SEO Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Guide’

How to Disavow Links in Google and Bing: An Instructional Guide

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , ,

How to Disavow Links in Google and Bing: An Instructional Guide was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

To help our clients who would like to use the disavow links tools from Google and Bing, this is an instructional guide.

It’s important to note that Google strongly advises against using the disavow links tool unless it is the last available option and will be implemented by a highly technical power user of Webmaster Tools. Incorrect use of the disavow links tool can harm Google’s evaluation of that site’s rankings and is a difficult process to reverse.

Introduction to Disavow Links

In this 9+ minute video, Google’s ambassador to webmasters and SEOs Matt Cutts tells us why a disavow links tool exists, who might need to use it, and how to use it. It’s a helpful introduction to the topic of harmful links.

Who Might Consider Using Disavow Links Tools

  1. You’ve received a bad link warning in Google Webmaster Tools.
  2. Your SEO has identified that your site is affected by the Penguin Update or manual action penalty removing you from search results.
  3. Or you may have identified negative SEO waged against your site.

In the video above, Matt gives some specific examples of the actions that could put you in category #2 in this list. If you’ve paid for links or used spammy comments or article directories to build backlinks, this is you.

First Course of Action: Link Removal

If inbound links are harming a site’s search engine standings, those links should be removed, or at least, an effort must be made to remove them. Bruce Clay, Inc.’s link pruning process is a vetted link removal method that we have used with success for many clients.

The following resources explain our link removal process, from identification of harmful links to contacting linking domains to tracking and reporting the process to Google for reconsideration:

Google and Bing’s Disavow Links Tools

After having exhausted your link removal efforts and made necessary reconsideration request to Google, the Disavow Links tools in Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Tools may be a viable option for your situation.

Bing Webmaster Help and How-To use Disavow Links tool

  1. Go to “Configure my site” in Bing Webmaster Tools and then go to “Disavow links” in the following navigation.
  2. Use the Disavow Links tool to select a page, directory or domain you wish to disavow, and then enter the corresponding URL in the “Enter a URL” field.
  3. Click “Disavow”.
  4. The disavow submission will be listed below.
  5. You can delete disavow submissions by checking the box to the left of the listed selection and clicking the “Delete” button.

Bing Disavow Links tool

Google Webmaster Tools explanation of the Disavow links tool

  1. Create a text file (.txt) containing the URL of the links you want to disavow.
  2. Include only one link per line.
  3. To disavow all links from a whole domain, add “domain:” before the link URL of the domain home page (for example, “”)
  4. You may include additional information about links in a line beginning with “#” (for example, “# this webmaster won’t return my requests for removal”).
  5. Signed in to Google Webmaster Tools, visit
  6. Select the domain from a drop down menu for which you are submitting a disavow links list and click the “Disavow Links” button.
  7. Click through the pop-up warning (Google warns against the dangers of improper Disavow use throughout the process) and upload the text file of links you want Google to ignore and click “Submit”.
  8. You’ll see your .txt file listed here. Click “Done” to finish the process.

Google Disavow Links tool

Expect it to take weeks before the disavow is no longer a calculation in your site’s search engine valuation. Again, we stress not to use the Disavow Links tool without guidance from an expert.

Bruce Clay Blog

The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Pratik Dholakiya

With “content marketing” being the indisputable SEO buzzword of 2012, we can expect 2013 to see an onslaught of marketers trying to build links with guest posts. The growth in this market will cause some sites to lower their guest posting standards, others to raise them, and still more to stop accepting them altogether. Google will target low quality guest posts with increasing zeal, and it will get harder to see results if the effort and strategy aren't there. We're going to help you combat this by sharing how we got posts up on ProBlogger and Search Engine Journal, and by introducing you to our strategy for success with our clients.

1. Finding Guest Post Opportunities

Finding Guest Post Opportunities

Let's kick this off by talking about where to seek out guest post opportunities. This is, by far, the most important part of your strategy, since it determines the value and longevity of your link.

