linking opportunities.

We have a short but helpful video on how to do this on Ahrefs’ Product Updates YouTube channel, so I’ll link that video up in the description. Alright, next up is to optimize your images. In the last 28 days, we’ve had over 4,000 visits to our blog from Google image search. While that pales in comparison to our 500,000 monthly organic blog visits, it’s still 4,000 visits. Now, optimizing your images for SEO is 3-fold.

#1. Name your image files appropriately. For example, this is a picture of a puppy. If you took the photo yourself, then chances are, your smartphone or camera named it something like IMG_ and then a million numbers. Instead, change the filename to something like… puppy. Not exactly rocket science, but according to Google, filenames can give Google clues about the subject matter of the image.

#2. Use descriptive alt text. Alt text, short for alternative text is an HTML attribute that goes in your image tag. So the syntax would look something like this, where the alt value should describe the image. Alt text helps improve accessibility for those who are using screen readers or if the image fails to load, visitors will be shown the alt text instead.

Now, Google recommends “creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page.” Yes, Google explicitly says to use keywords, but they also say to avoid stuffing keywords as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam. Meaning, don’t do something like this. Now, looking back at the syntax, our alt text isn’t exactly descriptive. So let’s change that to something like, “puppy sitting on a couch.” If you use WordPress, just add your alt text here when inserting your images and the CMS should do the rest. Alright, the third thing you’ll want to do is compress your images.

Compressing images makes your image file sizes smaller, leading to faster load times. And PageSpeed is a Google ranking signal. There’s a free tool for compressing images called “ShortPixel” which has both a web interface as well as a WordPress plugin. And the last thing I highly recommend is to optimize for readability. Here are 5 simple but effective tips you can use to improve readability:

1. Write in short sentences and short paragraphs because no one wants to land on a page with a HUGE wall of text.

2. Use descriptive subheadings so people who are skimming the article can easily find the things that are important to them.

3. Use a large enough font that’s easily readable on both desktop and mobile.

4. Avoid using big words. It’s more important that people understand your content.

5. Write as you speak. Your content will be more conversational and entertaining to read.

A free tool I recommend using is called Hemingway app. It’ll give you some writing tips as well as a readability grade. I’d recommend trying to keep things at or below a sixth grade level.

Now, there are other on-page optimizations you can do like adding open graph meta tags or OG tags for short. These will allow you to customize the titles, descriptions, images, and other information when your pages are shared on social media networks. There’s also schema markup, which is code that helps search engines understand your content and better represent it in the search results. For example, these pages use the recipe schema type so Google is able to show things like the recipe’s rating, the number of votes, the total time to make the food, as well as nutritional information.

If you have a WordPress site, then you can add OG tags and schema with plugins like RankMath or Yoast. Now again, the most important part of your content is that you’re striving to satisfy searcher intent. Yes, the technical things are important too, but they’re more like the icing on the cake. So here’s a full on-page SEO checklist. Take a screenshot and make sure to subscribe to our channel because next week, I’ll be releasing our next module on an SEO strategy called link building. Hey it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the third module in our SEO course for beginners. Throughout the next 5 lessons, we’ll be talking about arguably THE most important AND most challenging SEO strategy. It’s called link building.

And to kick things off, we’re going to talk about what it is, why it’s important, and the mindset you’ll need to have to be successful at it. Let’s get started. So what is link building? By definition, link building is the process of getting other websites to link to a page on your website. And these hyperlinks are called backlinks. Now, while the end result might make sense conceptually and seem simple, the part that most people don’t understand and can’t seem to get right is this: THE PROCESS.

And this ultimately boils down to emailing complete strangers and asking them to link to you. Now, let’s take a quick second to talk about how strange and kind of awkward this might sound. So let’s go through a few scenarios and then we’ll revisit this definition of link building.

Scenario #1. Let’s say that you have a marketing blog and you write about SEO and digital marketing. Now, if some random person, let’s call her Sally, sent you an email and said… “Hey, can you link to my post on Facebook ads? It’s REALLY good.” Would you link to her? Probably not. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even reply or click the link in her email to actually check and see if her content is as good as she claims. Now let’s flip the script a bit.

Scenario #2. Let’s say that you’ve been following Ahrefs’ YouTube channel and blog for some time. You’ve implemented some of the strategies we’ve shared and gotten some great results for your site. On top of that, you’ve been using our SEO tools for 3 years. Now, an email pops up in your inbox from me, Sam Oh. A name and face you might recognize because you’ve been following our channel. And in that email, I’ve asked you to link to our free backlink checker from your page that lists the 15 best free SEO tools. Would you link to me?

Maybe. Now the final scenario. Let’s say your mentor who helped you get started in digital marketing sends you an email. And she asks you to link to a page on her site from a relevant page on yours. Would you link to her? Definitely! She helped you get started in digital marketing, you obviously trust and respect her, and you’d be willing to bend over backwards for her. The point of these scenarios is to show you that the PROCESS of link building is actually very relational and can sometimes take more time than you might like.

With Sally, you don’t know her. You don’t owe her anything. You don’t trust her. She’s blindly coming in, almost invading your inbox, and asking you for a favor without offering any kind of value in return. In the second scenario when I hypothetically emailed you, you knew who I was, I had indirectly helped you, and you were a user of our product for years. So while we may not have a real-life relationship, we’re still connected in some way. So the chances of linking to me are probably higher than linking to sally. Now, when your mentor asked you for a link, there’s a real relationship there. There’s a sense of trust, respect and gratitude. So of course you would link to her. Now while you can’t and shouldn’t try to become “friends” with everyone just to get links, you’ll find that your best links will usually come from relationships that are sparked from email outreach.

Link building is the process of building relationships with other relevant site owners who want AND”> So let’s redefine link building and set the tone for the rest of this module.

Link building is the process of building relationships with other relevant site owners who want AND will link to your content because it enhances theirs. So this definition isn’t just about you getting something. It includes relationships, relevance, and a value exchange.

