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What Is YouTube CPM? [+ Why It Matters]

With over two billion monthly active YouTube users, YouTube is an undeniably powerful channel for advertising — which means, if you’re a YouTube creator, there are plenty of opportunities for you to make money off the platform. 

For instance, if advertisers pay to display ads on your videos, you can increase revenue in the form of CPM. 

Along with increasing your revenue, CPM is a strong indicator that your content is valuable, and helps you identify businesses with whom you may want to partner down the road. 

Whether you’ve been a YouTube creator for years or are just starting out, CPM is an important metric to understand to ensure you’re maximizing YouTube’s potential as a revenue generator. 

Here, we’ll explore what CPM is, how it’s calculated, and what makes a “good CPM”. 

What is CPM, and how is it calculated? 

CPM, or cost per 1,000 impressions, is the cost an advertiser needs to pay on YouTube for every 1,000 impressions their ads receive on your video.

CPM varies depending on how much an advertiser pays to display the ad. Ad price on YouTube depends on a range of factors, including bidding price, type of ad, and consistency. 

So, for instance, let’s assume an advertiser is paying $9 for an ad, and the ad was seen 5,000 times on your video. To calculate CPM, you’d divide 9 by 5,000 = $0.0018, then multiply $0.0018 by 1,000.

The CPA, then, is $1.80. You’ll receive 55% of that $1.80 — since YouTube takes a percentage of the CPA, as well (45%, to be exact). So if you make $1.80 CPA off an ad, you’ll only keep $0.99.

Additionally, there’s another type of CPM: playback-based CPM. Rather than calculating the cost the advertiser pays for 1,000 impressions, playback-based CPM calculates the cost an advertiser pays for 1,000 video playbacks where an ad is displayed. 

There are free calculators available online, if you don’t want to calculate your CPM manually. And while individual videos’ CPMs might seem small (like the $0.99 made, above), it can add up to a hefty monthly earning if plenty of businesses see your videos as consistently worthwhile platforms for their promotions. 

Why is CPM important? 

As a YouTube creator, CPM is an important metric for analyzing which of your videos are most valuable to advertisers. Since advertising is the primary method for monetization on YouTube, this is critical information. 

To make a full-time career out of YouTube, it’s critical you know which videos can be monetized so you can create a more efficient, long-term strategy to target those types of topics. 

For instance, perhaps you create YouTube videos for beauty, health, and wellness — but you find, in particular, “Drugstore Makeup Tutorials” receive the highest CPMs. This might suggest you should create more content that aligns with that topic. 

Additionally, you might find one business in particular consistently advertises on your videos. If the brand aligns with your own values, you might reach out directly to discuss other YouTube partnership opportunities, like affiliate marketing. 

Average CPM on YouTube 

CPM varies greatly depending on how much an advertiser pays to distribute an ad on your video. 

For instance, let’s say an advertiser pays $10 for an ad that plays on your video, which has 1,000 views. If that’s the case, you’d make $10 CPM (10/1,000 x 1,000). Of course, then, you’ll need to take 45% off that total — making your earnings around $5.

However, in most cases, the videos on which businesses choose to advertise will have more than 1,000 views, making your earnings closer to $7-$10. 

Jilliian Hope, HubSpot’s Senior Manager of Brand Advertising, agrees, telling me her team typically sees an average of $7 to $10 from past campaigns. 

However, CPM varies by country. For instance, one source reports the United States has an average 0.38 CPM, while Spain is 4.38, Switzerland is 3.87, and Mauritius is as high as 7.05. This means the amount of money you make off YouTube depends, in part, on your geography. 

Highest CPM on YouTube

The highest CPM varies by country, but here’s a list of the five highest CPA rates by country, as reported by one source:

  1. Maldives: $15.47
  2. Guadeloupe: $10.97
  3. Denmark: $10.61
  4. Poland: $9.23
  5. Pakistan: $7.54

Additionally, certain niche topics will ultimately have higher CPMs. Industries that a) perform well on YouTube and b) are incredibly profitable, will perform better in terms of CPM. These industries include:

  • Makeup
  • Retail
  • Health
  • Finance
  • Technology 

As a brand, you should use CPM as a metric to help you identify which topics seem most valuable to advertisers, since those topics likely provide the most opportunity for monetization. 

Rather than looking for “quick tricks” to increase your CPM, however, you’ll want to play the long-game by creating a comprehensive YouTube strategy that helps you increase sales, reach new audiences, and grow brand awareness. 

Reblogged 3 days ago from

4 SEO Strategies for Programmatic Sites

Posted by Royh

Planning and executing SEO strategies for sites with hundreds of millions of pages is no easy task, but there are strategies to make it simpler.

Programmatic pages are pages that have been generated automatically on a very large scale. SEO strategies for these pages are used to target multiple keyword variations by creating landing pages at that scale automatically.

You’ll typically find these pages in major verticals like e-commerce, real estate, travel, and informational sites. These verticals are relying on programmatic pages to build their SEO strategy, and they have a dedicated page for each product and category. This set up can lead to hundreds of millions of pages — they’re efficient, functional, and user-friendly, however, they do come with some SEO challenges.