20 Things You Should Do and Pay Attention to

  1. Look for platforms where it will make sense to readers for you to post. The niche doesn't have to be identical, but there should be an overlap in audience, and you should be able to offer something valuable to them that also makes sense from a branding perspective.
  2. Check the SEOmoz Domain Authority and PageRank to make sure the blog has the right ranking factors in place. Dig a bit deeper than this, though. For starters, check up on a few of their previous guest posts to see how strong the Page Authority is. Look for other signs that the site is visited frequently, such as frequent comments and sharing activity. Make sure this is true for most pages, not just the homepage.
  3. On that note, check for activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. If the site has a decent amount of community activity happening on at least one of those networks, you're in pretty good shape.
  4. Look for a large subscriber count.
  5. Read through a few of the comments to get an idea of what the site's community looks like, and to make sure spam isn't making its way into the comments frequently. Keep in mind that Google pays attention to user generated content, even if it doesn't count it the same way as main body content.
  6. Pay attention to who has contributed to the blog in the past. Do their guest posts or their sites seem “spammy?”
  7. Who is in charge of the blog? What does their background look like? Do they appear reputable?
  8. The guidelines for guest posts should have fairly strict standards. It should be clear that content is only accepted if it will please the blog's audience. If it looks “easy” to get a post up on their blog, don't bother.
  9. How frequently is the blog updated?
  10. Does the site publish any of its own material, or just guest posts? Most legitimate sites will publish their own material, though there are exceptions.
  11. Is it possible for you to become a regular contributor? A site that is looking for consistently good content will often want regular contributors. A site that doesn't care about quality standards is less likely to want them.
  12. Will your target audience visit this blog? Will influencers who are followed by your target audience visit this blog? You should be able to answer yes to at least one of these, unless the audience size is very large.
  13. Consider starting by asking this question: “Where is the go-to place for my target audience? Is it possible for me to get a post there?” instead of asking the more typical question posed earlier: “Would my target audience visit this blog?” This is harder to accomplish, but the results are much more dramatic if you do.
  14. Check out the site's link profile. Does it look natural?
  15. Seek out guest posts from blogs that do not publicly state an interest in guest posts. These are very lucrative, because very few of your competitors will have links like this.
  16. Try to write a post about the keyword that the site ranks best for. This increases the odds of your guest post showing up in the search results, reaching a wider audience, and sending over more referral traffic. Keep in mind that, in order to accomplish this, you will need to have something new and interesting to say about the topic that the site hasn't published before.
  17. Pay attention to the user interface and the overall user experience visitors have when they come to the site. These can increasingly be considered ranking factors, and they are an indication of the faith and resources invested in the site.
  18. Bonus points if the blog has received any kind of award from a reputable organization.
  19. Try starting with resource lists along the lines of: “Top 10 Blogs about [Niche]” These will point you toward reputable blogs in the industry.
  20. If the top ten blogs are unattainable, look for blogs that have been featured on those top ten sites.

20 Things You Should Avoid

Your choices for guest posting opportunities are ridiculously numerous, and you will waste resources if you pursue guest posts from sub-par blogs. Future updates will inevitably rob these links of their value. That's why we don't recommend:

  1. Blogs that accept all content sent their way with the obvious goal of publishing as much content as quickly as possible.
  2. Blogs that have no clear target audience or subject matter. Even all-subject sites like The New York Times have an understanding of what their audience looks like and write accordingly. Any blog that has no idea what its audience wants should be avoided.
  3. Sites with excessive ads. This hurts user experience and is generally a sign of a low quality site.
  4. If your target audience has a geographic component, don't seek out guest posts with a different geographic target, unless it is of exceptional value.
  5. Avoid sites that don't post any of their own content, or rarely do. There are rare exceptions, such as Cracked, where most of the content is produced by guests, and the quality is exceptionally high. These are few and far between.
  6. Sites with poor design, confusing structure, a bad interface, or that offer a poor experience to their visitors.
  7. Sites with no contact information.
  8. In general, avoid sites with no social media presence. Exceptions can be made if the site clearly has a large following. There are some bloggers, for example, who are opposed to social networks or who don't want to waste time on them, but have nevertheless developed a large audience.
  9. Sites with a low PageRank and SEOmoz Domain Authority should typically be avoided. (A domain authority below 30 can generally be considered avoidable). Clearly, you should make exceptions for sites that have a large following regardless of these metrics, because they will almost inevitably gain positive signals in the future.
  10. Blogs that have fake followers on social networks. Check through a few profiles and you can usually identify whether they are human rather quickly.
  11. Blogs with guest post guidelines that are easy to meet with minimal effort.
  12. Blogs whose posts are uninteresting, not actionable, uninformed, or out of date.
  13. Any blog that has posted duplicate content, unless of course it was somebody else who copied them.
  14. Sites that have already been penalized. Always check to make sure that the blog ranks for its own brand name and other things it should clearly rank for, in order to ensure that it hasn't been penalized.
  15. Blogs that do not get updated regularly.
  16. Blogs that exist to earn ad revenue off of guest posts alone.
  17. Sites with exact match domains. There are nuances to this, of course. In general, though, you should stick to domains built around brands, not keywords.
  18. A blog that doesn't appear to receive any comments, tweets, likes, or any of the above should typically be avoided.
  19. Sites that allow visitors to post an article directly without approval from humans. These should always be avoided.
  20. Blogs that take months before posting your submission. In general, if a site is taking months to publish posts it means they don't care about fresh content. There are some exceptions for very popular sites. However, a popular with high standards will generally tighten its standards even more or increase its posting schedule, rather than setting posts months in the future. In general, it shouldn't take more than a month or so for your post to go live.

