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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

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7 Simple Steps to Grow Your Online Business

Running an online business is an excellent way to be your own boss, work on your own terms, and (hopefully) make a lot of money.

But growing an online business can be challenging. There’s a decent learning curve, and the way people interact with the digital world is constantly changing.

I’ve personally grown three separate six-figure online businesses over the last 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to earn more. I’ve distilled everything I’ve learned about growing an online business into the following seven steps.

Step 1. Figure out where your best customers are

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Before you start investing in ads or spending countless hours trying to grow a social media account, you should do some market research to find valuable information about your market and audience—one of the most important things being where your potential customers go for their information.

You can post all you want on Instagram. But if the people buying your products don’t use Instagram, that time and effort will be wasted. I like to avoid wasted effort, so here are three ways to figure out where you should spend your time:

1. Research your niche on forums

Forums like Reddit are a gold mine of information for consumer research. There’s a subreddit for nearly any topic imaginable, and people share all kinds of information there.

For example, let’s say I want to start selling dirt bike parts. I could type “dirt bikes” into Reddit and immediately find the r/Dirtbikes subreddit, which is full of dirt bike owners and enthusiasts.

Reddit forum research

As I scroll through the posts, the first thing that stands out to me is the massive number of YouTube links and videos in the posts.

YouTube links in RedditYouTube links in Reddit

That tells me the dirt bike community probably watches a lot of YouTube videos. So that could be a potential marketing channel for me that I know my community is using.

2. Check social media to see what kind of content does well

Obviously, dirt biking is a pretty popular hobby, and there’s going to be a lot of content about it on pretty much every major platform. But if I check Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook groups, I can see what kind of content is promoted in each place and compare that to the kind of content I personally want to create.

For example, Instagram tends to have a lot of pictures and videos of women on dirt bikes.

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Instagram dirt bikes searchInstagram dirt bikes search

This isn’t the kind of content I want to create, so I’ll skip this platform. But if I check YouTube, I can see tutorial videos and riding videos with millions of views.

YouTube viewsYouTube views

Since I’m looking to sell parts, I can definitely do videos of riding and parts replacement tutorials on YouTube to promote my brand. I also noticed that TikTok has a lot of cool videos, and I could use the videos I’m already making for YouTube to also create content on TikTok.

You can also use a tool like SparkToro to save time in this process. It’s a customer research tool that gives you insights about what people follow, including social media accounts, websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more.

You just type in a keyword your audience would be interested in…

SparkToro search functionSparkToro search function

… and it displays demographic and social information about your target audience.

SparkToro audience researchSparkToro audience research

You get five searches for free, but you do have to pay for the full suite of information available.

So now we’ve covered forums, social media, and consumer research tools. But I saved the best for last…

3. Do some keyword research to see if you can rank on Google.

Chances are, if you own an online business, you have customers searching for your products or services on Google.

I’m a strong believer that every online business can benefit from search engine optimization (SEO). It’s my favorite marketing channel because it can bring highly targeted, relevant traffic on autopilot… without needing to constantly spend money on ads.

However, some niches are extremely competitive and, while you should still use SEO for the long term, it may not be your best focus in the short term.

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The best way to figure that out is with some keyword research. Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and plug in some keywords that characterize your niche. For example, I can search for things like “dirt bike parts” or “dirt bikes” to start.

You’ll get some information about a keyword, such as how many people search for it every month (volume) and how difficult that keyword may be to rank for (Keyword Difficulty). 

Ahrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike partsAhrefs' keyword explorer dirt bike parts

But what’s more important are the keyword ideas below these stats. If you click anything under Keyword ideas on the left-hand menu, you’ll be taken to keywords that match or are related to the one you searched for.

Ahrefs' Keyword IdeasAhrefs' Keyword Ideas

From here, you can filter this list based on search volume, Keyword Difficulty (KD), Traffic Potential (TP), and more.

But what are you looking for?

If most of the keywords have a KD of <40, it could mean you have a solid chance of ranking on page one of Google for those keywords with good enough content. Keep in mind, however, that this is just a rough metric—a quantification like this can never be perfect, and you can still rank for keywords that have high KD with enough effort.

By now, you should know which social media platforms you want to be active on and if SEO may be something you really want to focus on. Next, let’s make sure your business is actually ready for growth.

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Step 2. Create a solid user experience

Too many businesses neglect the usability and appearance of their websites. If your website looks outdated, loads slowly, or is difficult to navigate, you’re going to miss out on sales no matter how good your marketing is. 