All things we’ll touch on later in this module. Now, since EFFECTIVE link building is tough,you need to understand WHY it’s worth the effort. In short, backlinks are used by search engines like Google to help rank web pages. And it’s been this way since 1998 when Google created PageRank. PageRank is a mathematical formula that judges the “value of a page” by looking at the quantity and quality of other pages that link to it. And Google confirms the importance of backlinks on their how search works page. Under their “ranking useful pages” heading, they state: “If other prominent websites on the subject LINK to the page, that’s a good sign that the information is of high quality.

” We also found a clear correlation between organic traffic and backlinks from unique websites in our study of over one billion web pages. So while getting backlinks may be harder than let’s say, creating a blog post, they’re absolutely critical if you want to rank for competitive phrases. And competitive phrases are usually the ones that’ll drive the most traffic and revenue for your business. Now, we briefly touched on the main way of getting backlinks, but not all links can or will be obtained through outreach. So in the next lesson, we’ll talk about 3 methods to get backlinks as well as the level of difficulty and effectiveness. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the second lesson in our link building module.

In this lesson, we’ll talk about 3 link building strategies to get backlinks. Now, before we get started, it’s important to set the expectations right for this lesson and talk about the difference between a strategy and a tactic. To me, strategies are higher level in the sense that it outlines the scope of the plans. Whereas tactics are more micro and often focused around smaller steps. So the strategy sets you in the right direction and the tactics kind of define how you get there.

And we’ll get into a few link building tactics later on in this module. Alright, so when it comes to link building, there are 3 main strategies to get backlinks. You can create them, buy them, or earn them. Let’s talk about what each method looks like, their level of difficulty and effectiveness. The first method is to create backlinks. Creating backlinks means to manually add links on one domain back to yours. This can be done by adding your website to directories, leaving comments on blog posts, or adding your website’s URL to your social media profile. Anyone can do this with minimal effort. So like almost all easy things in life, they’re generally not that effective from an SEO and ranking perspective.

Now, buying backlinks is exactly as it sounds. You pay webmasters or authors a fee, and in return, they’ll link back to a page on your site. Now, this is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can potentially result in a penalty. That might be anything from losing ranking positions or even worse, getting your pages removed from Google’s search index. Also, buying links isn’t exactly cheap. We contacted 250 websites to ask if they sell links. And we found that the average cost of buying one was nearly $353. And of course, we didn’t buy any. In terms of level of ease, if you have the money, it’s super easy to do because it’s just a transaction.

Now, in terms of the effectiveness, I would think that they’re highly effective unless OR until you get caught. And in my opinion, the risk isn’t worth the reward, especially if you want to build a business that’ll stand the test of time. The final way to get backlinks is to earn them. And there are 3 common ways you can do this. The first and most common are links that are earned through email outreach. This is when you email other website owners and editors and ask them to link to you. Another way to earn backlinks is by becoming a source for an online publication or media outlet.

For example, if a journalist references you in an article, they’ll often link to you and/or your social media profiles. And the final way is to earn backlinks organically. For example, if someone visits your page from a link on social media, organic search, word of mouth or wherever and decides to link to you, then that’s an earned link. Now, even though 100% organic links may sound like the best way to get them, I don’t want you to bank on that. These kinds of links are typically less consistent unless you’re an extremely well known brand with extremely well crafted content AND you’re already getting significant exposure.

It takes time to build a reputation that’s well-trusted and for those organic links to come in on a regular basis. And if you’re just hoping and waiting, you’ll likely fall behind because your competitors will actually be busy BUILDING links by reaching out to other website owners. Generally speaking, the harder it is to obtain a link, the more valuable it’ll be. And for that reason, we’ll be focusing on streamlined tactics so that you can build a steady stream of backlinks to your page and get more traffic from SEO. Now, not all links are created equal. Some will help propel your pages to the top of Google, while others can actually hurt your site. So what makes a link actually good?

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the third lesson in the link building module. Today, we’re going to talk about the attributes that make a backlink good or “high quality.” As I said in the last lesson, not all backlinks are created equal. For example, if you spammed forums with links to your site, those wouldn’t and shouldn’t hold more weight than let’s say a link from the New York Times.

Otherwise, backlinks would just be a game of quantity and Google’s search results would reward the biggest spammers. Fortunately, ranking on Google doesn’t work that way and quality backlinks are still a prominent ranking signal. So with that said, let’s talk about the 5 attributes that make a backlink “good.” The first attribute is relevance. Imagine this for a second.

You’re going to visit Greece for the first time next month and you need recommendations for places worth going to. Now, you have a friend that has lived in Greece for their entire life and obviously knows every nook and cranny. You also have a friend in the US who hates travelling and has never been outside of the states. Who’s opinion would you hold higher?

Obviously your Greek friend. In the same way, links from a website about travel or Greece would hold more weight than links from sites about technology or marketing because they’re more topically relevant and authoritative. For example, you’ll see that this page is ranking #1 for the query, “how to devein shrimp.” If we look at their backlinks and also filter by one link per domain, we can see their backlinks from different websites.

Now, if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, then you can still see backlinks pointing at pages using our free backlink checker tool, which I’ll leave a link to in the description. Going back to the backlinks report, you’ll see this page from Wikihow which is called “3 ways to peel and devein shrimp.” So the link is on a very relevant page. Scrolling down a bit, you’ll see this link from a page called, “shrimp with garlic sauce” which again is relevant at the page level. But you can also see that it’s relevant at the domain level too just by looking at their domain name: slim palate dot com. Both of these links are great from a relevance standpoint, whereas a link like this one isn’t very relevant at all.

The page is about firefox 3.5, which is a web browser. It comes from a site about video games and computer hardware. So an ideal link would be contextually placed within the body of the content where someone is quite literally recommending or referencing you. Alright, the next attribute of good quality links is authoritativeness. If you’re unfamiliar with “authority” in the context of backlinks, it basically represents the so-called “link power” a web page has. And this relates to how Google’s PageRank works. As we discussed before, both the quantity and quality of links matter.

