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41 Tips & Best Practices To Create Great Webinars

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webinar best practices

Webinars can be an invaluable tool for marketers. When done right, they can:

But where do you start?

Marketers are flooded with webinars daily, some better than others.

How do you stand out above the rest and ensure you’re not presenting to only a few dozen audience members?

It’s a fact of life that many webinars fall flat, with low attendance and high drop-off rates.

That’s where we want to help.

In this guide, you’ll learn 41 tips for turning your webinar from middling returns to reaching your ideal audience and hitting your key performance indicators (KPIs).

If you need a refresher first, let’s look at what a webinar actually is.

What Is a Webinar?

As you may have guessed (or already know), a webinar is an online seminar.

It has all the necessary elements of a seminar: a moderator, a presenter who is an expert on their topic, a slide deck or other visual media, and an audience.

The main difference between webinars and online videos is that webinars offer live interaction between the presenter and the audience through live chats, interactive Q&As, and even video chats with attendees.

Why You Should Use Webinars

So, you’ve never run a webinar before – why should you start now?

Here are five reasons.

  • Your ideal audience can be found anywhere in the world. No plane tickets, no booking a room. You can engage with new and existing audiences no matter their location.
  • You can interface with your audience directly and in a more interactive way. You don’t have to wait to catch up with interested audience members after the presentation. You can respond to their questions and see what their focus is live on air, thanks to a moderated chat and Q&A.
  • You establish yourself as a thought leader in your space. By hosting a free webinar that’s powerful and enticing, your audience will believe your paid content must be even better. (Conversions!)
  • You gain tons of qualified leads. Registering for a webinar requires email addresses, and since they’re expressing interest in your webinar, you can count on qualified leads.
  • You gain a huge source of evergreen content. The live webinar is only the beginning. With some extra work after, you can repurpose it into blogs, video content, infographics, and more.

What Do You Need For a Webinar?

To present a webinar, you’ll need a few elements working together:

  • An online webinar application, like BigMarker or GoToWebinar, to have a place for your audience to watch the hosted webinar.
  • A compelling slideshow presentation or other visual media designed to educate and entice.
  • An expert or thought leader in your field to present the information and field questions from the audience.
  • A good headset or microphone, with a high-quality camera for the presenter.

You also should build a promotional schedule in advance to ensure your audience is aware of your webinar with plenty of lead time before the presentation. This should include:

  • A landing page detailing what the webinar will present, along with a form for registering.
  • Social media posts hyping up the upcoming webinar.
  • An email campaign to your list.
  • A blog post or other similar content pointing to the landing page and elaborating on what the audience can expect.

We’ll go into more detail on these elements below.

Ready to create a webinar that stands out above the rest? Use these 41 tips when crafting your next webinar.

41 Tips Only The Greatest Webinar Hosts Know

Worried about being ignored or abandoned by your audience? Follow these tips to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Webinar Strategy

1. Know Your Attendees

Ask yourself:

  • Who will be attending?
  • What challenges/problems are they facing?
  • What are their goals?

Answering these questions will help you plan a webinar that’s laser-focused on improving your attendees’ lives.

For instance, Teachable does a great job with its webinars because it knows that its audience:

  • Is composed of people dreaming of creating their own profitable online courses…
  • …but don’t know where to start.
Screenshot from teachable.com, February 2024

2. Think About Visual Branding

Be consistent and try to align everything with your brand’s visual tone.

For example, be sure to insert your logo where it makes sense, such as the opening animation or the main slides.

You also need to use fonts, colors, and other visual elements that match your brand’s overall style. These small details are essential to creating a cohesive experience for your webinar attendees.

Also, they’ll make your brand more recognizable, especially if you utilize the same visual style in your other content.

For example, check out how Search Engine Journal links its promotional image to its branding style.

sej webinar screenshotScreenshot from searcenginejournal.com, February 2024

3. Keep Mobile In Mind

Not everyone who views your webinar will do so on a desktop computer.

25% of webinar viewers prefer mobile over desktop, so it’s important to ensure they’re taken care of during the webinar.

To give them a flawless experience, increase the size of your text and visuals.

Choose a webinar platform that supports mobile. A great example is ClickMeeting. (You can download its app if you want to run the webinar on your phone.)

Choose a webinar platform that supports mobile. Screenshot from ClickMeeting Webinar app via Google Play Store, February 2024

4. Offer Your Products Or Services As An Add-On

Offering your product in the middle of a webinar won’t turn the whole thing into an ad.

As long as your webinar delivers everything it promises, your audience should be more receptive to whatever you pitch.

There are only two things you need to remember:

  • The rest of the advice presented in the webinar should still be useful with or without your product.
  • Make sure to present the product when it makes sense.

5. Consider A Paid Webinar Series

Webinar marketing can be costly. A paid webinar series could pay for itself.