Where to Find Places to Guest Post

For starters, you can use the following services to find places that accept guest posts:

At the bottom of this post, we will also share a list of keywords to search for in order to find guest post opportunities. It's very long, so we won't distract you with it here.

Now, even though we've provided you with a lot of resources to work with here, we would actually suggest not relying too heavily on them. As guest posting increases in popularity, we can expect many of these tools to get abused. It's more important than ever to stand out, and if all of your links are coming from places like this, you won't be standing out.

We can't stress this enough. You need a unique link profile, and the key to that is going to be outreach. Make sure to spend a fair amount of time reaching out to blogs that don't go out of their way to get guest contributors, or ideally, who have never had a guest author before. These links are very lucrative and give your link profile the diversity it needs to survive future Google updates.

Here are some more unique places to get guest post ideas:

  • Do a search for broad industry keywords and find the most popular blogs
  • From the Google menu, click “More” and select “Blogs,” then do a search for broad industry keywords

  • From the Google menu, click “Discussions” and search for your keyword, and see what sites are getting talked about the most in the forum community

  • Search for your keywords on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Google+, and the like to find the most popular accounts that are associated with blogs
  • Search for “top ten [keyword] blogs” and use similar queries to find popular blogs

Don't include keywords like “submit guest post” when you use these methods, at least not every time. The goal is to find popular blogs that don't typically accept guest posts. Be resourceful and do some relationship building. It's worth the effort.

2. Developing an Outside-the-Box Guest Post Idea

Develop an Outside-the-Box Guest Post Idea

Depending on where you guest post, sometimes the idea will come before the outreach, and sometimes it will come after. Either way, it takes truly original ideas in order to get guest posts up on sites with high standards. This is crucial not just for getting your posts on authoritative sites, but for getting them shared, getting conversions, getting additional links, and getting traffic.

Generally, prerequisites for original ideas include:

  • Reading the top blogs in the industry
  • Setting up Google alerts for your main keywords
  • The involvement of your client for insight into the industry
  • Using Google Analytics, keyword tools, Google Insights and Trends, etc, to see what topics are popular in the industry
  • Use tools to find out what is trending

However, these are not the keys to producing truly original content. They merely set the bar. In order to produce something fresh and new, you will need to:

  • Use your client's proprietary data
  • Take a stance that goes against the grain a bit
  • Bring in insights from other disciplines and industries
  • StumbleUpon insider information
  • Spot relationships between subject matter that others haven't
  • Be funny, emotional, and opinionated
  • Use anecdotes, examples, or case studies
  • Point to related scientific studies
  • And…(God forbid)…hire writers or journalists who have already proven their skills

For an in depth discussion of how to make content production work, you can take a look at our content marketing guide for agencies. (Pinned by Moz team as well 🙂 )

Now, as much as we stress avoiding an over-reliance on tools, there are some great resources out there that can help you come up with original ideas:

  • Content Strategy Generator Tool – This tool from SEOgadget shares content ideas from Bing News, Reddit, YouTube, Topsy, Yahoo! Answers, Digg, and so on. It also suggests bloggers to get in touch with.
  • Google Analytics – Have you heard of this tool before? Nevertheless, you may never have considered it as a tool for content ideas. Keywords that people are landing on your site for are a good place to start.
  • Site Search – What are people searching for once they have landed on your site? There are content ideas buried in there as well.
  • Google Alerts – Try digging through your alerts emails and seeing if you can spot patterns or trends in the news that others may not have picked up on. Some of the best posts look for a common thread in the news and give a bird's eye view of what's been happening, looking for lessons, rather than just reporting on individual stories.

We were also impressed with what SkyRocketSEO had to say about getting content ideas. EvergreenSearch and SearchEngineWatch have also written wonderful and comprehensive content idea guides, and CopyBlogger has an excellent infographic on the subject.

Here's the most important part.

Before you pour everything into your guest post, check Google to make sure the idea is truly original. You want your post to say something new about the topic, so if the top posts in Google are looking a bit familiar, you need to head back to the drawing board before you waste your time.

3. Developing the Content

Develop the Great Content

Once you have an idea and a blog to target with your guest post, it's time to start building your content. And it's our opinion that you should almost always go big, even though the risks can seem higher, as Dr. Pete recently pointed out. When the content is big, you won't be willing to waste it on a sub-par blog, which, paradoxically, means you're taking less risk in the long run.

While you're developing the content, you'll want to:

  • Write with the blog's audience in mind. Read comments and pay attention to which posts get shared the most to aid you in this process
  • Don't hold anything back “for later.” Pour everything you have about a subject into the blog post
  • Use graphics
  • Cite authoritative sources
  • Use research data
  • Organize your posts with subheadings and lists, and keep the paragraphs short.
  • Get your points across quickly without padding the word count.
  • Use plain English.
  • Use anecdotes.
  • Use humor.
  • Figure out the most shocking, surprising, interesting, or humorous aspect of your post and mention it in the title and the first paragraph (ideally the first sentence). But don't give so much away that the reader has no reason to continue.
  • Use “cliffhangers,” “foreshadowing” and other elements used by fiction writers to keep readers engaged in suspense.