In my experience, the comprehensive SEO strategy covered in this post works best when tailored to fit a large site with programmatic pages. Many strategies that typically work for sites with only a few hundred pages won’t necessarily get the same results on larger sites. Small sites rely on manual and meticulous content creation, compared to programmatic pages, which are the main traffic-driving pages of the site.

So, let’s get down to business! I’ll explore the four major SEO challenges you’ll encounter when dealing with programmatic pages, and unpack how to overcome them.

1. Keyword research and keyword modifiers

Well-planned keyword research is one of the biggest challenges when operating on a programmatic scale. When working on a sizable set of pages and keywords, it’s important to choose and find the right keywords to target across all pages.

In order to function both efficiently and effectively, it’s recommended that you divide site pages into a few templates before digging into the research itself. Some examples of these templates could include:

  • Categories
  • Sub-categories
  • Product pages
  • Static pages
  • Blogs
  • Informational pages
  • Knowledge base/learning

Once you have all the page templates in place, it’s time to build keyword buckets and keyword modifiers.

Keyword modifiers are additional keywords that, once you combine them with your head terms and core keywords, help with long tail strategy. For example, modifiers for the head term “amazon stock” can be anything related to market share, statistics, insights, etc.

Programmatic pages typically hold the majority of the site’s pages. (Take Trulia, for example, which has over 30 million indexed pages — the majority of which are programmatic.) As a result, those pages are usually the most important on a larger website, both in terms of volume and search opportunity. Thus, you must ensure the use of the right keyword modifiers across each page template’s content.

Of course, you can’t go over every single page and manually modify the SEO tags. Imagine a website like Pinterest trying to do that — they’d never finish! . On a site with 30-100 million pages, it’s impossible to optimize each one of them individually. That’s why it’s necessary to make the changes across a set of pages and categories — you need to come up with the right keyword modifiers to implement across your various page templates so you can efficiently handle the task in bulk.

The main difference here, compared to typical keyword research, is the focus on keyword modifiers. You have to find relevant keywords that can be repeatedly implemented across all relevant pages.

Let’s take a look at this use case on a stock investment website:

The example above shows a website that is targeting users/investors with informational intent, and that relies on programmatic pages for the SEO strategy. I found the keyword modifier by conducting keyword research and competitor research.

I researched several relevant, leading websites using Moz’s Keyword Explorer and SimilarWeb’s Search Traffic feature, and noted the most popular keyword groups. After I’d accumulated the keyword groups, I found the search volume of each keyword to determine which ones would be the most popular and relevant to target

Once you have the keyword modifiers, you must implement them across the title tags, descriptions, headline tags, and content on the page template(s) the modifiers are for. Even when you multiply this strategy by millions of pages, having the right keyword modifier makes updating your programmatic pages a much easier process and much more efficient.

If you have a template of pages ordered by a specific topic, you’ll be able to update and make changes across all the pages with that topic, for example, a stock information site with a particular type of stock page, or a category with stocks based on a price/industry. One update will affect all the pages in the same category, so if you update the SEO title tag of the template of a stock page, then all pages in the same category will be updated as well.

In the example above, the intent of the keywords is informational. Keyword intent focuses on how to match search intents to keyword modifiers. We’re targeting searchers who are looking to gather certain insights. They want more information regarding stocks or companies, market caps, expert evaluations, market trends, etc. In this case, it’s recommended to add additional keywords that will include questions such as “how?”, “what?”, and “which?”.

As another example, transactional keywords — which are a better fit for e-commerce and B2C websites — are highly effective for addressing searches with purchase intent. These terms can include “buy”, “get”, “purchase”, and “shop”.

2. Internal linking

Smart internal linking plans are vital for large sites. They have the ability to significantly increase the number of indexed pages, then pass link equity between pages. When you work on massive sites, one of your main priorities should be to make sure Google will discover and index your site’s pages.

So, how should you go about building those internal linking features?

When looking at the big picture, the goal is that Page A will link to Page B and Page C, while Page B will link to Page D and Page E, etc. Ideally, each page will get at least one link from a different indexed page on the site. For programmatic sites, the challenge here is the fact that new pages emerge on a daily basis. In addition to the existing pages, it’s imperative to calculate and project so that you can jumpstart internal linking for the new pages. This helps these pages get discovered quickly and indexed in the proper fashion.

Related pages and “people also viewed”

One strategy that makes link building easier is adding a “related pages” section to the site. It adds value for the user and the crawlers, and also links to relevant pages based on affinity.

You can link to similar content based on category, product type, content, or just about any other descriptive element. Similar content should be sorted in numeric order or alphabetical order.

HTML sitemap

Yes, even large websites are using HTML sitemaps to help crawlers find new pages. They’re extremely effective when working on large scale sites with millions of pages.

Let’s take a look at this example from the Trulia HTML sitemap (shown above): Trulia built their HTML sitemap based on alphabetical order, and in a way that ensures all pages have links. This way, there won’t be any orphan pages, which helps their goal of supplying link juice to all pages that they wish to index.

In general, many e-commerce and real estate websites are sequencing their sitemaps by alphabetical/categorical order to guarantee that no page will be alone.