Here’s how to make sure your customers have a first-class experience on your website:

1. Ensure your website loads fast

Your webpages should all load within two to three seconds at most (faster is always better). If people spend too long waiting around for a page to load, they will leave and go somewhere else.

You can check your website’s load speed for free with a tool like PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed Insights ToolGoogle PageSpeed Insights Tool

You’ll also see whether or not your website is passing Google’s Core Web Vitals test, which is one of Google’s many ranking factors.

Google Core Web Vitals testGoogle Core Web Vitals test

Click here to read our guide on website speed optimization if this is an issue for you. Consider hiring a developer if this is beyond your ability and you don’t have time to learn.

2. Improve your website structure

Your website structure is important for both your users and search engine crawlers. It’s an important step in building a strong online business.

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Ask yourself:

  • How easy is it for users to navigate your website? 
  • Can they find the page they’re looking for in three clicks or fewer from any page on your site? 
  • Does the navigation menu make it easy for customers to flow through your funnel?

The best way I’ve found to improve your site’s structure is by creating a visual map of all the pages on your site and how they connect to one another. 

You can use a tool like XMind to do this. Here’s how we use it at Ahrefs:

Your goal should be to create as flat of a website structure as possible—meaning, none of your pages are more than a few clicks deep to get to. Here’s a visual:

Flat vs Deep Website StructureFlat vs Deep Website Structure

You should focus on basing your categories around keyword research and properly using internal links to keep everything tied together.

3. Use high-quality media

Tell me—what looks better?

This…

Cheesy office stock imageCheesy office stock image
Source: A free image from Pixabay.

… or this?

Paid stock imagePaid stock image
Source: A paid stock image provided by Canva.

The former is a free stock photo; the latter was paid for. 

Stock photos and videos can look cheesy and unprofessional. It’s worth investing a couple of bucks into purchasing higher-quality stock assets like Shutterstock or Canva Pro.

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You can also find tons of really high-quality free and paid photos on Unsplash.

It can even be worth investing in a photographer or videographer, or learning these skills yourself, in order to improve your website. These media assets are the first thing a customer sees when they visit your website; these impressions matter.

Beyond these three things—speed, navigation, and media—there are a few other things to pay attention to:

  • Fonts used
  • Color scheme
  • Overall theme/layout
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • And more

If you follow our guide to creating an SEO-friendly website, you’ll hit on all these points AND have an optimized website. That said, it may be worth looking into hiring a developer to help you if website design isn’t your strong suit.

Step 3. Decide on two to three key marketing channels

Social media, SEO, paid advertising, content marketing…

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As entrepreneurs, we tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all. And that’s just the marketing side—only one of the many things we need to focus on to build and grow a successful business.

To avoid burnout and spreading yourself too thin, I highly recommend focusing on just two or three main marketing channels—at least at the start. You can expand as you earn enough (and learn enough) to hire people for these roles.

Some of your options include:

  • SEO
  • YouTube
  • Paid ads
  • Social media
  • Podcasting

My personal favorite marketing channel is SEO. 

However, which channels you decide to pursue first should always be the channels you believe will be most effective for your business. The best approach is to mix channels that target your audience in different parts of the customer journey:

Customer journey exampleCustomer journey example

In step #1, you should have done some basic keyword research to see if you may be able to rank highly on Google. If you find that the keywords are relatively easy to rank for and relevant to your products or services, I always recommend learning and implementing SEO. The fact that SEO focuses on the whole customer journey makes it even more compelling.

Beyond that, you should also have a rough idea of which social media platforms or podcasts your audience cares about and what kind of content you prefer to create. Pick one of those channels to use in conjunction with SEO.

Lastly, you can use paid advertising. However, there is a greater risk of losing money on paid ads if you don’t know what you’re doing. I will only consider it if you already have some experience with it or if you can afford to hire someone else. Otherwise, learn one of the free channels and branch into paid ads once your business is already making money.

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Step 4. Create high-quality, relevant content

Regardless of which marketing channels you decide to pursue, there is one thing you’ll always need: quality content.

Whether it’s videos for TikTok or YouTube, photos for Instagram, blog posts for SEO, or another medium, your content needs to stand out among the sea of mediocre stuff online.

But what does it mean to “create high-quality content”?

It means your content is some combination of:

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  • Engaging
  • Relevant
  • Unique
  • Informative

This means it’s something that your audience cares about and is put together in a way that’s interesting and captures their attention. The way to do this varies depending on your audience and the platform(s) you market on.

For example, ranking on page one of Google requires your content to be accurate, well-formatted, unique, and authoritative. 

Making quality content for TikTok, on the other hand, requires a different approach. TikTok viewers value things that make them happy or surprise them above anything else, according to this study.

Percentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTokPercentage of popular videos and their corresponding emotion on TikTok

That means the idea of what makes “quality content” is hard to define and depends on the platform.

What’s important is that you put a lot of effort into creating and continuing to improve your content. 

Quality will come over time as you learn what your audience likes and how to be a better writer, videographer, photographer, or podcaster—as long as you yourself continue to stay focused and improve.

Dedicate to learning as much as possible about your niche and your business and using what you learn to do better on the next piece of content, whatever that may be.

Here are some guides that can help you hone your craft:

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Step 5. Develop strong partnerships

You understand your customer. Your website rocks. You chose your marketing channels. And your content game is on point.

Next up, it’s time to become a player in the bigger game that is your industry.

One good partnership can skyrocket your online business and your brand. I was able to grow one of my blogs to a half-million-per-year income on a single strong partnership simply because I took the time to connect with them and come up with ideas to promote one another.

Partnerships can help you build links for SEO, market your content, and even put more money in your pocket directly through affiliate marketing. It’s not something you should ignore.

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But how do you find brand partners?

Easy. Think about all the products you already use and love and reach out to those brands. Send them an email. Or better yet, pick up the phone.

Tell them about your traffic and your capabilities to help promote them and their business. Offer to promote them to your email list and your social media following. Add their products to your blog posts on your website.

For example, here’s an email template you can use:

Hey [name],

My name is [your name]. I run [your business], and we [explain what your business is about in a few words]. 

I’m reaching out because I’ve been using [their product(s)] for a few years now and absolutely love it (them). In fact, [personal story about using their product].

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Our website/social media accounts gets/get [number of visitors] people every month looking for information on [their product]. I would love to work something out where we can promote you to our audience. Can we hop on a quick phone call to discuss?

I’m free X time on X date or Y time on Y date.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Cheers, [Your name]

If you can’t think of any brands you love off the top of your head, the next best thing to do is to start Googling products or services in your niche. Find websites with a decent number of social media followers but aren’t so big that you’ll likely be ignored. I find 10,000 to 100,000 followers to generally be a good, sweet spot of influence and size.

You can find brands to partner with while doing your regular keyword research. For example, while looking up the search results for keywords I might want to use, I found the local website “RideNow Chandler.”

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Dirt bike trails Google resultsDirt bike trails Google results

If we check its Instagram, we can see it has around 3,500 followers. A little lower than I prefer, but it could still be worth trying.

Ride Now Chandler Instagram accountRide Now Chandler Instagram account

Since it is a local group, I may be able to work with it on local events on top of digital ones. So even though it doesn’t have a huge online audience, it could still be a high-value partner.

One last tip: Picking up the phone, sending a hand-written letter to the right person, or even meeting people in person at events are the quickest ways to get on someone’s radar. Don’t be afraid to network.

Step 6. Automate, delegate, and delete

It’s time to stop thinking like a solopreneur. At this point, you need to think like an executive.

Executives of giant companies like Apple or Microsoft have a literally infinite to-do list. There’s always something they could be doing. And the same is true for you.

Instead of frantically attacking your to-do list, you should be removing as many tasks as possible so you can focus only on the most important things.

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To do that, start with a brain dump. Write down every single task you need to do, including the tasks you do more than once. For example, my list can look like this:

  • Research keywords for SEO
  • Outline, write, edit, and publish blog content
  • Share the content on Facebook, on Twitter, and with my email list
  • Communicate with affiliate partners
  • Send invoices
  • Send outreach emails for link building
  • Outline, write, edit, and send guest posts
  • And a million other things 

Now, let’s take a look at these tasks. Some of them are pretty simple and repetitive, such as uploading an article to my blog. Others require specific skills, such as keyword research and outlining an article.

What I’m trying to figure out is which of my tasks need to be done by me, which can be automated using software or settings, which I can delegate to a freelancer or employee, and which simply don’t need to be done at all.

For example: 

  • If I bill a client the same amount every month, I can set up automatic invoicing so I don’t have to go in and create one every time.
  • I can use a tool like Wordable to upload my articles from Google Docs to WordPress and completely cut out the task of uploading.
  • Instead of writing my own content, maybe I can hire a freelancer or content creation agency to do it for me.
  • I can hire a relatively cheap virtual assistant to post my articles on social media and email for me.

By going through this exercise, you can save yourself a lot of time, energy, and money on tasks that you simply don’t need to be doing yourself. This is one of the secrets of highly successful people and businesses.

Step 7. Scale your efforts

Finally, it’s time to take everything you’ve learned and scale it up. Once you’ve figured out how to make a profit online, you can cut what isn’t working and double down on what is.