Asking attendees to pay for a webinar raises their expectations that the quality will be top-shelf. Make sure you deliver on that promise.

Once you’re confident in the value and quality you can provide, consider producing a paid webinar series for extra income.

Just remember to wait until you’re absolutely sure your target audience is willing to pay for your webinar content.

Test different price points until you find one that’s right for your audience.

While a paid model might keep your numbers down, you will likely get a more engaged audience.

Webinar Planning & Preparation

6. Get Help

Hosting a webinar by yourself is possible, but it can drive you crazy.

To avoid this, consider getting someone (or a team) to work with you to make sure things go smoothly – from the planning and the promotion to the webinar itself and everything that follows.

They don’t necessarily have to be knowledgeable about the webinar topic, but they should be able to troubleshoot issues and moderate interactions with attendees. (An assistant who knows about webinar equipment and software is great.)

7. Pick Your Topic

Always focus on content first.

You must maintain high editorial standards.

People attend webinars to learn.

So, you need to make sure you are offering topics they find interesting.

One of your goals is to demonstrate your authority as an information source. You must show that you know your stuff and that you’re in tune with what’s going on in your space.

For a powerful webinar, you need to narrow it down to a specific topic that will be informative to your target audience.

For example, a webinar about content marketing would be a broad and vague topic to discuss in a webinar.

Instead, try to pick one area of content marketing, such as visual content. This will help you plan the webinar more efficiently and stay focused on a topic.

Here are five ways you can find a webinar topic your audience will be interested in:

  • FAQs: Mind your frequently asked questions page for topics your customers frequently search.
  • Search Google Analytics for top traffic pages: You can pick a topic by seeing what content is being discussed and shared the most on your site.
  • Ask sales or your social team: Ask your team members what topics they discuss with customers daily. These may be areas where more information may be needed.
  • Poll your audience: You can also ask your audience directly for topics they would find useful.
  • Competition: Look at your competitors to see if there are any topics or ideas you can adapt and make your own.

8. Write An Attention-Grabbing Title

Your webinar’s title is your first interaction with your audience.

When they see it, they’ll decide whether to sign up.

This means the first step toward crafting a magnetizing title is to know your audience and their pain points.

For instance, you learn that your audience struggles to find share-worthy topics to write about in their blog.

To excite their interest, give your webinar a title like this.

sej webinar screenshotScreenshot from searcenginejournal.com, February 2024

Remember:

  • Don’t be too fancy. Simply identify your audience’s problem and craft a title that promises to solve it.
  • Use power-punching words. “Fill” and “ease” spark up your audience’s imagination. Think about how much less engagement you’d get with a title like “Know What to Write About.”
  • Never be misleading. Your title shouldn’t make promises your webinar content can’t keep.

9. Find A Great Speaker

You can either use speakers from within your company or industry experts or influencers.

Regardless of your route, the key is making sure the speaker has the proper knowledge and experience to talk about the topic of your webinar.

Your speakers should be credible and demonstrate authority.

If your webinar is sponsored, and the sponsor will choose or provide the speaker, make sure to maintain editorial control.

Insist on an executive or subject matter expert who knows the topic well and is a polished presenter.

Work together to define a topic that balances the sponsor’s messaging with the needs of your audience.

10. Pick A Date/Time

Keep these scheduling secrets in mind:

  • Wednesday and Thursday emerge as the strong days for holding webinars; the optimal day ultimately depends on your goals and audience.
  • 10 a.m. GMT is the best time for webinars.

Remember to keep time zones in mind. If you’re based on the West Coast, then starting a webinar at 6 p.m. PT is probably too late for attendees living on the East Coast.

11. Decide On Your Webinar Format

Once you know what topic you want to cover, break it down into more specific topics and plan the webinar formats you will use.

Here are some of the most popular formats you should consider:

  • Single expert presenter: One expert shares their insights or tips.
  • Dual presenters: Instead of just one presenter, you have two presenters. This helps engage and educate the audience and may allow you to share more information.
  • Panel: Like a live panel, you could host a group of experts discussing a specific topic.
  • Q&A webinar: A Q&A webinar is a great opportunity to maximize the engagement of attendees. An expert (or a panel) simply answers the questions asked by your audience via chat or social media.
  • Interview webinar: Having a popular influencer as a guest speaker is a great way to boost attendance and build your authority. You just need to be up for the extra work of influencer outreach, which can be time-consuming and tedious.
  • Product demonstration: If the goal of your webinar is to promote a product, then you can choose the product demonstration or tutorial format.

Test different formats until you find the one that works best for your audience – then stick to it.

You can also do a mix of formats. For example, you could have a mix of a single expert presenter and Q&A.

12. Do A Dry Run

Before the day of the presentation, get everyone together to do a dry run of the webinar, acting as if it were the real thing.

