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All You Need to Know

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All You Need to Know

SEO tracking involves regularly checking a set of metrics to evaluate a website’s performance in search engine results. Some of the most widely adopted metrics include keyword rankings, organic traffic, conversions, and referring domain growth.

Tracking the right metrics is crucial for SEO (search engine optimization) success. You need them to analyze your SEO performance, report to stakeholders, and take the right kind of action to improve your site’s visibility (such as improving content or building more backlinks).

Besides keeping an eye on your own website’s key metrics, it’s also smart to check out how your competitors are doing on the same metrics as you. If you notice they’re getting good results, you can figure out what tactics they’re using and consider using them too.

You can track SEO for your site to a fair degree using free tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs Webmaster Tools. If you want deeper insights, better data, and the ability to analyze your competitors’ websites, you’ll need a tool like Ahrefs.

This guide is aimed at getting you started with tracking your SEO progress the right way. We’ll cover:

  • What metrics are worth tracking in SEO.
  • How to set up the tools to get the data you need.
  • How to track your competitors.
  • How to go a step further and build an SEO report.

While there are numerous metrics and KPIs you could track, it’s not necessary to monitor all of them continuously. You really just need these seven key metrics to effectively gauge whether your SEO efforts are working.

1. Keyword rankings

Keyword ranking refers to where your page shows up on the search engine results page (SERP) for a specific keyword. It’s like a spot on a list, and you want your page to be as high up on that list as possible — the higher the spot, the more visitors you can attract.

A typical relationship between position and traffic. Traffic drops dramatically with every position in the SERPs.

It’s important to keep an eye on where your keywords are ranking because if they drop lower on the list, your website might get fewer visitors. But you don’t have to watch the rankings for every single keyword, just the main ones that matter most for your key pages.

Also, if you notice your rankings are climbing higher, that’s a good sign. It means that your SEO efforts are paying off.

How to track keyword rankings

To track your keyword rankings, it’s best to use a rank tracker tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker; a tool that allows you to create a list of keywords and automatically monitor their positions in the SERPs for different locations, both for mobile and desktop.

Rank Tracker will suggest keywords for tracking when you set up a new project. Just make sure you’re tracking them in the locations you want to rank (that is, countries where you can serve clients and languages in which you create content).

Adding keywords to track in Ahrefs.Adding keywords to track in Ahrefs.

No need to add each and every keyword from that list. Just add the ones that are important to you and you’ll likely want to track and improve. Typically, you’ll want to track target keywords — the main topic of the page and the main keyword you optimize for.

Once added, you can see your keywords in Rank Tracker’s Overview report.

Overview of tracked keywords in Ahrefs.Overview of tracked keywords in Ahrefs.

Another way to start tracking keywords is to hit Add keywords in the top right corner — best for adding single keywords or importing a list from a document.

Adding single keywords or keywords from a list.Adding single keywords or keywords from a list.

And once data starts rolling in, you will be able to see your ranking progress in time. In the screenshot below, the Ranking history report with a quick insight into recent ranking history and a full ranking history graph.

Ranking history in Ahrefs.Ranking history in Ahrefs.

Why do you need an SEO tool in the first place?

Google’s search results are personalized based on things like your location, browsing history, language, and device.

So when you check the SERPs manually, you might see results that are tailored specifically to you, which might not reflect the more general or widespread rankings.

2. Share of voice

Share of voice (SOV) is a measure of how many clicks your website gets from search engines compared to the total number of clicks available for the keywords you’re tracking.

The higher your rankings, the higher your Share of Voice, and the larger your slice of the market pie.

SOV is a one-of-a-kind metric because of two things:

  • It considers your performance in context to your competitors, giving you a more accurate picture of where you stand in your industry.
  • It doesn’t take into account the search volume of keywords with all of their fluctuations. If you see that your traffic has gone down but your Share of Voice (SOV) remains high, it suggests that the lower traffic is because the keywords you’re targeting have become less popular overall, rather than a decrease in the effectiveness of your SEO strategies.

How to track share of voice

The share of voice metric is another reason to get a rank tracking tool. If the feature is supported, these kinds of tools calculate the metric automatically, so there’s no need to keep a spreadsheet with manually tracked numbers.

In Ahrefs’s Rank Tracker, you’ll find SOV under the Competitors tab.

SOV metric in Ahrefs. SOV metric in Ahrefs.