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In this step, you’ll want to focus more on removing yourself from as many tasks as possible to focus on overall business strategy rather than the day-to-day operations.

This means hiring people to do all of the business tasks that don’t directly require you to do them. But to do that, you need to create standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline how to do each of those tasks in detail.

For example, here is part of the SOP we use for blog posts at Ahrefs:

Ahrefs' content creation SOPAhrefs' content creation SOP

Here are some guides you can follow to learn how to scale your online business:

Final thoughts

Learning how to grow an online business takes time. Don’t be discouraged if your results don’t pay off right away. These skills that you’re learning will continue to pay off for a lifetime to come.

I personally started and “failed” five different businesses before I found the one that I enjoyed enough to continue to work on. I put “failed” in quotes because I don’t view them as failures. Rather, I see them as learning experiences. 

If I didn’t “fail” five times, I wouldn’t have succeeded in building the following three businesses that I’ve run. Like anything else, consistent effort and the occasional “failure” are the things you need to master the skill of growing an online business.

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SEO

An In-Depth Guide And Best Practices For Mobile SEO

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Mobile SEO: An In-Depth Guide And Best Practices

Over the years, search engines have encouraged businesses to improve mobile experience on their websites. More than 60% of web traffic comes from mobile, and in some cases based on the industry, mobile traffic can reach up to 90%.

Since Google has completed its switch to mobile-first indexing, the question is no longer “if” your website should be optimized for mobile, but how well it is adapted to meet these criteria. A new challenge has emerged for SEO professionals with the introduction of Interaction to Next Paint (INP), which replaced First Input Delay (FID) starting March, 12 2024.

Thus, understanding mobile SEO’s latest advancements, especially with the shift to INP, is crucial. This guide offers practical steps to optimize your site effectively for today’s mobile-focused SEO requirements.

What Is Mobile SEO And Why Is It Important?

The goal of mobile SEO is to optimize your website to attain better visibility in search engine results specifically tailored for mobile devices.

This form of SEO not only aims to boost search engine rankings, but also prioritizes enhancing mobile user experience through both content and technology.

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While, in many ways, mobile SEO and traditional SEO share similar practices, additional steps related to site rendering and content are required to meet the needs of mobile users and the speed requirements of mobile devices.

Does this need to be a priority for your website? How urgent is it?

Consider this: 58% of the world’s web traffic comes from mobile devices.

If you aren’t focused on mobile users, there is a good chance you’re missing out on a tremendous amount of traffic.

Mobile-First Indexing

Additionally, as of 2023, Google has switched its crawlers to a mobile-first indexing priority.

This means that the mobile experience of your site is critical to maintaining efficient indexing, which is the step before ranking algorithms come into play.

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Read more: Where We Are Today With Google’s Mobile-First Index

How Much Of Your Traffic Is From Mobile?

How much traffic potential you have with mobile users can depend on various factors, including your industry (B2B sites might attract primarily desktop users, for example) and the search intent your content addresses (users might prefer desktop for larger purchases, for example).

Regardless of where your industry and the search intent of your users might be, the future will demand that you optimize your site experience for mobile devices.

How can you assess your current mix of mobile vs. desktop users?

An easy way to see what percentage of your users is on mobile is to go into Google Analytics 4.

  • Click Reports in the left column.
  • Click on the Insights icon on the right side of the screen.
  • Scroll down to Suggested Questions and click on it.
  • Click on Technology.
  • Click on Top Device model by Users.
  • Then click on Top Device category by Users under Related Results.
  • The breakdown of Top Device category will match the date range selected at the top of GA4.
Screenshot from GA4, March 2024

You can also set up a report in Looker Studio.

  • Add your site to the Data source.
  • Add Device category to the Dimension field.
  • Add 30-day active users to the Metric field.
  • Click on Chart to select the view that works best for you.
A screen capture from Looker Studio showing a pie chart with a breakdown of mobile, desktop, tablet, and Smart TV users for a siteScreenshot from Looker Studio, March 2024

You can add more Dimensions to really dig into the data to see which pages attract which type of users, what the mobile-to-desktop mix is by country, which search engines send the most mobile users, and so much more.

Read more: Why Mobile And Desktop Rankings Are Different

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How To Check If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

Now that you know how to build a report on mobile and desktop usage, you need to figure out if your site is optimized for mobile traffic.

While Google removed the mobile-friendly testing tool from Google Search Console in December 2023, there are still a number of useful tools for evaluating your site for mobile users.