3. Crawl budget and deindexing rules

Crawl budget is a very important issue that large websites need to consider. When you have tens of millions of programmatic pages, you need to make sure Google consistently finds and indexes your most valuable pages. The value of your pages should be based on content, revenue, business value, and user satisfaction.

First, choose which pages should not be indexed:

  1. Use your favorite analysis tool to discover which pages have the lowest engagement metrics (high bounce rates, low averages of time on site, no page views, etc.).
  2. Use the search console to discover which pages have high impressions and low CTRs.
  3. Combine these pages into one list.
  4. Check to see if they have any incoming links.
  5. Analyze the attribution of those pages to revenue and business leads.
  6. Once you have all of the relevant data and you choose the pages that should be removed from index, add no-index tag to all of them and exclude them from sitemap XML.

I work for SimilarWeb, a website with over 100 million pages, and I ran a no-index test on over 20 million pages based on the checklist above. I wanted to see the impact of removing a high number pages from our organic channel.

The results were incredible.

Although we lost over half a million visits over the course of a month, the overall engagement metrics on programmatic pages improved dramatically.

By removing irrelevant pages, I made more room for relevant and valuable pages to be discovered by the Google bot.

Rand Fishkin also has a really comprehensive checklist, which shows you how to determine if a page is low quality according to Google. Another great example is Britney Muller’s experiment, where she deindexed 75% of Moz’s pages with great results.

4. SEO split testing

Test everything! The advantage when working on a large scale SEO campaign is that you have access to big data and can utilize it for your SEO efforts. Unlike regular A/B testing, which tests human behavior, A/B split testing is purely for crawlers.

The split testing process is usually based on the same or similar templates of pages. Split the page into two or three groups — one group acts as a control, while the other groups are enabled. Test the following criteria:

  • Adding structured data
  • Changing the keyword modifier of SEO tags (title tag, description, H tags, etc.)
  • Image ALT tags
  • Content length
  • Page performance
  • Internal linking

In terms of measuring the performance, I recommend using one experiment at a time. For instance, you might adjust SEO tags first, and then continue testing other verticals after you’ve built some confidence.

Diving into a split testing example, let’s look at Etsy. Etsy wanted to test which title tag would rank higher and drive better CTR, and generally improve the organic traffic to the pages that were tested. In the image below, we can see how they performed the split test between control pages with default title tags against test pages with different tag variations in this article

Pinterest’s dashboard also shows how their growth team relies on split testing experiments for their SEO strategy. Pinterest’s goal was to build an experimentation tool that would help them measure the impact of SEO changes to their rankings and organic traffic.

Now it’s your turn

Since programmatic pages are different from most others, it’s imperative that you build and optimize these pages in the right way. This requires several adjustments from your normal SEO strategy, along with the application of new and proprietary strategies. The benefit of using the approach outlined above is the incremental scale with which you can contribute to your business.

Programmatic page searches are supposed to fit the search query, whether it’s by product search, address, or information. This is why it’s crucial to make sure the content is as unique as possible, and that the user will have the best answer for each query.

Once you grasp the four tactics above, you’ll be able to implement them into your SEO strategy and begin seeing better results for your programmatic pages.

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

Reblogged 4 days ago from

A (Re)Introduction to Guest Posting

Posted by CitationLabs

Garrett French — founder of Citation Labs and all around link building expert — takes you on a comprehensive walkthrough of guest posting on sites supported by sales. Why is this a good strategy? How do your posts benefit these websites? How do you start and what websites do you reach out to? Watch to find out!

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hello, folks. My name is Garrett French, and I’m a link builder. I run Citation Labs. We have 120 employees, and we build lots of links. Today I am here to reintroduce to you the tactic of guest posting.

All right. Very specifically, though, guest posting with a target of publishers — this largest portion here of the publisher pyramid — who are supported by sales, whose main reason of publishing is to sell things.


So let’s dig in. We are talking about earned placements. The publishers have to approve this content. There’s an editorial gatekeeper. Again, yes/no? Do we want to publish? Do we not?

Is it up to our standards? We’re talking about real websites with real audiences. We’re talking about flexible format. So you can think beyond an article. You can think into an FAQ, for example, or a glossary or something along those lines. Again, very much we want to emphasize the publishers that we’re talking about here get their revenue from sales.

They’re publishing so that they can get new clients or to sell products or services. We’re not talking about PBNs. We’re not talking about sponsored placements. We’re not talking about any circumstance where you have to pay money in order to get in front of somebody’s audience. Lastly, I want to point out we’re not necessarily talking about op-ed circumstances here.

This isn’t a branded expertise play. This isn’t your chance to show how much you know. Now you’re going to be able to show your expertise, but you’re going to be second fiddle. You’ve got to put the publisher themselves and their interest in sales first. That’s what you’re doing here, and that’s why you’re approaching this group, and again it’s why they publish. That’s the publisher benefit that you’re going to be emphasizing when you approach this group. 

Why guest posts?

Now, why guest posts? Well, guys, there’s an enormous amount of visibility and reach here. Look at the pyramid. Now, this is representative of most industries generally, where we’ve got 95% of the publishers are publishing to get sales, 4% that are mission based and are supported by taxes, tuition, donations, subscriptions, etc.