Ensure all the equipment is working properly, the slides are all in order, and the speakers know what they’re doing.

Remember, things will go wrong on a dry run.

Every.

Single.

Time.

(I’m saying this from experience.)

To avoid glitches and embarrassing gaffes during the webinar, conduct a complete “dress rehearsal” a few days before going live.

13. Document Your Webinar Process

You may need to craft dozens or even hundreds of webinars to reap the full benefits of this amazing marketing tool.

That’s why you need to document your entire process.

Doing so will streamline your webinar production in the future.

Create an editorial calendar where topics, speakers, and dates are tracked and planned weeks in advance.

Also, list every task and to-do item for every stage of your webinar so nothing gets forgotten.

You can use a project management tool to ensure everyone stays on time.

Make sure to keep separate records for different webinar formats.

Over time, you’ll be able to identify what works, what doesn’t, and what you can do to fine-tune your process.

Technical Requirements

14. Choose The Right Webinar Platform

Worried that technical problems will lead to poor feedback and ratings?

You don’t have to be – once you pick the right webinar platform.

Here are four questions to ask when selecting one:

  • Does it fit your budget?
  • Does it include the features you need, such as the ability to offer surveys?
  • How many attendees does it allow?
  • Can you record?

Search Engine Journal uses BigMarker as the webinar platform for its SEJ Webinar series. Its easy interface allows for a seamless user experience.

It is also easy to schedule and configure the settings of each webinar.

BigMarker also provides automated polls, the ability to load supplemental handouts, and follow-up emails to promote attendee engagement.

It also has chat capabilities that allow for more engagement and a live Q&A function that allows the audience to upvote their favorite questions.

The webinar reports generated by BigMarker are segregated by what metrics you wish to see – whether it’s about attendance, registration, performance, a poll, Q&A questions, or just the overall webinar analytics.

It gives a good measure of what you did well and what else you can improve on.

Other webinar platform options include:

  • Zoom.
  • Demio.
  • EasyWebinar.
  • WebinarNinja.
  • Webinar Jam.
  • GoToWebinar.

15. Invest In A Great Headset Or Microphone

You don’t want your audience to be straining just to catch every word you say.

You want them to sit back comfortably as they listen to your crystal-clear voice.

To achieve this, stop using your laptop’s built-in mic for webinars.

Upgrade to a high-quality headset or microphone. You’ll notice the difference in no time.

This doesn’t mean you need to shell out $500. You can get excellent microphones for under a hundred dollars if you know where to look.

Check out our recommendations here.

16. Make Sure Your Internet Connection Is Stable

Have you ever gotten kicked out of a webinar?

No, right?

Now imagine this: getting kicked out of your own webinar!

Yup, this can happen if you have an unstable internet connection.

To avoid the embarrassment of this webinar gaffe, test your internet connection first.

Remember, this is true for both the host and the presenter.

17. Test Your Gear

Be careful not to overlook the basic stuff.

Make sure you are equipped to deliver a high-quality webinar that people will remember.

The best way is to set up a test webinar including every feature you wish to use, starting with your audio and video recording equipment.

You don’t need to have an elaborate plan. Just record a test clip and ask for someone’s opinion regarding your sound, video quality, or any other elements your audience will notice.

If you use a particular webinar platform, familiarize yourself with all its useful features (e.g., interactive features like polls that can help you improve engagement).

On the day of the webinar, be ready 10 to 15 minutes early to ensure you’re prepared and that all of your gear is working.

Bonus tip: Never use new equipment on the day of the webinar. Use the equipment you’re familiar with so that if there is a problem, you can troubleshoot.

18. Eliminate Any Potential Sources Of Noise

Here’s a short checklist of the things you should do right before the webinar to prevent any distracting noises:

  • Mute every other device that isn’t necessary for the webinar.
  • Inspect your room for anything that produces noise.
  • Make sure your webinar area is inaccessible to pets and children.
  • Close applications running in the background of your computer.

Marketing Your Webinar

19. Create A Webinar Landing Page

Don’t forget to create a landing page for your webinar.

Use this page to drive registrations and provide important information, including:

  • The topic.
  • Speaker information.
  • Date and time.
  • What attendees will learn.

Remember, you don’t need to get super fancy.

A simple page like this will work.

Don’t forget to create a landing page for your webinar.Screenshot from searcneginejournal.com, February 2024

20. Write A Blog Post About Your Webinar

Write a blog post to help promote the webinar in advance.

Even if you don’t have a huge blog following, you can share this on social and email.

21. Promote Your Webinar On Social Media

Promoting your webinar on social media is one of the best ways to boost attendance.

Naturally, you need to promote your webinar through your existing social media channels, but you should also leverage the power of hashtags.

A branded hashtag can also work well as an interaction tool during your webinar.

For example, you can have a contest requiring viewers to tweet using a specific hashtag. The winner can then be chosen live by performing a quick hashtag search.