Bing still has a mobile-friendly testing tool that will tell you the following:

  • Viewport is configured correctly.
  • Page content fits device width.
  • Text on the page is readable.
  • Links and tap targets are sufficiently large and touch-friendly.
  • Any other issues detected.

Google’s Lighthouse Chrome extension provides you with an evaluation of your site’s performance across several factors, including load times, accessibility, and SEO.

To use, install the Lighthouse Chrome extension.

  • Go to your website in your browser.
  • Click on the orange lighthouse icon in your browser’s address bar.
  • Click Generate Report.
  • A new tab will open and display your scores once the evaluation is complete.
An image showing the Lighthouse Scores for a website.Screenshot from Lighthouse, March 2024

You can also use the Lighthouse report in Developer Tools in Chrome.

  • Simply click on the three dots next to the address bar.
  • Select “More Tools.”
  • Select Developer Tools.
  • Click on the Lighthouse tab.
  • Choose “Mobile” and click the “Analyze page load” button.
An image showing how to get to Lighthouse within Google Chrome Developer Tools.Screenshot from Lighthouse, March 2024

Another option that Google offers is the PageSpeed Insights (PSI) tool. Simply add your URL into the field and click Analyze.

PSI will integrate any Core Web Vitals scores into the resulting view so you can see what your users are experiencing when they come to your site.

An image showing the PageSpeed Insights scores for a website.Screenshot from PageSpeed Insights, March 2024

Other tools, like WebPageTest.org, will graphically display the processes and load times for everything it takes to display your webpages.

With this information, you can see which processes block the loading of your pages, which ones take the longest to load, and how this affects your overall page load times.

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You can also emulate the mobile experience by using Developer Tools in Chrome, which allows you to switch back and forth between a desktop and mobile experience.

An image showing how to change the device emulation for a site within Google Chrome Developer ToolsScreenshot from Google Chrome Developer Tools, March 2024

Lastly, use your own mobile device to load and navigate your website:

  • Does it take forever to load?
  • Are you able to navigate your site to find the most important information?
  • Is it easy to add something to cart?
  • Can you read the text?

Read more: Google PageSpeed Insights Reports: A Technical Guide

How To Optimize Your Site Mobile-First

With all these tools, keep an eye on the Performance and Accessibility scores, as these directly affect mobile users.

Expand each section within the PageSpeed Insights report to see what elements are affecting your score.

These sections can give your developers their marching orders for optimizing the mobile experience.

While mobile speeds for cellular networks have steadily improved around the world (the average speed in the U.S. has jumped to 27.06 Mbps from 11.14 Mbps in just eight years), speed and usability for mobile users are at a premium.

Read more: Top 7 SEO Benefits Of Responsive Web Design

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Best Practices For Mobile Optimization

Unlike traditional SEO, which can focus heavily on ensuring that you are using the language of your users as it relates to the intersection of your products/services and their needs, optimizing for mobile SEO can seem very technical SEO-heavy.

While you still need to be focused on matching your content with the needs of the user, mobile search optimization will require the aid of your developers and designers to be fully effective.

Below are several key factors in mobile SEO to keep in mind as you’re optimizing your site.

Site Rendering

How your site responds to different devices is one of the most important elements in mobile SEO.

The two most common approaches to this are responsive design and dynamic serving.

Responsive design is the most common of the two options.

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Using your site’s cascading style sheets (CSS) and flexible layouts, as well as responsive content delivery networks (CDN) and modern image file types, responsive design allows your site to adjust to a variety of screen sizes, orientations, and resolutions.

With the responsive design, elements on the page adjust in size and location based on the size of the screen.

You can simply resize the window of your desktop browser and see how this works.

An image showing the difference between Web.dev in a full desktop display vs. a mobile display using responsive design.Screenshot from web.dev, March 2024

This is the approach that Google recommends.

Adaptive design, also known as dynamic serving, consists of multiple fixed layouts that are dynamically served to the user based on their device.

Sites can have a separate layout for desktop, smartphone, and tablet users. Each design can be modified to remove functionality that may not make sense for certain device types.

This is a less efficient approach, but it does give sites more control over what each device sees.

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While these will not be covered here, two other options:

  • Progressive Web Apps (PWA), which can seamlessly integrate into a mobile app.
  • Separate mobile site/URL (which is no longer recommended).

Read more: An Introduction To Rendering For SEO

Interaction to Next Paint (INP)

Google has introduced Interaction to Next Paint (INP) as a more comprehensive measure of user experience, succeeding First Input Delay. While FID measures the time from when a user first interacts with your page (e.g., clicking a link, tapping a button) to the time when the browser is actually able to begin processing event handlers in response to that interaction. INP, on the other hand, broadens the scope by measuring the responsiveness of a website throughout the entire lifespan of a page, not just first interaction.