SOV is calculated by taking all of the tracked keywords into account, yet some of your keywords might be more important than others. If that’s the case, you can track SOV only for a certain topic, SEO campaigns, specific authors, etc. Just select a set of keywords and assign a tag for them.

Adding tags in Ahrefs Rank Tracker. Adding tags in Ahrefs Rank Tracker.

Then, simply select that tag in the Competitors report.

Competitors overview in Rank Tracker. Competitors overview in Rank Tracker.

3. Organic traffic

Organic traffic is basically the number of clicks that come to your website from people finding it through Google. If your website shows up higher on the SERPs, usually more people will click on it and visit your site.

Keeping track of how many visitors come to your site from search engines helps you understand if what you’re doing with SEO is actually working. If you see more visitors over time, your SEO efforts are paying off.

Organic traffic is the pinnacle of SEO, but it’s also important to understand which keywords drive that traffic. So although it’s arguably the most important metric, it’s never a good idea to track this metric alone.

How to track organic traffic

There are basically two ways to track organic traffic: through Google Search Console (and integrations) and through SEO tools.

In terms of raw organic traffic from Google Search, the most accurate data will likely come from their Search Console (for Bing, that would be Webmaster Tools). You can view this data right inside the tool or integrate it with analytics tools like Google Analytics, Hubspot, and Ahrefs for more convenience.

Performance report in GSC.Performance report in GSC.
GSC integration in Ahrefs. GSC integration in Ahrefs.
The cool thing about using Ahrefs for your GSC data is using weekly and monthly data to see spot trends easier.

Raw traffic data is useful for getting a quick snapshot of your current performance, tracking growth trends, and calculating traffic growth for your reports.

But to dive a bit deeper into your organic traffic data, you might want to use a tool like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer because it makes it easier to analyze performance. Here are a few ways you can use the Overview and Top pages report in that tool.

Overlay competitor data on top for a quick performance analysis.

Organic traffic comparison of fours sites on one graph.Organic traffic comparison of fours sites on one graph.
Organic traffic comparison of fours sites on one graph.

Overlay organic pages to see how adding new content correlates with traffic.

Clear correlation between the number of published organic pages and organic traffic. Clear correlation between the number of published organic pages and organic traffic.
In this example, we see a clear correlation between the number of published organic pages and organic traffic (a sign of effective SEO).

See performance in a year-over-year comparison to gauge the impact of long-term projects.

In this example, a long-term content project allowed for the reclaiming of lost traffic from 2020.In this example, a long-term content project allowed for the reclaiming of lost traffic from 2020.
In this example, a long-term content project allowed for the reclaiming of lost traffic from 2020.

Use daily traffic chart to pinpoint the exact day when a traffic increase or decline happened (for instance, due to a Google core update).

Organic traffic affected by Google core update. Organic traffic affected by Google core update.

Identify pages that account for the biggest traffic losses and improve them. You’ll find this in the Top pages report inside Site Explorer.

Top pages report in Ahrefs.Top pages report in Ahrefs.

4. Conversions

Conversions measure how effectively your content translates into tangible results, like profits, content downloads, free trial sign-ups, or any other user action valuable to your business that indicates you’re dealing with a potential customer.

Conversions from organic visits to paid customers are typically hard to measure since this comes down to measuring the ROI of content, which is complicated in itself. However, when we asked marketers about this metric, we found a few interesting ways to solve that problem. For your inspiration, here’s what they measure:

  • Conversion as revenue/signups correlation with traffic. This metric assumes that more website visitors increase your chances of turning them into subscribers or buyers.
  • Conversion growth from bottom-funnel content. Content aimed at users who are on the brink of purchasing can greatly boost sales because it provides that last bit of persuasion they need to complete a purchase.
  • Conversion from first page to paying customer. If the first page a visitor lands on leads to a sale, it’s a clear sign that your content is doing its job effectively.

How to track conversions

Conversions are usually tracked with website analytics tools like Google Analytics 4 (GA 4) or Matomo. They always require a custom setup for each website you want to track, but it’s not an overly complicated process.

For example, in GA4, conversions are called “key events” and are based on tracking user interaction. If a specific event takes place, such as a purchase, a file download, or a form completion, the tool records this as a conversion.

To set up conversion tracking in GA4 you first need to create an event that will be counted as conversion and mark it a key event in the Admin panel of your site (aka property).

Key events control panel in GA4.Key events control panel in GA4.

Then, to see conversion from the organic traffic channel (the channel you’re optimizing with SEO), go to the Advertising panel.