A more straightforward strategy, however, is simply encouraging attendees to use your hashtag when asking questions or discussing the webinar.

Not only will this strategy heighten the audience’s sense of involvement, but it will also further extend your brand’s social reach – introducing more people to your brand as a result.

22. Promote Your Webinar Via Email

If you already have an email database, make sure to promote your webinar to your subscribers.

Keep it concise, and make it easy for people to register.

Also, make sure you send out email reminders to people who have already registered for your webinar.

For example, you can email participants one day before the webinar or perhaps one hour before it starts.

Test what works best for you.

Bonus tip: Keep promoting after the webinar is over through all these channels as well, especially any content you publish based on it. You want to squeeze the most value out of your webinar.

23. Promote Your Webinar Via A Pop-Up

Do you say “ewww” whenever you think of pop-ups?

Those don’t work, right?

Wrong.

The top-performing pop-ups have a conversion rate of 9.3%. (Compare that to the average click-through rate of paid display ads – a meager .35%!)

So, no, pop-ups aren’t dead.

It may be that you’re simply doing them wrong.

To turn things around for your webinar invitation pop-ups:

  • Be clear about what you’re offering (and ensure your audience desires it).
  • Don’t show your pop-up immediately (show it when your visitor has been on your page for at least 15 seconds).
  • Be unique and let your brand’s personality shine through.

Here are examples of pop-ups we’ve used in the past.

sej pop up screenshotScreenshot from searcenginejournal.com, February 2024
1712269563 776 41 Tips Best Practices To Create Great WebinarsScreenshot from searchenginejournal.com, February 2024

Tips For Webinar Hosts

24. Start On Time

Your attendees are busy. Don’t waste their time.

If your webinar is scheduled to start at 1 p.m., then make sure that everyone is all ready to go at 1 p.m.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being kept waiting on a hold screen.

You’ll lose attendees – and potential customers, clients, or subscribers.

25. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

First impressions matter.

When the webinar starts, you set the tone – so you will need to keep everyone engaged by welcoming them.

Know the bios of your speakers so you can introduce them without shuffling through papers or stumbling.

26. Hook Them Quick

You need to capture your audience’s attention immediately.

Remember, it only takes a couple of clicks to leave a webinar.

To keep your audience around:

  • Avoid banter. People have better things to do, and if you bore them with your childhood story or your favorite ice cream brand (or any unnecessary, irrelevant details), they won’t stick around.
  • Get straight to the point as soon as you can.
  • Outline your audience’s pain points…
  • …and make it clear you’ll solve them by the end of the webinar.
  • List everything your audience is going to learn.
  • Show them your enthusiasm and excitement.

27. Have Questions Ready For Q&A

Although attendees will likely ask plenty of questions, it is always a smart idea to have a list of prepared questions ready, just in case the audience isn’t as engaged as you expected.

28. Accept That Things Might Go Wrong

No matter how prepared you are, always remember that some things are out of your hands.

You could lose electricity.

Your WiFi could go down.

Or, your laptop could choose today to die.

Usually, the problems won’t be that dramatic. They’ll be more like hiccups.

But things can – and will – go wrong.

Tips For Webinar Presenters

29. Write A Great Script

Just like any other type of live event, whether it’s a talk show or podcast, a script can do wonders for your webinar.

Your script is essentially your road map.

These notes will keep you on course.

Do you have to pre-plan every word you’re going to say?

No.

But no matter how knowledgeable or passionate you are about a specified topic, trying to present or conduct an interview for an hour can be extremely challenging if it isn’t (at least slightly) scripted.

30. But Don’t Be Afraid To Go Off Script

Preparing a well-written script may be an essential step in webinar planning, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter.

Sometimes, you need to go off script and elaborate to keep your audience engaged and entertained.

Always remember that your goal isn’t to go through everything as fast as possible – rather, it should be to convey your message as comprehensively as possible.

31. Practice Your Presentation

There is no such thing as too much rehearsal.

Some people can just “wing it.”

But these typically result in “OK” presentations, not fantastic or memorable webinars.

Whether you’re reading your script word for word, or following cue cards, you need to rehearse in order to inject proper tonality and personality in your words.

If not for that, at least make sure your sounds and slides are working well.

Sounding like a robot is bad. Sounding like someone confident and personable is good.

Your goal is to be remembered.

People typically only remember great speakers.

The rest is quickly forgotten.

32. Develop Visual Slides

What’s the point of using slides in your webinar if they’re only going to contain bulleted lists or lengthy paragraphs?

This is lazy and a mistake.

Some presenters even make it worse by reading what the viewers can clearly see for themselves.

If that’s been your plan all along, then you might as well forget about it – your webinar is probably going to be boring and fail.

When developing your slides, think of more visuals and fewer words.

Use data visualizations rather than creating lists to iterate statistics.