Note that actions such as hovering and scrolling do not influence INP, however, keyboard-driven scrolling or navigational actions are considered keystrokes that may activate events measured by INP but not scrolling which is happeing due to interaction.

Scrolling may indirectly affect INP, for example in scenarios where users scroll through content, and additional content is lazy-loaded from the API. While the act of scrolling itself isn’t included in the INP calculation, the processing, necessary for loading additional content, can create contention on the main thread, thereby increasing interaction latency and adversely affecting the INP score.

What qualifies as an optimal INP score?

  • An INP under 200ms indicates good responsiveness.
  • Between 200ms and 500ms needs improvement.
  • Over 500ms means page has poor responsiveness.

and these are common issues causing poor INP scores:

  1. Long JavaScript Tasks: Heavy JavaScript execution can block the main thread, delaying the browser’s ability to respond to user interactions. Thus break long JS tasks into smaller chunks by using scheduler API.
  2. Large DOM (HTML) Size: A large DOM ( starting from 1500 elements) can severely impact a website’s interactive performance. Every additional DOM element increases the work required to render pages and respond to user interactions.
  3. Inefficient Event Callbacks: Event handlers that execute lengthy or complex operations can significantly affect INP scores. Poorly optimized callbacks attached to user interactions, like clicks, keypress or taps, can block the main thread, delaying the browser’s ability to render visual feedback promptly. For example when handlers perform heavy computations or initiate synchronous network requests such on clicks.

and you can troubleshoot INP issues using free and paid tools.

As a good starting point I would recommend to check your INP scores by geos via treo.sh which will give you a great high level insights where you struggle with most.

INP scores by GeosINP scores by Geos

Read more: How To Improve Interaction To Next Paint (INP)

Image Optimization

Images add a lot of value to the content on your site and can greatly affect the user experience.

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From page speeds to image quality, you could adversely affect the user experience if you haven’t optimized your images.

This is especially true for the mobile experience. Images need to adjust to smaller screens, varying resolutions, and screen orientation.

  • Use responsive images
  • Implement lazy loading
  • Compress your images (use WebP)
  • Add your images into sitemap

Optimizing images is an entire science, and I advise you to read our comprehensive guide on image SEO how to implement the mentioned recommendations.

Avoid Intrusive Interstitials

Google rarely uses concrete language to state that something is a ranking factor or will result in a penalty, so you know it means business about intrusive interstitials in the mobile experience.

Intrusive interstitials are basically pop-ups on a page that prevent the user from seeing content on the page.

John Mueller, Google’s Senior Search Analyst, stated that they are specifically interested in the first interaction a user has after clicking on a search result.

Examples of intrusive interstitial pop-ups on a mobile site according to Google.

Not all pop-ups are considered bad. Interstitial types that are considered “intrusive” by Google include:

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  • Pop-ups that cover most or all of the page content.
  • Non-responsive interstitials or pop-ups that are impossible for mobile users to close.
  • Pop-ups that are not triggered by a user action, such as a scroll or a click.

Read more: 7 Tips To Keep Pop-Ups From Harming Your SEO

Structured Data

Most of the tips provided in this guide so far are focused on usability and speed and have an additive effect, but there are changes that can directly influence how your site appears in mobile search results.

Search engine results pages (SERPs) haven’t been the “10 blue links” in a very long time.

They now reflect the diversity of search intent, showing a variety of different sections to meet the needs of users. Local Pack, shopping listing ads, video content, and more dominate the mobile search experience.

As a result, it’s more important than ever to provide structured data markup to the search engines, so they can display rich results for users.

In this example, you can see that both Zojirushi and Amazon have included structured data for their rice cookers, and Google is displaying rich results for both.

An image of a search result for Japanese rice cookers that shows rich results for Zojirushi and Amazon.Screenshot from search for [Japanese rice cookers], Google, March 2024

Adding structured data markup to your site can influence how well your site shows up for local searches and product-related searches.

Using JSON-LD, you can mark up the business, product, and services data on your pages in Schema markup.

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If you use WordPress as the content management system for your site, there are several plugins available that will automatically mark up your content with structured data.

Read more: What Structured Data To Use And Where To Use It?

Content Style

When you think about your mobile users and the screens on their devices, this can greatly influence how you write your content.

Rather than long, detailed paragraphs, mobile users prefer concise writing styles for mobile reading.

Each key point in your content should be a single line of text that easily fits on a mobile screen.