Advertising panel in GA4.Advertising panel in GA4.

Here are a few ideas to use this report:

  • See how many and which key events were driven by organic search in the last month or quarter.
  • See how organic traffic stacks up to other acquisition channels.
  • See the share of organic traffic for events with longer conversion paths (the attribution paths tab).

For more information about how to properly set up GA4 for conversion tracking, see this guide.

5. Referring domain growth

Referring domains are essentially the individual websites that link back to your website. By monitoring these, you get a clear picture of how your link profile is expanding over time.

As your link profile grows with more quality links from diverse domains, it helps to build your site’s authority. This authority is crucial because search engines use it as one of the key factors to determine where your pages should rank in search results.

Essentially, the more authoritative your site becomes, the higher your pages are likely to rank and the harder it becomes for others to outrank you.

How to track referring domain growth

Here’s how to track referring domain growth using Ahrefs.

  • Set up a project (if you haven’t done so yet) and go to your Dashboard.
  • Click on the Backlinks card, which gives you a quick insight into backlinks growth.
  • Click on the card to get more data (if you need it).
Referring domains overview in Ahrefs Site Audit.Referring domains overview in Ahrefs Site Audit.
Referring domains report in Ahrefs Site Audit. Referring domains report in Ahrefs Site Audit.

Aim to build as many or ideally more links from unique domains than your competitors to increase your chances for ranking. Read our link-building guide to learn how:

6. Technical SEO issues

Technical SEO issues, often referred to as SEO health issues, encompass a range of potential hiccups that can hinder Google from effectively finding, crawling, and indexing your website. If Google struggles with any of these steps, your site might not show up correctly — or at all — in search results.

There are eight types of SEO issues you should keep a close eye on because they can impact your ranking the most:

Besides these issues, there are more than 100 other possible issues related to less important technical SEO factors and on-page SEO. I won’t cover all of them here since you can learn what they are and how to fix them right inside Ahrefs.

How to track technical SEO issues (aka SEO health)

Use Ahrefs’ Site Audit (free in Ahrefs Webmaster Tools) to monitor for serious technical issues, marked in the tool as “errors”.

  • Open Site Audit tool inside Ahrefs.
Where to find Site Audit in Ahrefs. Where to find Site Audit in Ahrefs.
  • Click on Errors in the “Issues distribution” card.
Issues distribution in Ahrefs. Issues distribution in Ahrefs.
  • Go to the issue list, then click on the question mark next to the error and follow the instructions.
All issues report in Ahrefs. All issues report in Ahrefs.

To keep your site in good SEO health, schedule regular crawls in Site Audit and fix the most pressing issues.

Note

Before we wrap up this section, here are some other popular metrics and why they haven’t made our list of recommended metrics to track regularly (although they may be useful for other things).

  • Domain Rating (DR). This metric indicates the overall strength of your website’s backlink profile. It’s a handy measure for quickly assessing other websites, particularly for link building purposes. However, it’s not the best metric for ongoing monitoring of your own site since it doesn’t provide specific actionable insights.
  • Click-through Rate (CTR). This measures the percentage of impressions on SERPs that result in clicks, and this data is accessible through Google Search Console. While CTR can be confusing as a metric for the entire site, it proves useful when analyzed at the individual page level.
  • Engagement metrics – Metrics such as bounce rate, engagement rate, dwell time, time on page, and session duration are often discussed in the context of SEO. However, they are either not directly relevant to SEO effectiveness or are unreliable for content analysis.

There are three ways you can track competitors using SEO tools.

  • Track competitors’ rankings for benchmarking.
  • Track multiple metrics for a portfolio of pages.
  • Monitor for noteworthy events: new keywords, backlinks and brand mentions.

Let’s look at them in more detail.

How to track competitors’ keyword rankings

To track your competitors’ rankings, use a rank tracking tool that allows you to automatically monitor their positions on the keywords you target yourself. So whenever you add keywords you want to target in your strategy, the tool will track both your and your competitors’ rank for that keyword.

In Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker all you need to do is set add your competitors’ URLs (you can track entire domains or specific directories). You can do it as soon as setting up your project or add them later on in the Competitors section.

Competitors overview report in Ahrefs Rank Tracker. Competitors overview report in Ahrefs Rank Tracker.