Getting more visual isn’t too hard to do, as there are plenty of free and affordable design tools available.

33. Use Different Media Formats

Instead of just relying on slides and video of the presenter speaking, use different forms of media.

For example, you could add a video or animation to illustrate your points further.

If you’re demonstrating how a product works, walk the attendees through the process in real time instead of just showing previously taken images.

It breaks up the monotony of the standard webinar and can keep your audience interested.

34. Plan For Interaction

You may think that holding a webinar, which uses video, text, and audio content, is a surefire way to maintain engagement.

But after listening to someone talk for 20 minutes or longer, your audience may get bored or distracted.

To ensure they pay attention up to the end of your webinar, you need to encourage them to participate.

Ask poll questions, provide challenges, and just try to be conversational as you divulge the contents of your webinar.

Fortunately, most webinar platforms provide a handful of interactive tools – the most common of which is a chat area where attendees can communicate freely.

You should have no problem finding a platform with everything you need to carry out your ideas.

35. Are You Inexperienced?

If this is your first webinar – or your first attempt at public speaking – you can expect to be nervous.

It’s perfectly fine. Just about everyone does.

Cracking a joke and acknowledging your nervousness is acceptable, but just don’t let your nerves affect the flow of the webinar.

If you’re ever in doubt, steer the conversation toward the host or another guest speaker to take the lead.

Also, mind your use of pauses to control the pace and learn to prevent fillers like “ummm,” “err,” and so on.

Ultimately, your speaking abilities can only improve with practice.

36. Teach & Sell

You should teach and sell at the same time.

Most people make the mistake of teaching and then selling.

This mistake leads to a very awkward transition when it’s time to make the offer.

Throughout the webinar, you need to teach your audience what to want.

When you get to the offer, your product or service will be exactly what they want!

After The Webinar

37. Offer A Call To Action

Make sure the audience knows what next step you want them to take.

For example, if you want them to download a whitepaper or sign up for a free trial, let them know and provide links in the webinar and the follow-up email.

If you offer something to attendees, make sure it is:

  • Clear and easy to understand.
  • Easy to use and saves them either time or money.
  • A great deal that they can’t get anywhere else. The price should be a no-brainer.
  • Solves problems.
  • Only available during the webinar promotion. If they wait, they’ll miss out completely.
  • Easy to buy.

38. Ask Attendees To Decide On The Next Webinar Topic

How can you keep attendees coming back for more?

Simple – let them decide what the next webinar will be about.

You can run a poll, ask them on social media, or tell them during the webinar to comment on what they want to see next.

This also makes it easier for you to come up with engaging topics.

Giving your attendees a voice and letting them influence the direction of your webinar strategy also builds brand loyalty.

39. Survey Your Attendees

Want to know whether your attendees loved or hated your webinar?

Ask them!

Ask attendees to take a brief survey so they can provide feedback that will help you improve moving forward.

40. Send People More Content

After the event, follow up with participants by sending them additional content. This includes:

  • People who registered but didn’t show up.
  • Attendees who left the webinar early.
  • People who converted.

For example, you could email the participants a full recap blog post, a SlideShare of the webinar, or a link to the video recording.

Remember: Your audience likes to consume content in many different formats, so repurposing content isn’t about being lazy or rehashing the same old thing. It is about creating strong, standalone pieces of content that your audience will find useful.

41. Track Your Results

Some webinar metrics you can track include:

  • How many people registered?
  • What were the top sources of registrations?
  • How many people actually attended?
  • How much time did they spend watching the webinar?

Summary

As you can see, webinars are a highly effective way to reach your ideal audience with educational content that lasts.

The first step is deciding what your goals are and then choosing a platform and format that meets those needs.

Creating a webinar takes a lot of planning, coordination, and follow-through – from settling on a specified topic and finding an awesome speaker to preparing for the live event.

The topics, content, and speakers should provide true value to your target audience.

For an effective webinar, you should always:

  • Listen to your audience.
  • Play to your current strengths.
  • Practice for a polished presentation.
  • Follow up.
  • Repurpose your content.

More Resources:


Featured Image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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SEO

Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Redesign.co. Used with permission.

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International SEO For 2024: 9-Point Checklist For Success

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International SEO For 2024: 9-Point Checklist For Success

Getting your international SEO strategy right can be an elusive feat.

There are a lot more factors at play than people give credit for, and it’s often a thankless job.

A successful international SEO strategy requires a deep knowledge of your company’s commercial strategy as well as technical SEO knowledge, cultural sensitivity, and excellent data skills.

Yet the industry often regards international SEO as just your hreflang setup.

In this article, I will distill the complexities of international SEO success into an actionable step-by-step list that will take you from beginner to advanced practitioner. Let’s begin!

Part I: Be Commercially Aware

1. Understand Why Your Company Is Going International

Companies can grow by expanding their products and services, focusing on gaining market penetration or expanding into new markets.