Your font sizes should adjust to the screen’s resolution to avoid eye strain for your users.

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If possible, allow for a dark or dim mode for your site to further reduce eye strain.

Headers should be concise and address the searcher’s intent. Rather than lengthy section headers, keep it simple.

Finally, make sure that your text renders in a font size that’s readable.

Read more: 10 Tips For Creating Mobile-Friendly Content

Tap Targets

As important as text size, the tap targets on your pages should be sized and laid out appropriately.

Tap targets include navigation elements, links, form fields, and buttons like “Add to Cart” buttons.

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Targets smaller than 48 pixels by 48 pixels and targets that overlap or are overlapped by other page elements will be called out in the Lighthouse report.

Tap targets are essential to the mobile user experience, especially for ecommerce websites, so optimizing them is vital to the health of your online business.

Read more: Google’s Lighthouse SEO Audit Tool Now Measures Tap Target Spacing

Prioritizing These Tips

If you have delayed making your site mobile-friendly until now, this guide may feel overwhelming. As a result, you may not know what to prioritize first.

As with so many other optimizations in SEO, it’s important to understand which changes will have the greatest impact, and this is just as true for mobile SEO.

Think of SEO as a framework in which your site’s technical aspects are the foundation of your content. Without a solid foundation, even the best content may struggle to rank.

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  • Responsive or Dynamic Rendering: If your site requires the user to zoom and scroll right or left to read the content on your pages, no number of other optimizations can help you. This should be first on your list.
  • Content Style: Rethink how your users will consume your content online. Avoid very long paragraphs. “Brevity is the soul of wit,” to quote Shakespeare.
  • Image Optimization: Begin migrating your images to next-gen image formats and optimize your content display network for speed and responsiveness.
  • Tap Targets: A site that prevents users from navigating or converting into sales won’t be in business long. Make navigation, links, and buttons usable for them.
  • Structured Data: While this element ranks last in priority on this list, rich results can improve your chances of receiving traffic from a search engine, so add this to your to-do list once you’ve completed the other optimizations.

Summary

From How Search Works, “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

If Google’s primary mission is focused on making all the world’s information accessible and useful, then you know they will prefer surfacing sites that align with that vision.

Since a growing percentage of users are on mobile devices, you may want to infer the word “everywhere” added to the end of the mission statement.

Are you missing out on traffic from mobile devices because of a poor mobile experience?

If you hope to remain relevant, make mobile SEO a priority now.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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HARO Has Been Dead for a While

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HARO Has Been Dead for a While

Every SEO’s favorite link-building collaboration tool, HARO, was officially killed off for good last week by Cision. It’s now been wrapped into a new product: Connectively.

I know nothing about the new tool. I haven’t tried it. But after trying to use HARO recently, I can’t say I’m surprised or saddened by its death. It’s been a walking corpse for a while. 

I used HARO way back in the day to build links. It worked. But a couple of months ago, I experienced the platform from the other side when I decided to try to source some “expert” insights for our posts. 

After just a few minutes of work, I got hundreds of pitches: 

So, I grabbed a cup of coffee and began to work through them. It didn’t take long before I lost the will to live. Every other pitch seemed like nothing more than lazy AI-generated nonsense from someone who definitely wasn’t an expert. 

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Here’s one of them: 

Example of an AI-generated pitch in HAROExample of an AI-generated pitch in HARO

Seriously. Who writes like that? I’m a self-confessed dullard (any fellow Dull Men’s Club members here?), and even I’m not that dull… 

I don’t think I looked through more than 30-40 of the responses. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt like having a conversation with ChatGPT… and not a very good one! 

Despite only reviewing a few dozen of the many pitches I received, one stood out to me: 

Example HARO pitch that caught my attentionExample HARO pitch that caught my attention

Believe it or not, this response came from a past client of mine who runs an SEO agency in the UK. Given how knowledgeable and experienced he is (he actually taught me a lot about SEO back in the day when I used to hassle him with questions on Skype), this pitch rang alarm bells for two reasons: 

  1. I truly doubt he spends his time replying to HARO queries
  2. I know for a fact he’s no fan of Neil Patel (sorry, Neil, but I’m sure you’re aware of your reputation at this point!)

So… I decided to confront him 😉 

Here’s what he said: 

Hunch, confirmed ;)Hunch, confirmed ;)

Shocker. 

I pressed him for more details: 

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I’m getting a really good deal and paying per link rather than the typical £xxxx per month for X number of pitches. […] The responses as you’ve seen are not ideal but that’s a risk I’m prepared to take as realistically I dont have the time to do it myself. He’s not native english, but I have had to have a word with him a few times about clearly using AI. On the low cost ones I don’t care but on authority sites it needs to be more refined.