Now, some of these bullet points contradict each other or aren't appropriate for every single post, but they should give you an idea of what we mean by “big content.” Always keep the primary purpose of the post in mind. Does it exist to entertain, to inform, to shock? Every sentence should have purpose.

Our Experience with Search Engine Journal

As an example of the kind of content we're talking about, you can take a look at what we had to say about Link Earning Strategies for the Post-Panda/Penguin Era over at Search Engine Journal. As SEOmoz has pointed out, SEJ is one of the top blogs in the SEO industry, so sub-par content wasn't going to cut it.

In order to develop the post, we:

  • Hired talented copy editors to ensure the content was well written
  • Based the content off of a Quora discussion we had been involved in that already gained some traction
  • Made sure most of the visitors would be learning something new from the list
  • Organized the content with an easy to digest format
  • Knew the problem of building links in the wake of Google updates was a common one
  • Avoided stiff and formal language

Some might suggest that all of this is too much work, but, if anything, we think we probably could have done more. To understand why this kind of effort pays off, consider the fact that:

These are not the results you see from throwaway posts at

Author Bios

Sometimes we SEOs don't care much for author bios, or even hate them. A non-contextual link from an easily identified separate block of content…who cares? Well, we do. This is your sales pitch. Take advantage.

  • Make your author bio fun to read so that readers see you as a person, not an automaton.
  • Mention your brand name and don't focus on keywords. Branding matters!
  • Include links where they make the most sense and where they will drive maximum conversions, not where they send the (already outdated) signals to the search engines.
  • Encourage readers to contact you directly via Twitter or email so that they know you're available and ready to start a conversation with them.

4. Outreach


This is a huge part of the foundation behind a successful guest posting strategy. Yes, there are some high quality blogs where it's possible to get guest posts with minimal outreach as long as your content is exceptional and you have the right ideas.

That said, if outreach isn't an important part of your strategy, you will only be getting links from sites that regularly accept guest posts, and this doesn't offer the diversity your link profile needs in order to be genuinely robust, even if those links are high quality.

Keep the following in mind during outreach:

  • Have the right idea at the right time. Come in too late and your idea will be redundant. Focus on topics that are either relevant right now, or that you feel will be relevant in the very near future.
  • If the blog has guest posting guidelines, make sure you have met (and exceeded) them.
  • Mention examples of your previously successful content (either on your own site or others).
  • Demonstrate your authority with credentials, social profiles, awards, etc, but not to the point that it feels like you're gloating.
  • Approach the contact directly and speak to them like a human. Don't shy away from a bit of humor and don't be too formal. Avoid sounding in any way like an advertisement.
  • Don't take up too much time with the email expounding upon all the benefits of working with you.
  • Contact them directly through Twitter or Facebook if they are active on their profiles to have a real-time conversation.
  • Consider bringing up the possibility in a comment on a new blog post, as long as you also add value with your comment that relates to their blog post and contributes to the discussion.
  • Flattery can help if it's honest and it doesn't make you look pathetic. It's best to do this after they know what you want, rather than before, otherwise it looks manipulative. (Okay, what you want from me already…)
  • If the blogger has asked a question anywhere recently that doesn't seem to be answered, offer them an answer.
  • The entire conversation is about how you can help them, not about how they can help you.

Outreach Tools

Okay fine, we admit it, we love tools. Just don't confuse “tool” with “strategy.”

  • GroupHigh – Identify influential bloggers, track their reach, and send personalized messages through email or Twitter. Set up workflows and reminders to manage your contacts, and take advantage of geo-targetting for local clients.
  • BlogDash – Find and reach out to bloggers who already want to be contacted.
  • Rapportive – Get social feedback on your contacts directly from Gmail.
  • Buzz Stream – Manage your contacts easily so you can focus on link building and relationship building.

Our Outreach Experience With ProBlogger

ProBlogger is pretty much the site for professional bloggers, so like SEJ, it's not exactly easy to get a post on the site. Unfortunately, when some people hear this they think their emails need to be perfectly polished and sleek. Well, here's our initial outreach email with ProBlogger:

I have to admit it's a bit embarrassing to share my bare writing with no copy editing (I'm Indian if you can't tell), but that's kind of the point. This may not be sleek and professional, but it's human and it's clear that this isn't from a template.

We received a response within 24 hours, which we felt was a great sign, even though this was what they had to say:

What can I say, we should have known better. Original content is the key to success. If we had to guess, we would say that this is probably where most guest bloggers would give up. But that is not how you succeed. The candid response was, to us, a sign that they saw us as humans and would be interested in what we had to offer if the content was right.

