Marketers should rely on their own data to make decisions, but it’s worth noting how differently digital marketing and SEO companies approach their websites compared to other B2B markets.
SEOs are data driven by nature. Anyone who’s ranking at all for the phrase “SEO” obviously knows search engine optimization. But the mainstays on Page 1 also rely on data to drive conversions, improve user experience, and build their brands.
The highest ranking SEO companies
For the purpose of this post, I’m excluding Wikipedia, Search Engine Journal, and Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide, and Search Engine Land. I’m only concerned with websites that sell SEO products and services, not blogs, news sites, forums and Wikipedia.
It’s worth noting that the highest-ranking SEO websites have built communities around themselves. High-profile SEOs know they need volumes of relevant content and they need to be as in-depth as possible. There’s something for every kind of marketer to learn studying their content marketing strategies.
SERPs fluctuate, but when I searched “SEO” in an incognito browser window, Moz occupied the Top 2 organic results. Rand Fishkin, who now runs SparkToro, and his team were smart to churn out quality content with actionable advice early on. They also relied on user generated content (USG) from its community. Getting my YouMoz post promoted to the main Moz (then called SEOMoz) blog was a badge of honor in 2009.
Moz’s main goal is to get users to sign up for free trials. The Try Moz Pro free button goes to a signup page, and the text below it goes to pricing details. They include social proof right below the hero with logos from Zillow, Trivago, Razorfish, Alaska, Aaron’s, and 99designs.
A similar CTA, appearing over a laptop with a Photoshopped screenshot on it, appears at the bottom.
For visitors who aren’t ready to start a free trial or view pricing details, they can analyze their domains for some basic metrics.
The content is clean and straight forward. There are breakdowns of Moz Pro’s “proven, all-in-one SEO toolset” site audit, rank tracking, backlink analysis, and keyword research tools with a link to explore all features. They also have a clear breakdown of its suite of plans.
The site is very unobtrusive here. There are no popups, and the only way to sign up for email updates is a button in the footer. They also make it clear that they’re not signing you up for daily marketing emails. The pitch is to subscribe to get “the 10 most valuable pieces of content we can find for SEOs. Every 2 weeks.”
Below Moz in the Page 1 Google SERPs for “SEO” are two WordStream results: “SEO Optimization – Learn to Optimize for SEO” and “SEO Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization.”
The latter is a frequently updated blog post from 2015 that continues generating backlinks. The former has a pretty spammy title that kinda bugs me but I can’t judge because it’s ranking Page 1 for one of the most competitive search terms. It is like saying: “Search Engine Optimization Optimization – Learn to Optimize for Search Engine Optimization.” Nonsense, in other words. Both are worth reading.
WordStream’s homepage is a lot busier than Moz’s. A video of coworkers goofing off is the hero’s background. The navigation features oversized text, and the whole page is airy and very easy to read/follow.
There are three goals for WordStream’s homepage. Get visitors to:
- Grade their Google Ads accounts
- Start free trials
- Watch a video to learn more
They are especially pushing the Google Ads account grading feature.
WordStream segments its visitors on its homepage very well. They have clearly marked sections meant for advertisers and marketing agencies, who have widely different pain points.
For social proof, they have a carousel of customer case studies (that doesn’t auto rotate, shaving off page load time) accompanied by six customer logos. To catch anyone who’s still not interested in a trial or Google Ads grading, they have links to their “award-winning thought leadership” pieces from the WordStream Blog, Growth Academy, and Goal Talk Podcast.
WordStream is much more aggressive than Moz in this department. Taking certain actions trigger popups promoting the Google Ads account grading and for newsletter signups.
I really like how the subscriber popup boasts about its 500,000+ membership. It makes signing up seem more urgent – like it’s something you need to be a part of.
The third highest ranking commercial site for the term “SEO” is Neil Patel’s guide: “SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide for 2020.” If you’ve watched any YouTube videos on SEO, you’ve probably seen plenty of Patel. His data capture tactics are more aggressive than the other Page 1 contenders. There’s a lot of great info to be discovered here if you ignore the noise.
Neil Patel’s homepage is much more minimal than the previous SEO companies. His content is available in 5 languages (English, Portuguese, German, Spanish, and Italian). The pitch is a simple question that no digital marketer will say no to: “Do you want more traffic?”
Patel wants you to submit your website URL for an analysis. From there, you’ll be upsold on his SEO suite and volumes of content (which are worth exploring, even if you don’t want the tools). If you’re more serious, you can request a consultation with him below. I’m sure the brands he works with are pretty big.
He also promotes his Google Chrome SEO extension Ubersuggest via a small pop up in the right bottom corner. I’ve actually never tried his extension before so I’m giving it a go now. Download it here.
The site has some personalization. It shows my location when he asks: “I’m determined to make a business in Salem successful. My only question is, will it be yours?” This is just discreet enough to impress visitors who notice while not turning off people with privacy concerns. SEOs generally, and definitely should, understand how cookies work.
The homepage content is also very concise biography of Patel with a photo of him looking slick in an AllSaints henley shirt and snakeskin belt. After touting being recognized as “a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations,” he includes a simple button to request a consultation.
Below are 4 suggesting for getting started in SEO:
- Start a blog
- Invest in an SEO tool suite
- Improve your knowledge
- Subscribe to Patel’s Marketing School.
Patel gets much more in-your-face with the data capture attempts the further you stray from the homepage. When I clicked away from the homepage, a popup promoting a 3-minute SEO quiz takes up the whole screen.
It’s clear he wants the homepage to be clear, concise, and to point people in the right direction. As data driven and knowledgeable as he is, I’m sure everything has been calculated. He is much more than just an SEO guru.
The Ahrefs homepage is much more techie than the others. It clearly targets demographic that’s comfortable with light code and data analysis. The colors also pop a lot more than the others.
The key text is oversized and everything is very legible. There are some elements I don’t see the use of beyond the gee whiz factor (like the moving SEO buzzwords in the background), but the site is also very unique.
One thing that’s present on the homepage that’s not on the others (besides Neil Patel) is the human element. A section dedicated to the Ahrefs community and support services features pics of teammates who presumably work for the company. Everyone’s different, but I like this because it’s nice to be reminded that services like this can’t work without people. There are humans on the Moz homepage but they’re clearly stock photos. If I find out these are just stock photos then I take that back.
Ahrefs wants visitors to start a 7-day trial for only $7. Not making the trial free is bold. It means they’re confident enough in their product that they think it’s too good to give away. They’re right. $7 is a steal for a week’s worth of that data. Whether the standard $179 per month package stacks up to the competition is another question. I’ve been using SEMRush for awhile but I’m seriously considering another Ahrefs evaluation.
Like the other sites, the homepage content is prioritized and structured in a way that makes it easy for visitors to get where they’re going. Anchor links bring visitors to more info about the all-in-one SEO toolset, their free learning materials, and community/support.
Visitors can pick which tool they want to explore from there:
- Site audit
- Site explorer
- Keywords explorer
- Content explorer
- Rank tracker
For social proof, they have a unique carousel featuring headshots of happy customers with logos of companies like Facebook, eBay, and Netflix below.
Besides the 7-day trial CTA, the only data capture opportunity on the homepage is a small chat icon. I really like how they show the agents who are awaiting calls. It reinforces the idea that the company is run by humans, not some AI algorithm.
Though the sites take slightly different approaches, they’re all great at doing the following:
- Making it clear what the products they sell actually do rather than making visitors poke around for clarity.
- Lay things out in a way that’s logical to most users; they don’t try to get cute and reinvent the wheel. They know what works.
- Clear, concise CTAs and prioritized conversion points.
- Exceptional UX. They all take site performance very seriously, and they’re all experts at user behavior.
- Unique branding: These companies are all well known by anyone who’s studied SEO for more than a few weeks. There is simply no way to confuse them.
Which one is the best?
That’s completely subjective and impossible to answer without access to their internal data. But I’m picking Ahrefs purely out of personal preference.