I think this pretty much sums up the state of HARO before its death. Most “pitches” were just AI answers from SEOs trying to build links for their clients. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not throwing shade here. I know that good links are hard to come by, so you have to do what works. And the reality is that HARO did work. Just look at the example below. You can tell from the anchor and surrounding text in Ahrefs that these links were almost certainly built with HARO: 

Example of links build with HARO, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of links build with HARO, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

But this was the problem. HARO worked so well back in the day that it was only a matter of time before spammers and the #scale crew ruined it for everyone. That’s what happened, and now HARO is no more. So… 

If you’re a link builder, I think it’s time to admit that HARO link building is dead and move on. 

No tactic works well forever. It’s the law of sh**ty clickthroughs. This is why you don’t see SEOs having huge success with tactics like broken link building anymore. They’ve moved on to more innovative tactics or, dare I say it, are just buying links.

Sidenote.

Talking of buying links, here’s something to ponder: if Connectively charges for pitches, are links built through those pitches technically paid? If so, do they violate Google’s spam policies? It’s a murky old world this SEO lark, eh?

If you’re a journalist, Connectively might be worth a shot. But with experts being charged for pitches, you probably won’t get as many responses. That might be a good thing. You might get less spam. Or you might just get spammed by SEOs with deep pockets. The jury’s out for now. 

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My advice? Look for alternative methods like finding and reaching out to experts directly. You can easily use tools like Content Explorer to find folks who’ve written lots of content about the topic and are likely to be experts. 

For example, if you look for content with “backlinks” in the title and go to the Authors tab, you might see a familiar name. 😉 

Finding people to request insights from in Ahrefs' Content ExplorerFinding people to request insights from in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

I don’t know if I’d call myself an expert, but I’d be happy to give you a quote if you reached out on social media or emailed me (here’s how to find my email address).

Alternatively, you can bait your audience into giving you their insights on social media. I did this recently with a poll on X and included many of the responses in my guide to toxic backlinks.

Me, indirectly sourcing insights on social mediaMe, indirectly sourcing insights on social media

Either of these options is quicker than using HARO because you don’t have to sift through hundreds of responses looking for a needle in a haystack. If you disagree with me and still love HARO, feel free to tell me why on X 😉



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Google Clarifies Vacation Rental Structured Data

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Google updates their vacation rental structured data documentation

Google’s structured data documentation for vacation rentals was recently updated to require more specific data in a change that is more of a clarification than it is a change in requirements. This change was made without any formal announcement or notation in the developer pages changelog.

Vacation Rentals Structured Data

These specific structured data types makes vacation rental information eligible for rich results that are specific to these kinds of rentals. However it’s not available to all websites. Vacation rental owners are required to be connected to a Google Technical Account Manager and have access to the Google Hotel Center platform.

VacationRental Structured Data Type Definitions

The primary changes were made to the structured data property type definitions where Google defines what the required and recommended property types are.

The changes to the documentation is in the section governing the Recommended properties and represents a clarification of the recommendations rather than a change in what Google requires.

The primary changes were made to the structured data type definitions where Google defines what the required and recommended property types are.

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The changes to the documentation is in the section governing the Recommended properties and represents a clarification of the recommendations rather than a change in what Google requires.

Address Schema.org property

This is a subtle change but it’s important because it now represents a recommendation that requires more precise data.

This is what was recommended before:

“streetAddress”: “1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy.”

This is what it now recommends:

“streetAddress”: “1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Unit 6E”

Address Property Change Description

The most substantial change is to the description of what the “address” property is, becoming more descriptive and precise about what is recommended.

The description before the change:

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PostalAddress
Information about the street address of the listing. Include all properties that apply to your country.

The description after the change:

PostalAddress
The full, physical location of the vacation rental.
Provide the street address, city, state or region, and postal code for the vacation rental. If applicable, provide the unit or apartment number.
Note that P.O. boxes or other mailing-only addresses are not considered full, physical addresses.

This is repeated in the section for address.streetAddress property

This is what it recommended before:

address.streetAddress Text
The full street address of your vacation listing.

And this is what it recommends now:

address.streetAddress Text
The full street address of your vacation listing, including the unit or apartment number if applicable.

Clarification And Not A Change

Although these updates don’t represent a change in Google’s guidance they are nonetheless important because they offer clearer guidance with less ambiguity as to what is recommended.

Read the updated structured data guidance:

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Vacation rental (VacationRental) structured data

Featured Image by Shutterstock/New Africa

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