So the MORE quality links a page gets, the more PageRank it earns. And the more PageRank it has, the more authority it can pass to other pages through hyperlinks. For example, let’s say that page C has two links: one from page A and one from page B. Page A is stronger than page B, and also has fewer outgoing links. Feed this information into the PageRank algorithm, and you get the PageRank of page C. Now, this is obviously a simplified version of how PageRank works, but the key point here is that getting links from high-authority pages will likely have the greatest impact on your rankings.

Now, while Google doesn’t provide PageRank or website authority scores, we have two metrics at Ahrefs that try to quantify it. Domain Rating is our website authority metric and it represents the overall strength of a website’s backlink profile. And URL rating is our page-level authority metric, which represents the overall strength of a page’s backlink profile. And you’ll find both of these metrics throughout most of our tools, giving you insights on referring pages. Now, we’ve covered two very important parts of good quality backlinks, but what we haven’t talked about yet is the actual link itself. So let’s break down the anatomy of a hyperlink and talk about how the different parts relate to SEO. Here’s what a link looks like to your website visitors. And if we look at the HTML code, then it would look like this. Now, there are 3 basic parts to a link that matter in SEO. The destination URL, anchor text, and the rel attribute or lack of one. The destination URL is simply the URL the person will visit when the link is clicked. The second part of a link is the anchor text.

The anchor text is the clickable word, phrase, or image attached to the link. So in our example, Site Explorer is the anchor text, which is the name of our competitor analysis tool. Google uses anchor texts to better understand what a page is about and what terms it should rank for. But, building lots of links with keyword-rich anchors is an example of a link scheme, and may result in a Google penalty as it looks unnatural. For example, if you had a post on the best golf balls and had a hundred links pointing to it where the anchor texts were all “best golf balls,” then it would look and be quite unnatural.

People often use anchors such as the company’s brand name, the title of the page, the URL, or phrases like “click here.” And here’s some proof. If we look at the anchors of backlinks pointing to our data study on featured snippets, you’ll see varying anchor texts like “ahrefs,” “old studies,” “ahrefs study,” “research,” and even specific stats like 12.3% of search queries and 99.58% and so on. In fact, there are only 16 websites that have linked to us using the anchor text “featured snippet.” With most earned links, you have very little or no control over the anchor text, so over-optimization isn’t something you really need to worry about.

And the last part of the link we’ll talk about is the rel attribute. Some links contain a rel attribute, which is intended to tell crawlers about the relationship between the linking page and the linked page. And the 3 rel values that you should know about when it comes to link building are nofollow, UGC, and sponsored. Historically, nofollow links told Google that the linking page would rather not associate themselves with the linked page. And for that reason, Google didn’t transfer “authority” through those links. But then Google added a couple other rel values: UGC, which stands for user generated content, and sponsored, which signifies an ethical paid link.

They also announced that going forward, they would look at these link attributes as “hints,” meaning, they may pass value through them at their discretion. Now, if a link doesn’t have any of these rel values, then it would be called a “followed” link. Meaning, the link can pass PageRank and help boost your rankings. Seeing as this is still relatively new, I’d recommend focusing on building followed links, although that’s only partially within your control. Now, it’s important to note that nofollow and UGC links aren’t bad. It’s just that followed links are proven to pass authority.

One final thing I want to touch on is link placement. Prominent links are more likely to be clicked, and it’s believed that Google takes this into account when determining how much authority a link transfers. For instance, an editorial link is more likely to be clicked than a link in the footer. So, all else being equal, the former would be better than the latter. So to summarize.

An ideal link would come from a relevant and authoritative page where the link is followed. It would have a descriptive anchor, and be placed contextually within editorial content. But the truth is… a lot of this is out of your control. What IS in your control is how you spend your time building links. By using these five attributes to help qualify prospects – or people that are worth contacting, you’ll spend your time building links that will actually move the needle. Now, the easiest way for a beginner to start building links is to use tried and tested tactics.

And we’ll be covering a few of them in the next lesson which will be published tomorrow. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the fourth lesson in the link building module. Today, we’re going to talk about the step-by-step process to build backlinks as well as 3 cookie-cutter link building tactics that are tried, tested, and completely beginner friendly. Let’s get started with the general process to link building. There are 3 general stages in link building. * Prospecting * Vetting * And email outreach. When prospecting, you’re searching for relevant pages and websites that might link to you.

These might be people who are linking to a similar page as the one you’re going to create, those who have influence in your industry, or people who are passionate about the topic. The main goal isn’t to find a perfect list of people, this stage is about finding as many people as possible that fit a specific set of criteria. And this criteria is usually dictated by link authority metrics as well as relevance. As a result, you’ll usually be working with large and very unperfect sets of data.

The vetting stage is where you start to refine your list of prospects. These are the people that you’ll be contacting, so you’ll need to visit their websites and validate that they are indeed people worth contacting. Finally is the email outreach stage.This is when you’ll finalize your pitches and start emailing your vetted prospects. Now, depending on the link building tactic you use, the way you prospect, vet and craft your email pitches will differ.

And this is actually quite difficult when you’re new to link building. Fortunately, there are a few dead simple but SUPER effective link building tactics that are completely newbie friendly. But before we can get tactical, let’s revisit our definition of link building because there are 3 main parts in it that will help you with prospecting, vetting, and email outreach. Again, link building is the process of building relationships with other relevant site owners who want AND will link to your content because it enhances theirs. Now, I want to highlight the 3 main parts from this definition: relationships, relevance, and a value exchange. We already talked about the relevance part in the last lesson.

Now we’re talking about mainly the value exchange and what that looks like in some common link building tactics. Now a quick note on the relationships part. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again… you don’t need to try and be best friends with every person you reach out to. Relationships are often the byproduct of good outreach paired with good content. And these relationships often lead to more than a one-off link. Now since this is a beginner’s course, I won’t be covering the relational aspects of link building so much.