Then we’ve got the 1% ad supported. There are so many publishers out there trying to sell in your vertical, in your clients’ verticals, in your target vertical if you’re in-house, and there’s a lot of disaggregated reach there. There’s a lot newsletters out there, a lot of social media followings out there, folks, that you could be working to get in front of.

You have a lot more topic and context control when you’re publishing on these types of websites, when you’re seeking publishing on these sites. Again, if you’re looking at the tax, tuition, donation, and subscription supported swath here, the 4%, you can sometimes have topics where you can discuss sales or mention a sales page.

But more frequently you’ve got to really focus on the publisher’s mission, why are they publishing. They’re on a mission, and so they’re supported by something besides sales. Then lastly, of course, if we’re talking about digital PR or any kind of mainstream media focus or PR effort, they want content that’s going to drive page views.

That’s how they’re supported. There’s still some mission, of course, in there. But anyhow, you’re much less able, at that point, to link into your sales pages. So again, what we’re talking about here or one of the benefits here rather links to sales pages, which of course is going to improve the rankings of your sales pages.

How to guest post

Now why is that easier in this context, in the context of helping someone else sell? Well, let’s dig in and talk through the how, and you’ll see also what makes that possible. 

Finding publishers

So primarily we’re talking about finding publishers with whom you have top-of-funnel overlap, where some of your top-of-funnel topics, the pains that your prospective clients have and the pains their prospective clients have are similar, interrelated.

Perhaps we’re talking about audience overlap. Perhaps we’re talking about industry overlap. Even location overlap. There’s some kind of overlap here, and you’re speaking into that place when you’re thinking of topics for a given publisher. Another way to think about it is the members of that market it’s what we think of as a solution stack.

So in the SEO space, we all have our favorite tool stack, the tools everybody uses, Moz for example. Well, if you’re selling into that, if you’re an agency like Citation Labs, it might make sense to work and try to get some visibility on a SaaS tool in the SEO space.

“Unbundling” the stack

Let’s work here a little bit longer though, stick on this one a little bit longer and think about unbundling the stack in different verticals, because this is really at the heart of the process and the approach. Let’s think about you’re a realtor.

So within your stack or your industry and certainly within your location, there are going to be some roofers too, and a handful of these folks are going to have blogs. Not all of them, but a handful will. So you’re going to approach a roofer with a topic such as 10 reasons to fix your roof before you put your home up for sale.

Now, this solves a roofer problem, doesn’t it? It’s reasons to purchase roofing services. Also it gives you an opportunity to talk about your expertise as a realtor and what impact roof condition may have on the sale of a home.

Let’s go into this one here, commercial ovens, let’s say those brick ovens for pizza. We’re looking at somebody in the flour space. Maybe they’ve got some organic flour. Well, you’re going to write them a guide on why you need to use organic flour in your pizza dough for your pizza restaurant, the difference that organic flour can make on the outcome of the quality of the dough, of the crust.

You’re going to speak to temperature impact on organic versus not organic, if there is. There might not be, but let’s just for the sake of this assume there is. Then you’re also going to have a great chance to link to your commercial pizza ovens.

If you’re on a site that sells flour into the restaurant space, well, it really makes sense for you to have some visibility there. Let’s say you sell cell phones and you’re thinking about the fitness or health space. So you can pitch something.

You find a physical therapist. You’ve got 10 apps that augment your physical therapy. This can work just as well for let’s say a yoga studio or a CrossFit gym. Apps that augment your exercise, your physical fitness regimen. Again, you’re putting them first, because you’re talking about augmenting services or work that’s already going on, which is kind of assuming that someone would be their customer, would choose to go to this physical therapist, or would choose to attend yoga classes at this particular studio.

So this is what we’re talking about when we think about or talk about unbundling this stack. You see as we come up with topics that we would pitch, we’re putting the publisher first. Always putting the publisher first and recognizing the reason that they publish.

Hone your pitch

This is the biggest piece, guys. Why do they publish? They publish because they want to sell services and products. So you’re thinking about topics and formats that are going to support that and that overlap with what you’re selling and how you’re functioning. Let’s see. Here’s another good tip. Try and get calls to action for your publisher into the title.

So we could revise this one. Ten reasons to fix roof before sale of home. No, 10 reasons to call a roofer before you put your home up for sale, or 10 reasons to call a roofer now if you’re going to put your home up for sale in April.

So again, you’re really looking at honing your pitch for the intended purpose of this publisher group. You’re thinking beyond the article. We talked about it a little bit, mentioned this earlier. You’re thinking about FAQs. You’re thinking about glossaries.

Explore different formats

What other formats could be strong, potential formats? An infographic, a small, little infographic. Any of these could be explained or supported through the use of graphics. Again, this is the type of document or pitch that could be really effective, because the publisher is going to see immediately how it could benefit their sales, the reason why they publish.

Keyword research

You’re an SEO, right? You’re going to lean into keyword research on your pitch. Hey, it looks like you’re not ranking for some of these terms in your area. Again, there needs to be overlap for these terms and with what you’re trying to sell it or with what your topic needs to be.

But if you’ve got some basis behind your pitch, some keyword research to support your topic and why it’s going to benefit the publisher, you’re miles ahead of anybody else who is pitching them. 