While your team’s goal might be traffic, leads, or revenue, the leadership team is likely working under a different set of parameters. Most of the time, leadership’s ultimate goal is to maximize shareholder value.

  • In founder-owned companies, growth goals might be slower and more sustainable, usually aimed at maintaining and growing profitability.
  • VC-owned companies have high growth goals because they must provide their investors with a return that’s higher than the stock market. This is what is known as the alpha, or your company’s ability to beat the market in growth.
  • Publicly traded companies are likely aiming to grow their share value.
  • Startups, depending on their maturity stage, are likely looking to prove product-market fit or expand their reach fast to show that their operations are scalable and have the potential to be profitable in the future. The goal of this is to aid in raising further capital from investors.

Understanding why businesses go international is essential for informing your SEO decisions. What’s best practice for SEO isn’t always what’s best for business.

You must adapt your strategy to your company’s growth model.

  • Companies choosing to grow sustainably and maintain profitability will likely expand more slowly to a market that resembles their core market.
  • VC-owned companies will be able to invest in a wider range of countries, with a smaller concern for providing their users with an experience on par with that of their core markets.
  • Startups can try to beat their competitors to market by expanding quickly and throwing a lot of money at the project, or they might be concerned with cash flow and try to expand fast but cut corners by using automatic translation.

2. Stack Rank Your Target Markets To Prioritize Your Investment

I promise I’ll get to hreflang implementation soon, but so much about international SEO has to do with commercial awareness – so bear with me; this will make you a better professional.

Many companies have different market tiers to reflect how much of a priority each market is. Market prioritization can happen using many different metrics, such as:

  • Average order value or lifetime customer value.
  • Amount of investment required.
  • Market size.
  • And market similarity.

American companies often prioritize developed English-speaking countries such as the UK, Canada, or Australia. These are most similar to their core market, and most of their market knowledge will be transferable.

After that, companies are likely to target large European economies, such as Germany and France. They might also target the LatAm market and Spain in the same effort.

The last prioritization tier can vary widely among companies, with a focus on the Nordic, Brazilian, or Asian markets.

Part II: Know Your Tech

3. Define Your International URL Structure

When doing international SEO, there are 4 different possible URL structures, each with its pros and cons.

ccTLD Structure

A ccTLD structure is set up to target different countries based on the domain type.

This structure is not ideal for companies that target different languages rather than different countries. For example, a .es website is targeting Spain, not the Spanish language.

An advantage to this kind of structure is that the ccTLD sends a very strong localization signal to search engines as to what market they are targeting, and they can lead to improved trust and CTR in your core country.

On the other hand, ccTLDs can dilute your site’s authority, as links will be spread across domains rather than concentrated on the .com.

gTLD With Subdirectories

This is my personal favorite when it comes to international SEO.

These URL structures can look like website.com/en if they’re targeting languages or website.com/en-gb if they’re targeting countries.

This configuration aggregates the authority you gain across your different territories into a single domain, it’s cheaper to maintain, and the .com TLD is widely recognizable by users worldwide.

On the other hand, this setup can look less personalized to people outside the US, who might wonder if you can service their markets.

gTLD With Subdomains

This setup involves placing international content on a subdomain like us.website.com. While once popular, it’s slipping in favor because it doesn’t bring anything unique to the table anymore.

This setup offers a clear signal to users and search engines about the intended audience of a specific subdomain.

However, subdomains often face issues with SEO, as Google tends to view them as separate entities. This separation can dilute link, similar to the ccTLD approach but without the geo-targeting advantages.

gTLD With Parameters

This is the setup where you add parameters at the end of the URL to indicate the language of the page, such as website.com/?lang=en.

I strongly advise against this setup, as it can present multiple technical SEO challenges and trust issues.

4. Understand Your Hreflang Setup

In the words of John Mueller: hreflang can be one of the most complex aspects of SEO.

Screenshot from Twitter, May 2024

Hreflang reminds me of a multilingual form of a canonical tag, where we tell search engines that one document is a version of the other and explain the relationship between them.

I find hreflang implementation very interesting from a technical point of view. Because development teams mostly manage it, and it can be very much hit or miss.

Often, hreflang is constructed from existing fields in your content management system (CMS) or content database.

You might find that your development team is pulling the HTML lang tag, which follows a different ISO standard than hreflang, leading to a broken implementation.

Other times, there is a field in your CMS that your development team pulls from to build your hreflang setup.

Finding out how your hreflang tags are generated can be extremely helpful in identifying the sources of different issues or mitigating potential risks.

So speak to your engineering team and ask them how you’re currently generating hreflang.

5. Implement Hreflang Without Errors

There are three ways to implement hreflang on your site:

  • On your sitemap.
  • Through your HTTP header.
  • On your HTML head.