This should serve as an example of how outreach, idea generation, and content production can all come together as part of the same process. We worked together with our copy editor and thought a bit about what ProBlogger's audience is looking for, and how we could offer a solution in a unique way.

Well, this will get a bit meta, because we realized that what bloggers need most are new ideas, and a method for getting them. We didn't want to regurgitate what had already been said by others on the site, so we turned to an original resource: psychological research. This turned out to be a great unique selling proposition for us.

You can see the post on ProBlogger under the title: Get Creative About Your Content…Consistently. It should serve as a good example of unique content, as well as a decent guide to come up with content ideas that goes beyond what we've talked about so far in this guide.

Now this post wasn't easy to put together. The insights came from dense peer-reviewed science papers, and it wasn't easy to translate that information into something useful as a guide for bloggers, but hopefully you can see why it was worth the effort.

Persistence is important. We're not ashamed to say that we were rejected twice by SearchEnginePeople. Instead, we're proud to say that on our third attempt, our post about finding original data for content marketing was approved. The key is to keep trying.

5. Promotion

Promote Your Guest Post

If you have chosen the right platform, and the content is original, helpful, and engaging, then your content has a good chance of going viral and, on some level, promoting itself. But, of course, you can dramatically improve your chances of success and expand your reach further if you take things to the next level and promote your guest post. Here are a few tactics to help that along:

  • Let your friends and business contacts know about the post, especially the ones who care about the topic and who have their own audience. This is one of many reasons you should be regularly exchanging emails and social messages with influencers, so that these kinds of requests don't seem unsolicited and rude.
  • Involve your client, and potentially any other clients who might be interested (but not competitors). Encourage them to share the material. You'll get bonus points here if your client has a lot of employees who would be willing to pass it along.
  • Include the guest post in your email signature.
  • Frequent Q&A sites, forums, and social networks that discuss your topic, and look for questions that your guest post helps answer. Offer them a few tips and suggest they read the full blog post for an in depth discussion.
  • Highlight the guest post on your own site. Don't be concerned, this isn't “reciprocal linking.”
  • Submit a press release about the guest post.
  • Respond to comments, especially questions, and thank people for adding to the conversation. Don't overreact to negative comments. If you can respond without getting angry, go ahead. If you get upset, you will probably do more harm than good.
  • Browse through your previous blog posts and link to the guest post where it makes sense. See if you can get your previous guest posts updated with a link to the new guest post as well. (This will be easier if you mention the old guest post in your new post first).

Conclusion: Make Your Guest Posts Count

Doing things differently is what sets you apart. There is no reason that this should change the second you start posting material on somebody else's property. Every piece of content you design should be produced with the goal of going viral, attracting links, and driving traffic.

Thinking of a piece of content as a way to build a single link simply doesn't have any appeal to us anymore. We hope to “re-brand” guest posting as part of a “big content” strategy, where the advantage of using somebody else's platform isn't just its domain authority, it's the potential to expand your reach and build relationships for further growth.

Guest Posting Query List: (As mentioned in the “Where to Find Places to Guest Post” section above)

We are tremendously excited about this new direction in guest posting, and we hope you share our enthusiasm. Please let us know what you think of our guide, and if you have some clever insights we would love to hear what you have to say in the comments. We would also love it if you could pass this along. Let's keep guest posting alive, and help people see it as real marketing!

  • “add guest post”
  • “become a contributor”
  • “become a guest blogger”
  • “become a guest writer”
  • “become an author”
  • “bloggers wanted”
  • “blogs accepting guest posts”
  • “blogs that accept guest bloggers”
  • “blogs that accept guest posts”
  • “contribute to our site”
  • “contribute”
  • “group writing project”
  • “guest bloggers wanted”
  • “guest blogging spot”
  • “guest contributor”
  • “guest post by”
  • “guest post guidelines”
  • “guest post”
  • “guest posts roundup”
  • “my guest posts”
  • “now accepting guest posts”
  • “places i guest posted”
  • “submission guidelines”
  • “submit a guest article”
  • “submit a guest post”
  • “submit guest post”
  • “suggest a guest post”
  • “the following guest post”
  • “this guest post is from”
  • “this guest post was written”
  • “this is a guest article”
  • “this is a guest post by”
  • “want to write for”
  • “write for us”
  • inurl:guest-post-guidelines
  • inurl:guest-posts
  • inurl:write-for-us
  • keyword “accepting guest posts”
  • keyword “guest blogging”
  • keyword “guest post by”
  • keyword “guest post guidelines”
  • keyword “guest post”
  • keyword “guest posting”
  • keyword “submit a guest post”
  • keyword “submit an article”
  • keyword “submit post”
  • keyword “write for us”
  • keyword + contribute
  • keyword + guest blogging
  • keyword + submit an article
  • keyword + submit guest post
  • keyword + submit post
  • keyword + submit your post
  • keyword + write for us

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!

SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Guide to Replicating SEOmoz’s Graphs in Excel

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Annie Cushing

If you run reports from the SEOmoz toolset, you may find it difficult to make your data look as sexy as the graphs you see on the site. I hope to close that gap with this post and give you the tools to format your data like a pro. To accomplish this objective, I've provided several resources:

  • A video walkthrough of how to format your data like one of the SEOmoz charts for you DIY'ers out there.
  • Chart template files for all of the charts on the SEOmoz site that have export options (there are three in total).
  • Instructions on how to load the template files.
  • A video walkthrough of the data prep and cleanup steps required with the templates.

Here's a screenshot of the three charts you'll be able to replicate:

Download the Excel file

You can download the Excel file I worked from to create these charts to follow along. Whether you watch the video to learn how to steal all of SEOmoz's formatting ideas format like an SEOmoz data scientist or take the shortcut and download the chart template files, you may want to check out the Excel file for tips.

Watch over my shoulder as I create one

The report I’ll be demonstrating is the Historical Domain Analysis chart, found under Pro Dashboard (or Campaigns) > [choose your  campaign] > Link Analysis > History. Here's a before/after picture of what I show you how to do:

I could write out all of the steps to replicate the Historical Domain Analysis chart, but most people find it easier to watch over someone’s shoulder. Plus, it takes a fraction of the time to watch the steps as opposed to reading and interpreting all of the screenshots. I go through the steps on my Mac, but provide the steps for PC each step of the way. They really are variations on a theme.


Load chart template files

I went through all the SEOmoz reports that a) offer an export, and b) include a graph of some type on the site and created templates, so you don’t have to format the data yourselves. It’s pretty easy to use them. However, some of the raw data needs to be massaged a bit before you can apply the templates.

To load them on your computer, unzip and drop these template files in the chart templates folder on your hard drive.

  • PC: C:/Users/[Your User Name]/AppData/Roaming/Microsoft/Templates/Charts
  • Mac: Users/[Your User Name]/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Office/Chart Templates

Note: If your Charts directory isn't in the default location and you're on a PC, you can click the Manage Templates button by navigating to Insert > Charts > Other Charts > All Chart Types. 

Data prep and chart cleanup

Each report has its own steps that you have to take to prepare the export for charting and a few cleanup steps you have to take afterwards. I don't normally do two videos in one post because I don't have a death wish; however, after writing out all the steps and taking the screenshots, I realized it looked scarier than it is. So I fired off another video to hopefully allay some of the intimidation.


Make your own

If you want to modify a chart(s) to your liking, no worries. It won't hurt my feelings. 🙂 When you're finished with your changes, you can save it as your own template. On a PC, you would just choose Chart Tools > Design > Save As Template. On a Mac, the easiest way is to right-click on the chart and choose Save as Template. But if you prefer using the Ribbon, go to Charts > Change Chart Type > Other > Save as Template. (Like I said, use the contextual menu.)

More resources

Here are links to the two posts I referenced in the second video for a deeper explanation: 


If you need help

So, if you want to regale your boss, client, or mom by replicating SEOmoz’s charts, hopefully this will give you the tools you need to do that. If you’ve picked up a few data visualization tips in the process, even better. But if you get stuck along the way or run into bugs I didn't run into (I didn't test these on older versions of Excel), feel free to comment below or hit me up on Twitter. Thanks for reading!

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!

SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

An Updated Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

Posted by beammeup

With the recent Google Webmaster Tools security bug, I thought a deep dive into what GWT has to offer SEOs might be prudent since many SEOs may have logged in recently.

Google Webmaster Tools was once Google Webmaster Wasteland. But the past year has been a fruitful one as Webmaster Tools has rolled out improvements faster than Facebook does new privacy statements. Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is now full of insightful data and metrics that you cannot get anywhere else. Some GWT data is useful, some is not. Let's dive in and take a look at each tool in GWT.

Guide to Google Webmaster Tools Index

Webmaster Tools Sections My Favorite Tools
Configuration #1. Download Your Latest Links
Health #2. View Your Website Crawl Stats
Traffic #3. Submit To Index
Optimization #4. Webmaster Tools Data in Google Analytics
Labs #5. Rich Snippets/Structured Data Test Tool

Webmaster Tools Home

When you first login, you'll see a list of all websites in your Google Webmaster tools account as well as few links to view all messages from Google, 'Preferences', 'Author Stats' (Labs), and a few miscellaneous links under 'Other Resources'.

Google Webmaster Tools Home

All Messages

Google used to rarely communicate with Webmasters through messages. This year some probably wish they communicated a little less with the amount of "love notes" many SEOs have received. You might see a message here if:

  • Google thinks your site may have been hacked
  • Google detected unnatural links pointing to your site
  • Google thinks links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines

You can set the messages email threshold to: 'only important' or 'all messages' under the "Preferences" tab

See it: View All Your Messages

Labs – Author Stats

Author stats in Google Webmaster Tools

Since authorship isn't tied to a single domain, Google shows authorship stats for all sites you write for as well as individual stats. You'll need a valid author profile (go Google+!) to see stats here. The stats are interesting, and good for verifying which URLs are showing your ugly mug in the SERPs.