Help promote

Then you could even offer some promotion. You’re going to link to it from another placement if you get another one. You’re going to put it up on Twitter to your following. You’re going to mention it on Facebook, etc. Maybe even buy some ads for it. 

Fact-based citations

Now one of the key pieces here, it’s kind of hidden down here at the bottom. You’re going to make sure that when you’re linking to your pages on your site, you’re doing it in the context of a fact-based citation. Ideally you’ve got something on your sales page, we call it a citable element, that’s fact-based, ideally your own data that supports a purchase decision ultimately. 

For example, if you know that your ovens do best with organic flour at 412 degrees instead of 418 and you’ve got the data to support that, well, that’s a great place and reason to link back to your oven page that would have that data point mentioned on it.

You’re best served by linking in a justifiable manner, and that’s specifically when we’re talking about data and we’re talking about some kind of citation that needs to be linked, where the link is absolutely mandatory, a quote for example.

So again, this model or this approach has to be supported by citable elements living on your sales pages or whatever page you’re linking to, if you choose to go this route and not necessarily do sales pages. 


Whoo, I think that’s about it, folks.

Probably lots of questions. But that’s our approach to guest posting on sales-supported publishers. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. Love to hear from you at — happy to answer any questions. 

Thank you, folks.

Video transcription by

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Your exclusive MarTech preview is here

Join us online for free at MarTech, March 16-17, to explore essential marketing operations challenges and opportunities.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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SEO strategies from the Search Engine Land SEO initiative award winners

This year’s Search Engine Land Award winners for Best SEO Initiative sat down with Search Engine Land’s own George Nguyen to talk SEO tactics and strategies.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

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How to Automate Excel Solver

In this article we’ll go in depth from start to finish covering the concepts and methods step by step. By the end you’ll be able to automate any of your own personal models and scale your analysis.


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How to perform SEO A/B testing in Google Search Console

30-second summary:

  • SEO A/B testing allows site owners to understand whether the changes they make to their website have a positive impact on keyword rankings.
  • Anything on a website can be A/B tested, but the best variants to test are those that have a direct relationship to Google’s ranking algorithm.
  • How site owners can best execute an SEO A/B test will depend on the size of their website and their ability to easily roll back changes.
  • If an A/B test proves that a specific optimization is effective, a site owner can more confidently incorporate identical or similar changes to other pages of their website.

For SEO strategists, it is sometimes difficult to know which of the many changes we make to our websites actually impact their overall SEO performance. Moving websites from page 10 to page 2 can usually be accomplished by following SEO best practices, but the trek to page 1? That requires far more granular attention to the specific changes we make to our landing pages. Enter SEO A/B testing, one of the best ways to narrow in and understand the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of specific optimizations.

Many digital marketers are comfortable using A/B testing features in their PPC campaigns or to analyze user behavior in Google Analytics, but fewer are incorporating this powerful strategy to better understand which of their on-page optimizations have the greatest impact on keyword rankings.

SEO A/B testing can seem intimidating, but with the right tools, it’s actually fairly simple to perform. Not only does A/B testing help SEOs identify the most impactful optimizations, but it also gives them a way to quantify their efforts. Although SEO A/B testing is more often utilized by advanced SEO strategists, site owners who are comfortable working on the backend of their website have a great opportunity to elevate their SEO strategy through well-structured A/B tests.

What is SEO A/B testing?

When it comes to controlled experiments, testing two variants is the fundamental building block from which all other testing is built. A/B testing is simply measuring how a single variant impacts an outcome. In the case of SEO, the outcomes are either better, worse, or static keyword rankings.

It doesn’t take much to get started. You’ll need Google Search Console for one (the absolute truth of your SEO rankings), as well as two clearly defined variants you want to test out. Lastly, site owners need to have a dev or staging environment where they can save a version of their website prior to the SEO A/B test just in case the changes do not produce the desired results.

Best use cases for SEO A/B testing

Anything can be A/B tested on our websites, but for SEO purposes, certain site elements are more likely to result in keyword rankings improvements because of the weight they carry in Google’s algorithm. For that reason, the below elements are the best use cases for SEO A/B tests.

Title tags

Choosing title tags is so important and has a huge impact on search results. Title tag changes are very impactful from a rankings perspective because they directly influence click-through-rate (CTR). Google has a normalized expected CTR for searches, and if your landing pages continually fall below the mark, it will negatively impact your overall chances of ranking.

Meta descriptions

For those websites that already have a lot of keywords on page one and are therefore getting lots of impressions, A/B testing meta descriptions can be really beneficial. Like title tags, they directly impact CTR, and improving them can result in significantly more clicks and thus better rankings. 

Schema markup

If you can, it’s good to add schema markup to all of your web pages (you miss all the shots you don’t take!), but if certain pages on your site still don’t have markup, adding it can be a great use case for an A/B test.

Internal links

Internal links communicate to Google site architecture, and they also distribute PageRank across our websites. Getting internal links right can produce dramatic keyword ranking improvements, particularly for larger websites with thousands of landing pages. Focus on header and footer links because of how much they shift PageRank. For websites with product pages, you can use A/B testing to find the best anchor text for your internal links.