But if you want to learn more about that, then I’ll link up some tutorials that go deeper on this in the description. So let’s dig into a few easy link building tactics and I’ll show you what each stage of the link building process looks like in detail. Plus, I’ll outline the value exchange for each tactic to give you a better idea of what I mean. Alright, the first link building tactic is to get free PR using HARO. HARO or “Help a Reporter Out” is a free service that connects journalists with sources and sources with journalists. Just sign up as a source and select the categories where you’re qualified to answer questions. You’ll then get emails from journalists from various media outlets, looking for sources on specific topics. And these aren’t just your run of the mill publications. In just this SINGLE email, you’ll see publications like, Popsugar, and The Houston Chronicle to name a few.

Just skim through the topics and if you find something where you can add value, respond to the journalist with your expert opinion. And if they use you as a source, they’ll usually link back to your site and social media profiles. Now, the value exchange here is simple. You’re exchanging your expert knowledge for a mention and usually a link from an authoritative site. From my personal experience, I’ve gotten links from places like Reader’s Digest, Inc Magazine, Forbes, and the Huffington Post to name a few. Now, looking at the 3 stages of link building, the prospecting part is as easy as it gets.

You sign up for a free service and journalists are actually looking for your help, not the other way around, which makes HARO super beginner-friendly. As for vetting, you can simply scan through the results on a daily basis, but that can be time consuming. A simple tip you can use is to create a gmail filter so only relevant emails will surface in your inbox. Just login to Gmail and click on the caret to bring down the search options. Next, set the “from” field to Then, you’ll want to set the subject to HARO within square brackets since all of their emails include that in the subject line. Finally, set the “has the words” field to any keywords you want to monitor.

And you can also use the OR search operator to include multiple keywords or phrases. Click search to see the results your search filters would include and check out some of the emails to ensure you’re getting relevant results. If everything looks good, click on the caret again and then click create filter. You’ll then have options to apply labels, mark it as important, or forward it to another team member to take care of. Now, as for the email outreach part, HARO gives you an email address which will then be forwarded to the journalist. So just respond to the given email address, and write your response. Now obviously, you’re not going to be the only person emailing the journalist.

So here are a few tips you can use to improve your hit rate.

#1. Keep your emails as short as needed. Journalists get tons of emails and if they see a huge wall of text, they probably won’t even give your response a chance.

#2. Go after topics where journalists are likely looking for multiple sources. For example, this query from Best Life is seeking medical experts – as in the plural form of expert. These kinds of requests will usually be your typical listicle styled posts. So the more responses they accept, the higher your chances of getting mentioned and linked to.

#3. Respond as quickly as possible. Journalists on HARO will often give a tighter deadline to give themselves time to actually put together a good story. Plus, some journalists believe that people who respond faster are better sources. Don’t believe me? Here’s what a journalist from Reader’s Digest said to me: “The deadline was just to make sure I get people to respond in a timely manner. I actually have the rest of the month to put the story together, which is nice. I find the tighter the deadline I attach, the better the responses because the only people who go to the effort are ones who really have something relevant to offer.

” Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every journalist, but it kind of makes sense. Alright tip 4 is to prioritize questions where you are an expert and use it as the first line in your pitch. There’ll be days where you can’t respond to every relevant request. So prioritize the ones where you have the highest probability of getting sourced. For example, PopSugar is looking for experts who can talk about why cats scratch furniture and how to stop them from doing it. If you’re a vet, then you might start your email with something like…

“Hi Jenna, my name is Sam Oh and I’m a veterinarian with 12 years experience and a board member of the cat alliance.” Clearly, I’m not a vet, but you get my point. When you immediately qualify yourself, as the right person to answer the question, you’ll likely get their attention. Of course, you should be 100% honest so I wouldn’t claim to be a vet when I’m not. And finally, follow all directions in their query.

For example, this one says “please be sure to include your full name, pronouns, title and credentials, and the website you’d like linked with your name.” Alright, the next link building tactic is guest posting or guest blogging – same thing. Guest blogging is when you create content for another website. And the reason why this strategy works is because there’s a clear value exchange. They get great content for free, and almost always, they allow you to link back to your site; whether that be within the content or in the author bio. Now, guest blogging also provides another great benefit aside from a potential backlink. You get the opportunity to get exposure to someone else’s audience.

They’ve already done the hard work in building that audience, you just have to write something that’ll impress their readers. Now, when you’re prospecting, you’ll need to get a list of websites. And there are a few ways you can do that. The first way is to use Google search operators. Just go to Google and search for something like… intitle:”write for us” wrapped in quotes and then a keyword that’s related to your niche. In this case, this search query will show us pages that include the phrase, “write for us” in the title and have the word golf balls somewhere on the page.

And this is a common footprint that websites use to attract guest writers. Now, because you’ll want to write for sites with some kind of link authority, you can use Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar to see link authority metrics right within Google’s search results. And if you don’t have an Ahrefs account, you can use our free Website Authority Checker to see the Domain Ratings for these sites. Another way to find a list of sites fast is to use Ahrefs Content Explorer. Content Explorer is a searchable database where you can find pages on any topic along with both social and SEO metrics.

To get started, just enter a topic that’s related to your niche and run the search. Next, you’ll want to set some filters to ensure that a) you’re getting relevant results and b) that you’re reaching out to websites that have some kind of link authority. So first, I’ll set the language filter to “English” since that’s the only language I’ll be able to write in. Then I’ll set a Domain Rating filter and set it to a range like 30 to 60. Now, if this is your FIRST time guest blogging, then you may want to set a lower range like 10 to 30 to get practice before pitching more authoritative sites. Or if you’re a seasoned guest blogger, then you can try something like 40-70. Alright, so next, I’ll enable this filter: one page per domain, which will narrow our results to one page per website.