The method most of us are most familiar with is the HTML head. And while you can use more than one method, they should match each other perfectly. Otherwise, you risk confusing search engines.

Here are some basic rules for getting it done correctly:

  • In your hreflang implementation, the URL must include domain and protocol.
  • You must follow the ISO 639-1 language codes – don’t go around making up your own.
  • Hreflang tags must be reciprocal. If the page you’re listing as a language alternative does not list you back, your implementation won’t work.
  • Audit your hreflang regularly. My favorite tool for this, since it added the hreflang cluster analysis and link graphs, is Ahrefs. For the record, Ahrefs is not paying me to say this; it’s a genuine recommendation and has helped me a lot in my work.
  • You should only have one page per language.
  • Your hreflang URLs should be self-canonicalizing and respond with a 200 code.

Follow the above rules, and you’ll avoid the most common hreflang mistakes that SEO pros make.

And if you’re interested in the technical SEO aspect beyond hreflang, I recommend reading Mind your language by Rob Owen.

Part III: Invest In Content Incrementally

6. Translate Your Top-performing Content Topics

Now that you have the basic commercial and technical knowledge covered, you’re ready to start creating a content strategy.

You likely have a wealth of content in your core market that can be recycled. But you want to focus on translating high-converting topics, not just any topic; otherwise, you might be wasting your budget!

Let’s go step by step.

Cluster Your Website’s Content By Topic

  • Crawl your site using your favorite SEO tool and extract the URL and H1.
  • Use ChatGPT to classify that list of URLs into topics. You might already know what you usually write about, so include those topics in your prompt. You don’t want to have a classification that’s too granular, so you can prompt chatGPT to only create groups with a minimum of 10 URLs (adjust this to reflect the size of your website) and class everything else as other. This is an example of what your prompt might look like: “I will provide you with a list of article titles and their corresponding URL. Classify this list into the following topics: survey best practices, research and analysis, employee surveys, market research and others. Return this in a table format with the URL, title and group name.”
  • Start a spreadsheet with all your URLs in the first column, titles in the second column, and the group they belong to in the third column.

Measure Your Performance By Topic

  • Export your GSC data and use a =VLOOKUP formula to match your clicks to your URLs.
  • Export your conversion data and use a =VLOOKUP formula to match your conversions (leads, sales, sign-ups, or revenue) to the right URL.
  • You can then copy your topics column onto a new sheet. Remove duplicates and use the =SUMIF formula to aggregate your click data and conversion data by topic.

Choose What Topics You’ll Be Translating First

Using this data, you can now choose what topics are most likely to drive conversions based on your core market data. Choose how many topics or pieces of content you’ll be translating based on your budget.

Personally, I like translating one topic at a time because I’ve found that generating topical authority on one specific topic makes it easier for me to rank on an adjacent topic that I write about next.

7. Localize Your English Content

Once you’re set up with all your key pages and a few content topics, it’s time to evaluate your investment and see where you could be getting a bigger return.

At this stage, many companies have translated their content into a few different languages and likely copied the US content into their UK and Australian sites. Now that you’ve done some translation, it’s time to work on localization.

If you’ve just copied your US content into your UK and Australian sites, your Google Search Console indexing report might be screaming at you, “Duplicate, Google selected a different canonical than the user.”

A very easy fix that could yield great returns is to localize your English content to the nuances of those English-speaking markets.

You will want to instruct your translation and localization providers to adapt the spellings of certain words, change the choice of words, introduce local expressions, and update any cited statistic for the US with their local equivalent.

For example, if I’m targeting a British audience, “analyze” becomes “analyse,” a “stroller” becomes a “pram,” and “soccer” becomes “football.”

8. Invest In In-market Content

Once you’ve got the basics in place, you can start tackling the specific needs of other markets. This strategy is expensive, and you should only use it in your priority markets, but it can really set you apart from your competitors.

For this, you will need to work with a local linguist to identify pain points, use cases, or needs exclusive to your target market.

For example, if France suddenly made it mandatory to run a diversity and inclusion study for companies with over 250 employees, I’d want to know this and create some content on DEI surveys at SurveyMonkey.

9. Integrate With Other Content Workflows

In step six, we evaluated our top-performing content, chose the best articles to translate, and got it all down. But wait. Some of these source articles have been updated. And there is even more content now!

To run a successful international SEO campaign you must integrate with all the other teams publishing content within your organization.

Usually, the teams creating content in an organization are SEO, content, PR, product marketing, demand generation, customer marketing, customer service, customer education, or solutions engineering.

That’s a lot, and you won’t be able to integrate with everyone all at once. Prioritize the teams that create the most revenue-generating content, such as SEO, content, or product marketing.

Working with these teams, you will have to establish a process for what happens when they create a new piece, update some content, or remove an existing piece.