New content

Adding good content to your landing pages is always beneficial because longer content implies topical depth. Using a landing page optimizer tool can help you improve the semantic richness of your content, and a subsequent A/B test empowers you to measure whether Google positively responds to those quality signals. 

Large groups of pages

For ecommerce sites or those who may add a large group of pages all at once, you can use A/B testing to measure whether those pages are crawled and indexed in a way that positively or negatively harms your existing rankings.

Information architecture

There are certain elements of information architecture that are more specific to SEO. Google likes page experience features like jumplinks and carousels, so understanding the impact of adding these features to your web pages is another reason to perform an SEO A/B Test.

Site migrations

Whenever you make core technical changes to your website, A/B testing is a great way to measure how those changes impact keyword rankings. It also helps prevent your site from experiencing a significant rankings drop in the long-term. 

The types of SEO A/B testing

There are a few different types of A/B tests that you can execute on your website. It will largely depend on the number of landing pages you have as well as the category of variants you are testing out.

A then B

The most basic form of A/B testing, this type of test will simply compare the performance of a single page with one different variant. This type of A/B test is better for smaller sites and easier to implement, particularly if you’re confident that the changes are in the right direction.  


This type of A/B test allows for far more statistically significant results and can be executed on large sites with hundreds to thousands of landing pages. Instead of measuring a single variant on a single page, pick two page groups of similar pages (I recommend at least 50 pages per cohort) and change the variant on all of those pages.  


This common form of experimentation has the same core mechanisms of an A/B test, but it increases the number of variants being tested. Multivariate testing can be great for measuring user behavior, but it is less effective in measuring search performance when you’re trying to discover whether a specific optimization has a direct impact on keyword rankings. 

How to perform an SEO A/B test 

The easiest way to do A/B tests is by using site snapshots and rollbacks. Basically, you take a site snapshot, make the change to your site, and sit back for a week and watch what happens. If the change to the site has improved your SEO, you’ll see it in your benchmarking. If you’ve made a mistake, then you just roll back to a previous version of your site and move forward with different optimizations. 

Here is a simple step-by-step process of an SEO A/B test:

  1. Take a site snapshot or do a site backup prior to implementing changes so you can return to a previous version of your website if the change is not effective
  2. Determine the variant being tested (for example, title tag,, and the others) and make the change to a page or cohort of similar pages
  3. Wait 7-14 days to determine the impact of the change
  4. Compare the keyword rankings for the variant page/s to the original. This can be done in Google Search Console or a Google Search Console Dashboard 

If the optimizations are impactful, you can proceed with making similar changes to other pages of your site. More targeted changes like adding keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions won’t necessarily directly translate to other pages. However, more technical optimizations like and information architecture can be implemented across the entirety of your website with more confidence if an A/B test proves them impactful.

Some practical advice for SEO testing across hosting environments

The way you proceed with step one will depend on your dev and staging environment. If you’re hosting on DigitalOcean, you can take site snapshots. If you’re on WPEngine, you can choose a site backup to restore from. For the best in class, try Version Control from Git, which allows you to roll back to any version of your website. 

Version Control is like Track Changes on a Word Document, but the history never gets deleted. With Version Control, even if you delete something or change it, there is a chronology to all of the changes that have been made — when a line of code was created, when it was edited — and you can roll back at any time.

It’s also important to make sure all of the in-development pages and test environment pages on your site have the robots no index tag. Some SEO specialists might tell you that adding the pages to your blocklist in robots.txt or with on-page rel canonical tags would be sufficient, but at LinkGraph I’ve seen numerous examples where pages or subdomains were added to robots and continued to be in search results for months. Just adding a canonical tag is insufficient at blocking the dev domain from crawling and indexing.

The best strategy is to use the robots no index. The even better strategy is to use both robots no index and rel canonicals for added protection.

How long does it take to know whether the variant was effective?

How long you wait to measure your A/B tests will depend on how often Google crawls your website. If you test parts of your domain that aren’t crawled often, you may have to wait longer in order for Google to actually see your changes. If you’re changing primary pages that Google crawls frequently, you can likely see whether those optimizations had any impact within 7-14 days.

As you evaluate the effectiveness of your optimizations, beware of confounding variables. Multiple backlinks in a short period of time, adding Javascript, and of course, algorithm changes, can sharply impact keyword rankings. Any type of experimentation is more accurate when you can eliminate variables, so do your best to not schedule A/B tests during link building campaigns, core algorithm updates, or any period of high search volatility. 

When done correctly, A/B testing can be a powerful way to refine your SEO strategy toward maximum results. Not only can A/B testing help site owners make more data-driven decisions, but it can also help SEO strategists prove the value of their work to clients or executive leadership who may be wary of investing in SEO.

Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO, paid media, and content marketing services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, a software suite of free SEO tools. You can find Manick on Twitter @madmanick.

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Top four SEO myths debunked: Director’s cut

30-second summary:

  • SEO is rife with myths and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.
  • SEO and SEM, while complementary, are not the same thing and cannot be approached the same way.
  • SEO is not a temporary or one-time adjustment — far from it.
  • Your SEO agency, while rockstars are not superhuman. They cannot do everything for you.
  • SEO results are not instant.