And this is almost a must-do kind of thing because there’s no point in pitching the same website numerous times. Now, with around 200,000 domains you might be wondering which ones allow guest posts. The truth is…you won’t know until you ask. But there’s a way to improve your hit rate. And that’s to look at websites that have previously accepted guest authors. To find those sites, just click on the websites tab and make sure that your results are sorted by the number of authors. Basically, the more authors you see, the more probable it is that they accept guest posts. Either that or they have a big staff of writers. From here, you can export the results and then move on to the vetting stage. At this point, you’ll want to do a quick check to make sure that the websites don’t look spammy and that they’re actually relevant to your site.

For example, is clearly going to be relevant and it’s not spammy at all seeing as it’s just a regular ecommerce site. As for “,” the domain doesn’t look like it’s about golf. And if you visit the site, you’ll see that it looks like a software company.

So we’d exclude this domain from our outreach list. Now, another thing worth checking is the domain’s sitewide organic traffic. To do that, go to Site Explorer and search for the domain. Next, click on the organic search tab. If the site is getting consistent search traffic like this, then it’s a good sign that the domain is in good standing with Google. Domains that have an organic traffic graph like this is probably something you’d want to exclude when vetting sites.

Reason being, the HUGE decline in search traffic is telling us that Google may have penalized the website. So you probably wouldn’t want to associate your domain with theirs. Now, when you’re vetting, you’ll likely want to find around 10 times the number of posts you can write in a week. For example, if you can write 2 posts per week, then try and find 20 vetted sites. Reason being, most people won’t accept your post let alone respond to you. Alright, let’s move on to the next stage, which is email outreach. Now, when you’re pitching websites for a guest post, ideally, you want to come up with a good reason as to why they should accept your post. Free content is great and all, but it’s not necessarily SO convincing that everyone will accept it. So take some time to do your research on the site.

See how your expertise can be helpful for their audience or business. For example, if we look at the blog for, you’ll see that they have content on “the best golf balls for kids.” And after searching through their site, I found that they have another guide on the best golf balls for the longest distance. Now, they’re missing out on a lot of these “best golf balls for [blank].

” And seeing as they’re in the business of selling golf balls, I could easily pitch them topics on something like… “best golf balls for high handicappers,” which according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer gets searched around 800 times per month globally. So I might send them an email and say something like “Hey [whatever the editor’s name is], I was digging through your site and saw that you have a couple of posts on the best golf balls for kids and for distance. But I was pretty surprised to see that you don’t have one for other types of players (ie. seniors).

Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundreds of dollars on balls and countless hours on launch monitors to find the best ball for me. If you’re open, I’d love to write a post for you about how to find the best golf balls for hacky golfers like myself.

I’m happy to share all of the data and stats, which I think will help people make an informed decision as they shop through your store. Is that something you’d be open to? Cheers, Sam” Now, with this outreach email, I’m showing them that I’ve done my research on their site, I’m a golfer myself, I have some unique data which I spent time and money to get, and I’m also showing them how my post could help them get more sales. We’ll talk quite a bit about outreach in the next lesson, so let’s move on to the final tactic, which is the Skyscraper technique.

The Skyscraper Technique is a link building tactic where you find content that has a lot of links, create your own version on the topic but improve on it, and then reach out to those linking to the popular post and ask them to link to yours. Now, as much as I’d love to say that the value exchange is introducing people to your amazing content, that’s not exactly valuable in and of itself. With the Skyscraper Technique, you need to craft pitches that will actually impress someone so much that they’ll want to link to you. It’s easiest if you think about it like this. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who always tells the same story over and over and over again. Maybe it’s at a dinner party or when you’re meeting with friends who haven’t heard that story. That story is the popular content with lots of links. So how do you get them to stop telling that same story?

They need to find a better story. One that’s SO good that the old story is nothing but a vague memory. That’s your content. And the result of them sharing the NEW story, is like getting a link. Now, if we were to go through the prospecting, vetting, and outreach stages, this lesson would be extended another 7-8 minutes. So instead, I’ll link up a video which will take you through the entire process step-by-step. In fact, we have an entire playlist dedicated to link building tactics, strategies, and processes so I highly recommend watching that too.

Now, prospecting and vetting are pretty straightforward. But the hardest part of link building, and the part that makes link building challenging is outreach. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final lesson in our link building module. Today, we’re going to cover how to do blogger outreach that leads to backlinks. And this may very well be the most important lesson in this entire module because nearly ALL link building tactics require some sort of email exchange.

So today, we’ll cover the primary objective of blogger outreach, two common approaches, and I’ll break down the anatomy of a good quality outreach email. Let’s get started. So the primary objective of blogger outreach is to convince those with large targeted audiences to talk about you. And from the perspective of an SEO, you want them to link to your website.

Now, outreach doesn’t mean broadcasting, meaning, you shouldn’t be sending every single person the exact same email like you would through email marketing. For example, this outreach email that I got is what typical blogger outreach looks like today. First of all, I can see that they didn’t even take a second to check what my name is when literally two thirds of all pages on my personal site have my full name on them. Instead, they stuck with the generic “there,” used it in a mass mailing software, and broadcasted it out to hundreds maybe even thousands of people. But the name thing isn’t that big of a deal. Second, this is clearly a generic templated email with zero consideration for the recipients.

The person says “I’m writing because I saw your post here.” Then they didn’t even take a second to proofread the email. And their justification for me to link to them is because “it fits well in my post.” On top of that, the person followed up with me 3 – MORE – TIMES with nearly the exact same email all sent within the same 30 minute period. This ladies and gentlemen, is called spam. And the results of these kinds of emails lead to nothing.

The page the person wanted me to link to got a total of 2 backlinks and both of them are irrelevant and look like they’ve been paid for. And those backlinks aren’t moving the needle since the page gets zero organic search visits. These kinds of emails along with hundreds of others in my inbox are prime examples of why you need to write good quality emails. Otherwise, you’ll just blend in with the rest of the spam people get on a daily basis.