See it: View your Author Stats

Other Resources – Rich Snippets/Structured Data

Structured Data Testing ToolIf you've never used the rich snippets testing tool, now known as "structured data", bookmark it now. It's a one stop shop to test URLs to see if your author profile is linked correctly.

You can also use the tool to check if you've setup or verified your:

  • Author Page
  • Name
  • Google+ Page as a Publisher
  • Any structured data detected (reviews, products, song titles, etc) in the form of microdata, microformats, or RDFa

See it: Test Your URLs for Structured Data

Specific Site Dashboard in Google Webmaster Tools

Once you select a site after logging in, you see the real meat of the tool. The site specific dashboard has a nice overview showing:

  • Crawl Errors
  • URL Errors
  • Site Errors
  • Health status of DNS, Server Connectivity & Robots.txt
  • Overview of # of Queries (plus clicks and impressions)
  • Sitemaps (including submitted URLs and indexed URLs)

GWT Site Dashboard

There are five major sections once you've selected a site: 'Configuration', 'Health', 'Traffic', 'Optimization', and 'Labs'. I find that the most insightful data is in the 'Heath' and 'Traffic' sections, and what you can get inside Google Analytics.

The 'Configuration' Section


Google Webmaster Tools Settings

Here you can target a specific country for your website, choose a preferred domain (www or non-www), and limit the crawl rate of Googlebot if you so choose.


Google Sitelinks

Google automatically choosing Sitelinks to display below your main URL on certain queries, usually brand related. If you have certain URLs you wouldn't want showing as Sitelinks you can "demote" them and Google won't show those demoted URLs.

URL Parameters

If you're having problems with duplicate content on your site because of variables/parameters in your URLs you can restrict Google from crawling them with this tool. Unless you're sure about what you're restricting, don't play with the settings here!

Change of Address

If you are switching your site to a whole new domain, do a 301 redirect, then make sure Google knows about it here.


Ever taken like 20 minutes to add a new user to your Google Analytics account? No? OK, maybe that was just me. Luckily adding a user to GWT is much easier. There are two main user types: 'Full user' and 'Restricted User'. Restricted users are good for clients if you want to give them most view-only access, but little ability to change settings or submit things (you probably don't clients filing random reconsideration requests!).

adding users in GWT


This setting is a way for members of YouTube's Partner Program (probably not you) to link their YouTube Channel with Webmaster Tools. My guess is this section will get more settings in the future, but for now, it's very confusing. More details on the Google Webmaster Central blog here.

The 'Health' Section

Crawl Errors

Crawl errors shows you issues Googlebot had in crawling your site. This includes response codes (404s, 301s) as well as a graph of the errors over time. This is a fantastic resource for spotting broken links, as the URL shows up as a 404 error. You can see when Google first detected the error codes and download the table of errors into a spreadsheet.

google webmaster tools crawl errors

Crawl Stats

Pages crawled per day is a good SEO metric to track over time. You can get some insight from the chart, but this is a metric to check in on and record every week. Ideally you want that number continuing to climb, especially if you are adding new content.

google webmaster tools crawl stats

Blocked URLs Fetch as Googlebot & Submit To Index

Fetch as Googlebot will return exactly what Google's spider "sees" on the URL you submit. This is handy for spotting hacked sites as well as seeing your site the way Google does. It's a good place to start an SEO audit.

The really neat feature that's new this year is "Submit to Index". Ever made a title tag change and wished Google would update its index faster to get those changes live? 'Submit to Index' does just that. 50 times a month you can submit a page to update in near real-time in Google's index. Very handy for testing on-page changes.

Here's Matt Cutts on how to use the 'Submit to Index' tool:

Index Status

Make sure and hit the 'Advanced' button here so you can see all the interesting index stats Google shows about your site. Keep an eye on the 'Not Selected' number as that could indicate that Google is not viewing your content favorably or you have a duplicate content issue if that number is rising.

google webmaster tools index status


If Google has detected any malware on your site you will see more information here. Google often sends messages now if Malware is detected as well.

The 'Traffic' Section

Search Queries

These queries are when your site shows up in a search result, not just when someone clicks your site. So you may find some keyword opportunities where you are showing up but not getting clicks. I much prefer the interface in Google Analytics for this query data, and you may find a lot more queries showing up there then here.

Keep an eye on the CTR % for queries. If you have a known #1 ranking (your brand terms for example) for but an abnormally low position 1 CTR that's a sign that someone might be bidding on your brand terms (which may or may not be good). If you have a high position but low CTR it usually indicates that your meta descriptions and title tags may not be enticing enough. Can you add a verified author to the page? Or other structured data? That could help CTR rates.

google webmaster tools search queries

Links To Your Site

This is my favorite addition to GWT this year. The link data here keeps getting updated faster and faster. When this was first launched earlier this year the delay on finding links was around three weeks. I've seen the delay down to as little as one week now.