Myths, what are they? To Joseph Campbell, “myths are the world’s dreams. They are archetypal dreams and deal with great human problems.” Ultimately, they serve as a conduit to understanding. While true for most myths, this definition falls apart when it comes to the concept of SEO myths.

If you’ve been in digital marketing for any length of time, you’ve run into the fact that it is a fractured space. Between full-service agencies, vertical-specific boutique shops, independent consultants, and more, separating myth from reality when it comes to prescriptive SEO advice is a significant hurdle.

While the number of SEO myths out there are innumerable, I will nail down the four that I come across most often.

SEO myth #1: SEO and SEM can be approached in the same way

“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Although there are many useful concepts that can be taken from SEM and applied to SEO, looking at each channel as the same is a mistake. To start, consider this: a powerful concept in the management of Google Ads is to optimize your use of negative keywords — keywords that you do not want to show up for.

Because of how immediately transactional and visible SEM is — you set a budget, create an ad, and press go — it is common for people to carry that mindset over to SEO. Rather than thinking of what keywords are viable, those coming in with an SEM “bias” can bring a perspective that’s largely focused on what isn’t viable. This is accompanied by the belief that as long as you continue to build out what doesn’t work, what does work will rise to the top.

Unfortunately, this can stymie conversations around a campaign’s keyword research — the launch pad for all other SEO activities — and as you’ll see below, there isn’t a need to contextualize your keyword research within what doesn’t work so long as you approach that research from a sound SEO framework.

Keyword variations and match types

It is not uncommon for Google Ads campaigns to target thousands of keyword variations across a handful of match types. This is done to ensure that you’re able to connect with your audience despite slight variations in the ways that they may type and look for a certain query.

While a necessary practice in SEM, this is not needed in SEO. Though tracking the rankings of thousands of keywords is something we’ve seen our customers do, if you try to target every keyword you can think of, you make it difficult to target and optimize for those that matter most.

When done right, your keyword research for SEO purposes should be chunked out in “themes”. This process, referred to as thematic keyword research, allows you to distill a semantic grouping into a handful of related keywords. This then allows you to focus your optimization efforts and theoretically enables you to surface for all the keywords you would otherwise directly target in Google Ads.

Frequent changes to landing pages to improve ad quality metrics

Another habit that people bring over from SEM to SEO is the frequency that landing pages are changed, says Victorious SEO Strategist Jenni Bojanin. In SEM, specifically ad platforms like Google Ads, these changes help improve ad quality metrics like Quality Score and Landing Page Experience, which allows for a lower cost per click (CPC).

That said, frequently changing pages that are core to your SEO campaigns can cause problems. At best, depending on how often search engine spiders crawl your site, you could be making changes that are never seen in the pursuit of metrics that apply to SEO. At worst, you could be making changes at a frequent enough clip that it confuses search engine spiders and negatively impacts the indexation and categorization of the page itself.

SEO myth #2: SEO is a temporary fix

“You should not drive over 50 mph and no more than 50 miles with a donut-type spare tire. Driving for long distances on a spare tire can potentially cause damage to other car parts, including the transmission.”  – American Automobile Association

Viewing SEO as a temporary fix to your digital marketing problems is like riding on a spare tire at speeds and distances greater than recommended. It’ll work in the short term, but after a while, you can end up doing greater damage than if you had approached the problem with a long-term view on fixing the issue, that is, a new tire.

SEO is not a channel but the foundation of all other digital marketing activities. As such, we have frequent conversations with prospective customers about how integral it is to not view SEO as something you do one time to “clean up” a site, but rather as something to maintain long-term.

To better contextualize this, I’ll cover two scenarios.

The first is a company with a large site with many individuals responsible for the upkeep of the said site. As a site grows in size, the number of individuals you need to manage it begins to grow in tandem. And as you add more individuals, the risk of things going awry and negatively impacting the site’s SEO grow as well.

Now, let’s say you have a smaller site. Maybe you’re a solopreneur or a smaller mom-and-pop-type shop. It’s reasonable to think that with such a small site that the number of things that can go wrong has got to be very small. That is true, but only from the perspective of what’s happening on-site.

In SEO, the saying “if you’re standing still, you’re moving backward” is a very real thing. Just because there’s a comparatively small chance your site has egregious on-site issues, doesn’t mean your competition isn’t continuing to build out their site, both on- and offsite.

In both scenarios, regularly investing time and resources into your site’s SEO over, ideally, the life of the sites would prevent the two negative consequences of “quick fix” SEO: missing egregious issues due to a  lack of having someone reviewing the site and becoming complacent while your competition focuses efforts off-site.

SEO myth #3: Your SEO agency will handle everything for you

At my agency, Victorious, we view our engagements with our customers as partnerships. There are many things that a partnership can mean, but the idea that a partner should handle everything for you is not one of them.

Just like a one-to-one human relationship, a partnership works best when both partners are engaged and committed to finding ways to work together to achieve shared goals.

To better expand on this idea, I consulted an article on Oprah Mag titled, “The Best Relationship Advice, According to Experts”. In it, I found two helpful analogs to how your relationship with your SEO agency should ideally function, which are:

Schedule dates to talk about your relationship

If you don’t put time on the calendar to meet with your SEO agency, you’re missing out on an opportunity to better empower them to deeply understand your business and its needs. As much as you think the discussions you’ve had with them during your pre-sales and onboarding meetings should be enough, they’re not.