These processes can differ for everyone, but I can tell you what I do with my team and hope it inspires you.

  • When a piece of content that’s already been localized into international markets is updated, we get the content in a queue to be re-localized the next quarter.
  • When they create a new piece of content, we evaluate its performance, and if it’s performing above average, we add it to a localization queue for the next quarter.
  • When they change the URL of a piece of content or delete it, all international sites must follow suit at the same time, since due to some technical limitations, not making the change globally would create some hreflang issues.

Wrapping Up

International SEO is vast and complex, and no article can cover it all, but many interesting resources have been created by SEO pros across the community for those who want to learn more.

Navigating the complexities of international SEO is no small feat. It’s an intricate dance of aligning commercial strategies with technical precision, cultural insights, and data-driven decisions.

From understanding your company’s core motives for global expansion to meticulously implementing hreflang tags and localizing content, every step plays a crucial role in building a successful international presence.

More resources: 


Featured Image: BritCats Studio/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Vision Driven By Panic, Not Users: Former Product Manager

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Hand pressing the red button. vector illustration

A 16-year Google veteran is raising concerns about the company’s current focus on AI, labeling it a “panic reaction” driven by fear of falling behind competitors.

Scott Jenson, who left Google last month, took to LinkedIn to critique the tech giant’s AI projects as “poorly motivated and driven by this mindless panic that as long as it had ‘AI’ in it, it would be great.”

Veteran’s Criticism Of Google’s AI Focus

Jenson stated that Google’s vision of creating an AI assistant for its ecosystem is “pure catnip” fueled by the fear of letting someone else get there first.

He parallels the ill-fated Google+ product, which he calls a “similar hysterical reaction” to Facebook’s rise.

Jenson wrote:

“This exact thing happened 13 years ago with Google+ (I was there for that fiasco as well). That was a similar hysterical reaction but to Facebook.”

Lack Of User-Driven Motivation

Jenson argues that Google’s strategy lacks motivation driven by genuine user needs, a sentiment echoed by a recent Gizmodo article that described this year’s Google I/O developer conference as “the most boring ever.”

The article, which Jenson linked to in his post, criticized Google for failing to clarify how Gemini’s new AI technology would integrate into its existing products and enhance the user experience.

See Jenson’s full post below:

Can You Turn Off Google’s AI Overviews?

One prime example of Google’s AI overreach is the AI overviews feature, which generates summaries to directly answer search queries by ingesting information from across the web.

This controversial move has sparked legal battles, with publishers accusing Google of violating intellectual property rights and unfairly profiting from their content without permission.

Related: Google’s AI Overviews Documentation: Key SEO Insights

Turning Off AI Overviews

While Google doesn’t provide an official setting to turn off AI overviews, a viral article from Tom’s Hardware suggests using browser extensions.

Alternatively, you can configure Chrome to go directly to web search results, bypassing the AI-generated overviews.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

  • Name: Google (Web)
  • Shortcut: www.google.com
  • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
  • Click “Add
Screenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

Lastly, click the three dots next to the new “Google (Web)” entry and select “Make default.”

1716224163 590 Googles AI Vision Driven By Panic Not Users Former ProductScreenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

After following these steps, Chrome will now default to showing regular web search results instead of the AI overview summaries when you perform searches from the address bar.

Tensions Over Data Usage

The controversy surrounding AI overviews creates tension between tech companies and content creators over using online data for AI training.

Publishers argue that Google’s AI summaries could siphon website traffic, threatening independent creators’ revenue streams, which rely on search referrals.

The debate reflects the need for updated frameworks to balance innovation and fair compensation for content creators, maintaining a sustainable open internet ecosystem.


FAQ

What concerns has Scott Jenson raised about Google’s AI focus?

Scott Jenson, a former Google product manager, has expressed concerns that Google’s current AI focus is more of a “panic reaction” to stay ahead of competitors rather than addressing user needs. He critiques Google’s AI initiatives as poorly motivated and driven by a fear of letting others get ahead.

How does Scott Jenson compare Google’s AI strategy to past projects?

Jenson parallels Google’s current AI focus and the company’s response to Facebook years ago with Google+. He describes both as “hysterical reactions” driven by competition, which, in the case of Google+, resulted in a product that failed to meet its objectives.

Why are content creators concerned about Google’s AI overviews?

Content creators worry that Google’s AI overviews, which generate summaries by ingesting web content, could reduce site traffic. They argue that this practice is unfair as it uses their content without permission and impacts their revenue streams that rely on search referrals.

How can users turn off Google’s AI overviews in Chrome?

Although no official setting exists to disable AI overviews, users can use a workaround by enabling a specific Chrome setting or using a browser extension.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

    • Name: Google (Web)
    • Shortcut: www.google.com
    • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
    • Click “Add

This will force Chrome to skip AI-generated overviews and show the classic list of web links.


Featured Image: Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

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