Afterall, these are unsolicited emails. Now to be clear, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use SOME sort of template to send a lot of emails efficiently. For example, I literally just got this email in my inbox and it says: “Hey Sam, I just published a roundup post about the Best Personal Blogs to Read and I featured you in it – and that’s a link to his post.” Then he explicitly says… But I’m not looking for a share or anything like that. I just wanted to say thank you for all the inspiration you’ve brought to the blogosphere and digital marketing world.

Best of luck in your endeavors and keep up the good work on Ahrefs’ YouTube channel. This email didn’t come to my Ahrefs email account. It came to the one on my personal site. So he clearly did a bit of digging before sending the email and I’m sure he sent a similar message to all 117 people he featured. So you might be thinking: what’s the point of this email if he’s not asking for anything?

We’ll get to that later in this lesson. Now, the first email that I just showed you is one of the common approaches to blogger outreach. It’s called “the shotgun approach” where you build a broad list of targets, load them up into an outreach tool, and then blast out emails to anyone and everyone. The opposite approach to this is the sniper method. This is when you choose targets carefully based on a tight set of criteria and then send personalized emails. Of the two methods, we recommend going with the sniper approach because shotgunning emails to anyone and everyone is a surefire way to burn bridges. Plus, no one likes spam. And for that reason, the rest of this lesson will be centered around the sniper approach. So before we get into actually crafting your outreach emails, let’s quickly talk about who you should be contacting and how to find their email addresses. In general, you’ll want to contact the author of the post IF they work for the website.

For example, this is a post written by Joshua Hardwick on the Ahrefs blog. Seeing as his profile states: Head of Content @ Ahrefs, you know he works there and controls what gets published on the Ahrefs’ blog. Now, for this post by Josh, there wouldn’t be any use in contacting him because he doesn’t work for Sitepoint. In this case, you’d want to contact the editor of the blog.

To find who that person is, you can check places like the website’s about or team page, their “write for us” page if they have one or their company’s LinkedIn profile. Now to actually find the person’s email address, the easiest way is to check contact and about pages. This works best for websites with one author. For websites that have MULTIPLE people involved like Sitepoint or Ahrefs, you usually won’t find individuals’ email addresses on their site. So to find these emails, you can use a tool like, go to their email finder tool, and just search for their first and last name as well as the domain. Hunter will then give you their best guess. In this case, they’re wrong, but the success rate is generally quite high.

Alright, so if you’ve done the work for the lessons in this module to this point, then you should have chosen one of the 3 tactics I outlined, created a list of prospects, vetted your list, and found some email addresses. So it’s time to actually write the pitch. Now, while there isn’t exactly a streamlined formula for every outreach email you send, I want to talk about the anatomy of a simple outreach email that has been effective for me for many years now. And there are five main parts to a typical outreach email. First is the subject line. The goal of the subject line is simply to get them to open the email. Otherwise, there’s no chance at getting a response. But you don’t want to clickbait them because that’ll only leave a bad impression. So when you’re writing a subject line, you want to briefly and accurately describe why you’re emailing them and ideally, evoke curiosity.

If we look back at my guest blogging outreach email from the previous lesson, I showed you a hypothetical pitch where I asked if I could write a post for a golf site and share data I have on the best golf balls for high handicappers. So I might use a subject line like: New data: best balls for high-handicappers. In my opinion, the “new data” part evokes curiosity and the rest of the subject line[t] explains the topic of the email. The next part is the introduction. And while there are numerous ways to write an intro, I think it’s best to start by telling them WHY you’re emailing them. And the goal of this part is to get them to read the next part of the email.

For example, with our guest posting sample email, I said: I was digging through your site and saw that you have a couple of posts on the best golf balls for kids and for distance. But I was pretty surprised to see that you don’t have one for other types of players (ie. seniors). Now, I will admit that the first sentence could definitely be stronger, but I’m basically saying that you’ve done this and this…but looks like you’re missing out an opportunity here.

The next part of the email is qualification and justification. Simply asking someone for a favor and expecting them to see a mutual benefit is naive. You need to show them WHY you’re qualified and justify the pitch that we’ll get to in a second. For example, if you’re contacting someone to guest post, then explain why they should accept your post over potentially hundreds of other submissions? If you’re asking them to add your link to a page on their site, give them an actual good reason why they should.

So in our guest posting sample you’ll see that I said… Being a high-handicapper myself, I spent hundreds of dollars on balls and countless hours on launch monitors to find the best ball for me. So the fact that a) I mention I’m a high handicapper, and b) I’ve tested numerous balls and gotten factual data from launch monitors qualifies AND justifies what I’m about to pitch — which again, is a guest post about the best golf balls for high handicappers. Now, to really drill in on the concept of qualification and justification, let’s look at an example email for the Skyscraper technique.

A little while back, we did some outreach to get links to our blog post on SEO statistics. So we emailed people with an email that looked something like this: “Hi [name], I saw you mentioned how 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine on your page about how to do keyword research.” That’s our reason for contact. We then went on to say… “That stat is actually 14 years old. More recent research (2019) suggests that this number has gone down to 68%. I think it’s lower because social and other sources now account for around 1/3 of traffic.” That’s our qualification and justification for what we’re about to pitch. And obviously, the next part of the email is the pitch.

The pitch essentially includes your ask as well as your value proposition. And generally speaking, the stronger your value proposition, the higher the chance of getting a link. So for our guest posting example, I said: “If you’re open, I’d love to write a post for you about how to find the best golf balls for hacky golfers like myself.” And here’s my value proposition: “I’m happy to share all of the data and stats, which I think will help people make an informed decision as they shop through your store. ” So not only do they get data for free, but I’m showing them how that can bring value to their bottom line. Now, it’s not always easy to think of a solid value proposition. For example, in our SEO stats email, our pitch was: We published this and a few other fresh SEO stats here: Not sure if you’re actively editing posts, but might be worth an update if you are? No pressure 🙂 So what exactly is the value proposition?