Your business is evolving — probably daily. Your priorities will shift and resources will change. If you’re not regularly updating your SEO agency about these shifts and changes, you cannot expect them to properly execute a strategy that ultimately serves your company well.

Don’t expect your partner to be your BFF

Just like you’d be setting yourself up for failure by expecting your partner in real life to be everything for you — confidante, therapist, etc. — you’re doing the same by expecting your SEO agency to handle and/or keep an eye on all aspects of your digital marketing.

When engaging with an agency, be very clear upfront with what your expectations are and allow space for the agency to push back on anything that would be out of scope. If you’re already engaged with an agency, be prepared to have open and candid conversations about your needs and understand that some of those needs may not be able to be accommodated by the agency.

And that’s ok. Let your agency do what they’re best at. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Besides, most agencies will have referrals or be able to point you in the right direction to help support the need you are looking to fulfill.

SEO myth #4: SEO results are instant

Not even Instant Noodles are instant. Why would you think results from a marketing channel would be?

While it is true that every site, both new and old, likely has low hanging fruit that could result in fairly quick wins, seeing sustained and compounding SEO results takes time.

Depending on who you ask, the SEO flywheel can take a minimum of three to four months and up to one to two years before any visible “self-propulsion” of the flywheel begins to take effect.

Why is this the case? Because of the myriad of variables involved — some within your control, and some outside of your control. The top three are:


If you’re entering into a competitive space like credit cards with a brand new site, there are two elements of competition that you need to consider. The first is that a space like credit cards automatically lends itself to a lot of online competition since they are often targeted towards nationwide audiences, rather than regional ones. That alone means that the number of sites you’re competing against rise exponentially.

The second element to consider is the types of companies you’re competing against in the space you’re operating within. With credit cards, you’re going to be operating against some of the largest businesses in the United States, for example, companies like Bank of America, Discover, and the likes. The larger the business, the more likely it is that they employ SEO professionals, and therefore the more likely you are up against sites that are fairly well optimized.

Inbound links

In case you haven’t heard recently, links continue to be a top-ranking factor on Google. As a testament to that, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, stated years ago in a conversation about the top two ranking factors outside of RankBrain: “I can tell you what they are. It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site.”

And this isn’t going to change anytime soon.

So, how do you identify how many links you need to start surfacing on page one of the search engine results page (SERP) of the queries you’re targeting? In an earlier article I wrote for Search Engine Watch, “Five SEO tips that capture holiday attention and boost sales”, I discuss how to understand link acquisition needs.

The steps are broken down here succinctly:

  1. For your target queries, take a look at the number of Referring Domains (RDs) pointing to the pages ranking in positions one through five for those queries. You can achieve this through tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and the like.
  2. Once you get the number of RDs, average them.
  3. The product of this is the number of RDs you realistically need to break into the top five of page one of your queries’ SERPs.


According to Victorious Content Strategist Ashley Cardell, when it comes to SEO content creation, a handful of things come into play. Those things are content length, the search intent of the primary query the content is targeting, and the cadence at which you should be publishing new content.

To figure out your content needs, a good first step is – gauging the number of pages your top organic competitors are ranking for. Ahrefs makes it easy. After plugging in the URL of the competitor you’re assessing, click “Top Pages” in the left-hand pane and look for the section that says the number of results, like the picture below:

Based on this number — 8,393 — you now have a loose target with regards to the number of content pieces you would need to produce to achieve “competitive parity” in terms of content footprint.

In Conclusion

Marketing is hard. With so many channels, competing internal interests and shared budgets, a shifting landscape, and ever-increasing goals, it’s understandable that you’d be tempted to apply the logic of a channel you know to one that you don’t know. I wish it worked that way, too. However, applying that kind of logic makes you vulnerable to falling for the myths of SEO.

SEO and SEM are as distinct as night and day. There is some overlap between them, and they complement each other, but they are not the same. Additionally, SEO should not be looked at as a short-term or one-time fix. It should be part of your long-term digital strategy. Within that strategy, it is important not to expect your agency to handle everything, but rather treat your agency as your valued partner and consultant. And most importantly, always remember that when implementing SEO into your strategy, keep in mind that results are not instant, and will take time.

With the above, I’ve given you things to look out for when approaching SEO with a predominantly SEM background. But at the end of the day, these tips won’t help you if you don’t view SEO as a foundational element to your overall marketing mix rather than a “set and forget” channel. With SEO, take the long-term view and things will pan out in the end.

Houston Barnett-Gearhart is Director of SEO at Victorious.

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Interactive Marketing: Why It’s Time to Try It

Are your brand’s marketing efforts a one-sided conversation? In an increasingly digital world, there are more opportunities than ever to connect with your leads. More often than not, however, those connections are driven in one direction, without the back-and-forth dialogue that more closely mimics the way we engage with each other in real life. Fortunately,…

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The Content Habits and Preferences of Engineers

Engineers place the most value on information-heavy content, such as datasheets, case studies, and whitepapers, when making purchasing decisions about products and services, according to research from TREW Marketing and GlobalSpec. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

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