There are two ways to download lists of links, but the "Download Latest Links" is the more useful of the two.

"Download More Sample Links" just gives a list of the same links as the latest links but in alphabetical order instead of most recent. The main report lists the domains linking to your site sorted by the number of links. Unfortunately drilling down into the domain level doesn't give really any useful insights other than the pages that are linked too (but you can't see where they are linked from on the domain). You'll find domains listed here but not in the "Latest Links" report. Bummer.

google webmaster tools links to site

Internal Links

Pretty good report for diagnosing internal link issues. This tool is nothing fancy but URLs are sorted by most internal links. Use this to diagnose pages on your site that should be getting more internal link juice.

The 'Optimization' Section


See a list of all the different types of sitemaps Google has found or that you have added and some stats about each one. You can also test a sitemap as well before submitting it and Google will scan to find any errors. Webmaster Tools shows stats here on Web sitemaps, as well as Video, News, and Image sitemaps as wellgoogle webmaster tools sitemaps

Remove URLs

You can submit URLs (only for sites you control of course) that you wish removed from Google. Make sure and follow the removal requirements process.

HTML Improvement

Think of this as a basic On-Page SEO audit tool. Google will show you lists of URLs on your site that don't have unique Title Tags, or are missing Meta Descriptions. This is a handy tool for quick On-Page SEO issues when you first take over a new website. Click on any of the issues found to return a list of the URLs that need improvement.

google webmaster tools html improvements

Content Keywords

See a list of single keywords, not key phrases, which Google thinks your site is about. As long as you don't see spam stuff here, you're good.

Structured Data

If you have some structured data on your site, such as a linked Google+ author or product review data, you can see stats about that data including the type of data found and the schema. This is useful to mass verify that all the pages you think are marked up correctly actually are.

google webmaster tools structured data tool

The 'Labs' Section

Custom Search

Ever wanted to build your own search engine? You can with Google Custom Search. If you have a collection of sites that you're always searching through using Google, you might consider using Google Custom search to build your own Google that just returns results from those sites. You can see how the custom search engine would work on just your own site using the preview tool here in Webmaster Tools.

Instant Previews

Input any URL on your site (or just leave blank and click 'Compare' to see the homepage) to see what the preview of the site might look like in a Google desktop search results set, or on a mobile SERP.

google webmaster tools instant preview

Site Performance

This tool got dropped by Google's spring cleaning in April 2012. I like using for testing site performance.

Webmaster Tools Data In Google Analytics

Connecting your Google Analytics account with your verified site profile in Google Webmaster tools brings some GWT data directly into your Google Analytics account. No need to login to two places.

To connect a verified GWT site to the correct analytics site, click the "manage site" dropdown:

google webmaster tools connection to Google Analytics

Once connected, GWT data shows up in the Standard Reporting section of Google Analytics under "Traffic Sources" -> "Search Engine Optimization".

Not all GWT data is available in GA. You'll only get three data sets in Google Analytics:

  • Queries
  • Landing Pages
  • Geographical Summary

Let's look at each of these and see what's worth looking at.


Queries are interesting because you can see some of the keywords that might be hidden under (not provided). This doesn't help with attribution of course, but at least we can still use that data for keyword research. Darn you (not provided).

What's really interesting is how many more queries show up in the query report in Google Analytics (that is supposed to be GWT data) than do when you directly get the query data in Google Webmaster Tools. For example, for the timeframe: Oct 28th-Nov 27th we had 317 queries report in Google Analytics:

analytics query data from webmaster tools

but only 93 in the Google Webmaster Tools 'Top queries' report:

google webmaster tools top queries

I'm not sure why such a big discrepancy between GWT queries and queries in Analytics from GWT. I definitely see more Google Images type queries in the GA report and less in the 'Top Queries' in GWT. Interesting discrepancy. Anyone else notice a big difference in query data?

Nonetheless the Query data can be interesting and it's nice to have right in GA. I hope that Google continues to provide more GWT data directly into Google Analytics like this.

Landing Pages

You're better off getting your actual top landing pages list from Analytics, but you can see what GWT sees as your tops pages sorted by Impressions. The interesting nugget of info here is the CTR. That's not data you see in analytics and could be insightful. I like comparing the CTR to the site average:

landing pages in google analytics

Geographical Summary

This section is again useful really for the CTR rate data. Looking at specific countries you can see where it might be worth running more Facebook ads or doing some international SEO work in.

What do you use Google Webmaster Tools For?

OK, I've ranted enough about what I like in GWT. What about you?

What data do you find useful in Google Webmaster tools?

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!

SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog