For this episode, I interviewed Scott Mathson, SEO @ Auth0 about link building at scale, microsites, content strategies, and SEO in general.
Scott and I have been in touch for a while and when he posted a screenshot on Linkedin about going from 200k to 4.4m backlinks in 2 years, I couldn't resist but get him on as a guest.
Scott has been very generous with his time and effort. I'm more than excited to present you this chunk of an article!
It's loaded with goodies. Make sure to follow Scott on Twitter and read his blog! So, let me present to you, Scott Mathson from Auth0:
Kevin: Scott, thanks for coming on! You recently posted a pretty neat looking graph about auth0.com’s backlink growth on Linkedin.
For reference, ahrefs validates your link growth.
What did you do to accomplish this?
Scott: Link building is a key piece of our SEO strategy at Auth0. As originally shared, backlinks are one of the better votes of confidence on the web. Auth0 now (June 2019) has more than 4.4 million backlinks, 4.4M votes of confidence. 4.4M writing about, referencing and recommending our work and product.
The Marketing Team at Auth0 comes up with, collaborates on, and shares work that we care about. It's no coincidence that what we're sharing often resonates with many others, as well. What we produce and publish is starting discussions and/or adding extra value and further context to previously-started discussions. We know the value that our product adds and we aim to continually communicate and show Auth0's value, getting our product into the hands of more developers and companies.
Going from 200K to 4.4M backlinks (2100% increase) in 2 year's time has involved a series of strategies including content syndication (both manual and automated), accompanying content feed optimizations, strategic partnerships, and continued global press growth. As well, having an entire team on board with requesting a backlink from high authority websites, whenever they appear on them as podcast guests, write and publish guest posts, etc. - this all has immensely helped links to our site scale. We're championing our domain whenever possible.
We partner with content-focused marketing professionals like Animalz. And I highly recommend considering to do so, if/when it may make sense. Always take your time, interviewing and vetting potential third-parties and contractors. Choose wisely. When done right, these types of partnerships can connect you with like-minded publications, help take your own digital publications to the next level, and will be worth the investment.
As well, I am by no means afraid of manual, cold outreach as a link building strategy. Be mindful in writing email copy, figure out why certain cold emails fail to convince or intrigue you personally. Stay curious, asking why you sent a particular email to trash. Always research, personalize, and write/send emails that you personally wouldn't just delete.
Most importantly, don't be slimy. Earn authority through an authentic and honest strategy. Have patience, be strategic, and remember that awareness and authority cannot be bought.
Work hard to publish and share work that you and your entire team believe in, work that people begin writing about and referencing on their publications and channels. Keep in mind that backlinks and strategies and approaches herein take time. It takes a thought-out approach, a curious mind, and experimentation along the way. Have patience and have fun!
Kevin: Auth0 has a pretty good reputation among developers from what I hear. What’s your overall approach to SEO?
Scott: You’re absolutely right that developers love Auth0. Developers know that in using Auth0, which now handles 2.5 billion logins per month (securing hundreds of thousands of applications), that they can focus more time and resources on development and functionality of their own products.
Again this is no coincidence here, as we spend a lot of time creating great resources for developers, and not just for Auth0-specific APIs or SDKs, but for authentication, identity, and security topics as a whole. It's been about 6 years since Auth0's founding and our site now has thousands of articles, technical quick-starts, and how-to guides. Our blog alone is read by more than 700,000 developers each month.
Again, we are heavily focused on content marketing and publishing great work, articles that answer specific questions, articles that add value and start discussions, landing pages, docs, and articles that we spend a lot of time discussing, designing, revising, and optimizing internally. And we keep up with our content, often refreshing and updating it to include more relevant up-to-date information.
There has also been a focus on the globalization of Auth0, as we are expanding into new countries, new regions. This is a really exciting initiative. In the way of our website, this brings in technical, international SEO work as I ensure we’re marking-up our translated webpages and content correctly, alongside sitemap optimizations, and sending signals to search engines in various ways and within their provided webmaster tools.
My background and experience in web development come into play on a daily basis and I’m in text editors/terminals writing, reviewing, pushing, and deploying code every day.
Google’s Discover (previously Feed), has also been an effective channel. I also focus on experimentation and A/B testing of titles, descriptions, and more on a regular basis with the goal of increasing click-through rates (CTR) on our content, and in every channel from search to social. Currently, I’ve gotten us to a fairly high ~8% consistent monthly average CTR within Discover. It’s no secret that as search engines evolve, getting folks to actually visit your site is becoming more and more challenging.
Popular amongst developers specifically is the technical documentation section of our site. Docs recently underwent a large navigation and information re-architecture and I consulted with those teammates, guiding steps of that process. The Blog also recently underwent a similar redesign. As well, the Community forum portion of our site serves as a wonderful place for developers to troubleshoot, connect, and discuss our product and its inner workings.
This is a broad question that I could easily go on and on about, detailing specifics of what I’m working on, and how, why, and when. But generally speaking, I keep a close eye on everything and enjoy collaborating across multiple departments, lending my time, advice, and work on a variety of projects. I oversee that we consistently present the best versions of our content, webpages, social and other media, press releases, cross-channel campaigns, re-designs, and much more.
Kevin: In your Linkedin bio, you write “Auth0 web properties and micro-sites have a large footprint and volume of webpages published”. Do you use microsites as part of your SEO strategy?
Scott: Right, and readers can see this footprint of our main domain by doing a quick site:auth0.com search, revealing the 16,000+ webpages that we currently have in production.
There are a handful of people shipping great work to Auth0’s domains. I love being a part of all of this and focus on making sure that the articles, the landing pages, catalogs and microsites, videos, and more continually surface in a variety of places, and for a variety of different queries.
Certain initiatives and projects where it may not make sense to host them on the main auth0.com domain do end up becoming microsites that we develop, promote, and maintain.
Are they a part of my SEO strategy? Yes and no. Of course, everything is optimized and presented well, but we’re not expecting, needing, or relying on these microsites to bring us thousands of new visitors. Rather, they’re fun initiatives and projects we work on that do happen to add to our footprint and these microsites often do serve as nice lead-generation tools, to boot.
The majority of these sites were in-place before I joined the team, yet I have opened pull requests and made improvements and adjustments to them since (also, some new ones have shipped, as well as some having been sunset/shut down).
I have been directly involved in every step, from development, setup - front- and back-end, sharing/promoting, and optimizing the more recent microsite initiatives. Once live, we’ll often announce them on the main Auth0 Blog, which obviously provides a great initial backlink opportunity to help grow these budding domains.
Now, I keep an eye on these various properties and measure analytics, monitor for any discrepancies or issues, and generally ensure smooth sailing across domains.
Our primary Auth0 domain has micro site-within-sites and single page apps and catalogs too that we have designed and developed and continue to update and iterate on. We’re exploring new tech stacks and techniques in these projects. These are targeted initiatives that we decided should live on our main domain and they’re serving us very well in the way of organic traffic.
Again, as with my experimentation across other areas of our site and off-site, I recognize opportunities and hypothesis outcomes for a variety of tests and experiments that we ship to these catalogs. Actually, I have a title A/B SEO split test running on the AuthCatalog (auth0.com/authenticate/) portion of our site right now. Always be experimenting!