We’re helping bloggers keep their content up to date. In fact, we didn’t even DIRECTLY ask for a link, yet we were still able to pick up 27 backlinks. We actually have a full 3-part video series on this EXACT case study, so I’ll link that up in the description and I highly recommend checking it out. Alright, the last part of the email is a simple one-liner to keep the conversation rolling. Simply put, you don’t want to end your email with a cold hard pitch. The purpose of your first email should be to start a conversation. So you might say something like… Is that something you’d be open to? Is there anything I missed?

What do you think? Do you agree with our conclusion? Or whatever. Now, this is just a basic template you can use as you start blogger outreach. But I don’t want you to limit yourself within this box. All you’re really doing is talking to people and starting to build SOME kind of relationship. Just think about it like an in person encounter. You wouldn’t go to a party and ask a complete stranger to buy you a drink. You might strike up a conversation, connect with them on a common interest, and maybe buy the first round of drinks — expecting nothing in return. And as a result, they might want to reciprocate by returning an act of kindness. Again, the goal of the VERY first email you send is simple: start a conversation.

And this brings us back to this outreach email that I got. The person who mentioned me on their site specifically told me that he’s not looking for a share or anything like that. And he literally just wants to say thank you. So what did that accomplish? #1. I actually read his email #2. I responded to him and said thanks for the mention And #3, should he email me again, I’ll probably open it because I’ll recognize his name. So while there will be times where it makes sense to ask for the link or guest posting opportunity right away, there are A LOT of times when it makes more sense to just start that conversation and see where it leads. The final tip I want to leave you with is to ONLY use your best work when sending email pitches. You don’t want to email anyone and everyone for EVERY single piece of content you create.

For example, if you had a golf site and you created a post on a topic like… “what is a handicap,” there’s nothing interesting or unique about it yet it’s still a topic you would probably want to cover. Coming up with a good reason for them to link to you on this topic would be tough. Plus, time is finite. So it’s worth doing outreach for your BEST content because there’s a higher probability that it’ll result in backlinks. Alright, so with everything you’ve learned up to this point, you should be able to create content for your website that’ll get traffic from search engines. But there’s still one piece to the fundamentals of SEO that we haven’t covered and that’s technical SEO.

Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final module in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners. Throughout the next two lessons, we’re going to be talking about technical SEO. And technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website to help search engines find, understand, and index your pages. Now, for beginners, technical SEO doesn’t need to be all that technical. And for that reason, this module will be focused on the basics so you can perform regular maintenance on your site and ensure that your pages can be discovered and indexed by search engines. Let’s get started. Alright, so let’s talk about why technical SEO is important at the core.

Basically, if search engines can’t properly access, read, understand, or index your pages, then you won’t rank or even be found for that matter. So to avoid innocent mistakes like removing yourself from Google’s index or diluting a page’s backlinks, I want to discuss 4 things that should help you avoid that. First is the noindex meta tag. By adding this piece of code to your page, it’s telling search engines not to add it to their index. And you probably don’t want to do that.

And this actually happens more often than you might think. For example, let’s say you hire Design Inc to create or redesign a website for you. During the development phase, they may create it on a subdomain on their own site. So it actually makes sense for them to noindex the site they’re working on. But what often happens is after you’ve approved the design, they’ll migrate it over to your domain. But they often forget to remove the meta noindex tag. And as a result, your pages end up getting removed from Google’s search index or never making it in.

Now, there are times when it actually makes sense to noindex certain pages. For example, our authors pages are noindexed because from an SEO perspective, these pages provide very little value to search engines. But from a user experience standpoint, it can be argued that it makes sense to be there. Some people may have their favorite authors on a blog and want to read just their content. Generally speaking, for small sites, you won’t need to worry about noindexing specific pages. Just keep your eye out for noindex tags on your pages, especially if after a redesign. The second point of discussion is robots.txt. Robots.txt is a file that usually lives on your root domain. And you should be able to access it at Now, the file itself includes a set of rules for search engine crawlers and tells them where they can and cannot go on your site.

And it’s important to note that a website can have multiple robots files if you’re using subdomains. For example, if you have a blog on, then you’d have a robot.txt file for just the root domain. But you might also have an ecommerce store that lives on So you could have a separate robots file for your online store. That means that crawlers could be given two different sets of rules depending on the domain they’re trying to crawl. Now, the rules are created using something called “directives.” And while you probably don’t need to know what ALL of them are or what they do, there are two that you should know about from an indexing standpoint.

The first is user-agent, which defines the crawler that the rule applies to. And the value for this directive would be the name of the crawler. For example, Google’s user-agent is named Googlebot. And the second directive is disallow. This is a page or directory on your domain that you don’t want the user-agent to crawl. For example, if you set the user agent to Googlebot and the disallow value to a slash, you’re telling Google not to crawl any pages on your site. Not good. Now, if you were to set the user-agent to an asterisk, that means your rule should apply to ALL crawlers. So if your robots file looks something like this, then it’s telling all crawlers, please don’t crawl any pages on my site. While this might sound like something you would never use, there are times when it makes sense to block certain parts of your site or to block certain crawlers.

For example, if you have a WordPress website and you don’t want your wp-admin folder to be crawled, then you can simply set the user agent to all crawlers and set the disallow value to /wp-admin/. Now, if you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t worry too much about your robots file. But if you run into any indexing issues that need to be troubleshooted, robots.txt is one of the first places I’d check. Alright, the next thing to discuss are sitemaps. Sitemaps are usually XML files and they list the important URLs on your website. So these can be pages, images, videos, and other files. And sitemaps help search engines like Google to more intelligently crawl your site.

Now, creating an XML file can be complicated if you don’t know how to code and it’s almost impossible to maintain manually. But if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, there are plugins like Yoast and Rank Math which will automatically generate sitemaps for you. To help search engines find your sitemaps, you can use the sitemap directive in your robots file and also submit it in Google search console. Next up are redirects. A redirect takes visitors and bots from one URL to another. And their purpose is to consolidate signals. For example, let’s say you have two pages on your website on the best golf balls. An old one at, and another at Seeing as these are highly relevant to one another, it would make sense to redirect the 2018 version to the current version.

And by consolidating these pages, you’re telling search engines to pass the signals from the redirected URL to the destination URL. And the last point I want to talk about is the canonical tag. A canonical tag is a snippet of HTML code that looks like this. Its purpose is to tell search engines what the preferred URL is for a page. And this helps to solve duplicate content issues. For example, let’s say your website is accessible at both and And for whatever reason, you weren’t able to use a redirect. These would be exact duplicates. But by setting a canonical URL, you’re telling search engines that there’s a preferred version of the page. As a result, they’ll pass signals such as links to the canonical URL so they’re not diluted across two different pages. Now, it’s important to note that Google may choose to ignore your canonical tag.

Looking back at the previous example, if we set the canonical tag to the unsecure HTTP page, Google would probably choose the secure HTTPS version instead. Now, if you’re running a simple WordPress site, you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much. CMS’s are pretty good out of the box and will handle a lot of these basic technical issues for you. So these are some of the foundational things that are good to know when it comes to indexing, which is arguably the most important part in SEO. Because again, if your pages aren’t getting indexed, nothing else really matters.

Now, we won’t really dig deeper into this because you’ll probably only have to worry about indexing issues if and when you run into problems. Instead, we’ll be focusing on technical SEO best practices to keep your website in good health. Hey, it’s Sam Oh and welcome to the final lesson in this module and actually, it’s the last lesson in Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners. In this lesson, we’re going to go through some technical SEO best practices so you can keep your site in good health. Let’s get started. So the first thing you should do is ensure that your site structure follows a logical hierarchy. Site structure is simply the way you organize content on your website. You can think of it like a mindmap. At the top, you’d have your homepage. Then you’d probably have main topics that branch out from your homepage like your services page, your blog, and about page.

Then from these main topics, you’d probably have even more branches to other pages. These branches represent internal links, which are just links from one page on your site to another. And they help search engines understand the relationship between these pages. Site structure also helps search engines to crawl your pages more efficiently, which is why having a logical hierarchy is important. Now, what we’ve talked about is pretty basic stuff and you may already be doing this. But it can get more complex as you add more pages to your site like blog posts, category pages, or product pages.

We have a full video on how to use internal links to rank higher on Google, so I’ll link that up for you in the description. Alright, the second thing is to ensure your pages don’t load slow. As you may know, Pagespeed has been a confirmed ranking factor for desktop search since 2010. And in 2018, Google announced that they’d be using page speed in mobile search rankings.

Now, you don’t need to obsess over every millisecond it takes for your page to load. Google says: “The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries.” So bottomline: you don’t want your pages to load slow. And there are two very basic things that I think every website should do.

The first is to cache your website’s content. Caching is basically a way to temporarily store copies of files, so it can be delivered to visitors in a more efficient way. And most web hosting companies that I’ve come across have caching features. And the second thing you can do is compress your images. Compressing images makes your file sizes smaller and smaller files load faster. You can use a tool like Shortpixel which has both a web interface and a WordPress plugin. Now, if you wanted to take pagespeed a step further, then it can get quite technical and complex.

So we actually created a full tutorial on how to speed up a WordPress website using Cloudflare and a WordPress plugin, so I’ll leave a link to that in the description. And the final thing I want to talk about is to do your best to stay on top of around 50 potential SEO errors. Trust me… it’s not as bad as it sounds. There are potentially hundreds of technical SEO issues that can and some will definitely happen to your site. Some of these things include: Pages becoming broken that still have internal links pointing at them. Orphan pages, which are pages on your site that have no incoming internal links. And these aren’t great because it can make it tough for search engines to actually discover them.

Duplicate content issues. And redirect chains to name a few. Now, there’s no point in me going through 50 different potential issues because it’ll only matter to you if you run into them. So what I recommend you do is run scheduled website audits on your site. And a website audit will give you a full analysis of potential issues that could be harming your website’s SEO performance. If you’re an Ahrefs user, you can do that using our Site Audit tool. And even if you don’t have an Ahrefs paid plan, you can sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account which will let you crawl up to 10,000 pages on each website you own. To get started, go to and sign up for your free Webmaster Tools account. Then, you’ll need to verify your website, meaning, prove that you actually own it. You can do that using Google Search Console which is the easiest method, or if you don’t have a Search Console account, you can do it manually. Just enter your domain and click continue.

Then verify your website using one of these 3 methods. And I’ll actually just go back and use the Google Search Console method. Next, you’ll need to import your sites. And I’ll choose to run the first audit now, schedule weekly audits, and I’ll also enable the “crawl external links” option to ensure that we catch any broken or redirected outgoing links. Hit import, and the crawl should start running. Now, after the crawl has completed, go to the Overview report in your Site Audit project, and you’ll immediately see things like your Health Score which is a percentage of URLs on your site that don’t have errors. You’ll also see the top issues we found on your site as well as the number of URLs that had the issue.

So when you run into an issue, you can click on the caret to see a description of what it means and also a short snippet of how to fix it. And once you have an idea of what the issue is and how to fix it, just click on the number under the “crawled” column to see the affected URLs. Then it’s just a matter of fixing them one by one or hiring someone to help. And since you set up weekly scheduled audits, you can revisit the Overview report to see if there’s any “SEO maintenance” you can do.

And that wraps up Ahrefs’ SEO course for beginners. Everything you’ve learned in this course should be enough to get you indexed, ranking, and to keep your site in good technical health. And I’ve linked up a playlist in the description to the entire course with all 14 videos which will be free forever.

Thank you for joining me and I hope you were able to get a ton of value from the course. And make sure to like, share, and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. Feel free to browse around our channel and if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get to each one.

19 thoughts on “SEO: Complete Course for Beginners: Learn to Rank #1 in Google | Search Engine Optimization

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