You can use competitor ranking data to:

  • Improve the pages where your competitors outrank you to gain more SOV.
  • Set goals and benchmarks.
  • Compare historical rankings to your performance over time.
  • Quickly see the competitive landscape; see how well you’re doing compared to competitors.
  • See how much more traffic you could gain if you outranked competitors.

How to track multiple metrics for a portfolio of pages

You can also track more than just rankings. Using the Portfolios feature in Ahrefs, you can monitor key metrics such as traffic growth and the increase in referring domains for multiple competitors all at once to analyze their overall SEO performance.

Portfolios feature in Ahrefs. Portfolios feature in Ahrefs.

You can use this feature to monitor specific pages on your competitors’ sites (such as topics on a blog) or combine all your competitors’ sites to see how your entire niche performs in organic search.

To create a portfolio in Ahrefs, go to the Dashboard and click New > Portfolio, then fill in the URLs you want to track.

How to create a new portfolio in Ahrefs.How to create a new portfolio in Ahrefs.

Tip

This feature is especially useful if you’re managing SEO for multiple clients — you can track their entire portfolio as one.

It’s also handy if you have multiple authors on your content team; for example, you can track all articles written by a particular author or keep tabs on all guest and freelance posts.

How to track competitors’ new keywords, backlinks, and web mentions

The final method of tracking your competitors allows you to get email alerts when a competitor:

  • Ranks for a new keyword. Useful for getting content ideas from your competitors’ new content.
  • Rise and fall in keyword rankings. For example, if you see an important keyword suddenly climbing into the top 3, that means your competitor is doing something right, and it’s worth investigating. It’s worth noting that this feature scans, all of the keywords, the site ranks for and not only the ones you track, so it gives you a much wider scope.
  • Gain or lose backlinks. Both situations are potential link building opportunities.
  • Their brand or product is mentioned online. So, when a competitor gets featured in a review, ranking, or digital PR, you can add that site to your list of link building/PR prospects.
Example keyword alert delivered by mail.
Example keyword alert delivered by mail.
Example keyword alert delivered by mail.

To set it up:

  1. Go to Ahrefs Alerts (in the More dropdown menu)
  2. Choose the type of Alert you want to set up.
  3. Click New alert or choose from one of the projects and fill out the details. In case of the mentions alerts, see our documentation to take advantage of advanced queries.
How to add a new keywords alert. How to add a new keywords alert.

Tip

You can also set this feature for your own website. Since Ahrefs Alerts monitors all keywords you rank for, you’ll know if any of your keywords suddenly rise or fall in rankings. 

This is especially useful to spot important keywords you haven’t yet added to Rank Tracker.

If you’re doing SEO for someone else, at some point, you will need to put all of those metrics in a report.

In some cases, it may be enough to show the raw data with a few sentences of commentary. This is true in in-house environments when you’re reporting to someone who can interpret the data themselves, especially if you’ve worked with them for a long time.

But if you’re reporting for a client, raw numbers won’t be enough. Additionally, you will need at least these three elements:

  • Executive summary: Summarizes the entire report, focusing on major points and outcomes for quick reading by senior stakeholders.
  • Opportunities for improvement: Identifies potential areas for SEO enhancements.
  • Roadmap: Outlines past achievements and future steps in the SEO strategy.

It’s also important how to report data for your and your stakeholders understanding and convenience. For instance, many clients require a live interactive dashboard with all the data available at all times (similar to these Ahrefs templates for Looker Studio).

Example of an live reporting dashboard with SEO data. Example of an live reporting dashboard with SEO data.

Others prefer a document where everything is laid out in layman’s terms — they appreciate the data but they don’t really want to deal with it.

Excerpt from an SEO reporting template. Excerpt from an SEO reporting template.

We’ve put together some resources, including a template, to help you quickly and efficiently create a solid report:

Final thoughts

A few tips before we wrap this up:

Got questions or comments? Let me know on X or LinkedIn.



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SEO

The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You’ll Face in 2024

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The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You'll Face in 2024

Seen any stressed-out SEOs recently? If so, that’s because they’ve got their work cut out this year.

Between navigating Google’s never-ending algorithm updates, fighting off competitors, and getting buy-in for projects, there are many significant SEO challenges to consider.

So, which ones should you focus on? Here are the six biggest ones I think you should pay close attention to.

Make no mistake—Google’s algorithm updates can make or break your site.

Core updates, spam updates, helpful content updates—you name it, they can all impact your site’s performance.

As we can see below, the frequency of Google updates has increased in recent years, meaning that the likelihood of being impacted by a Google update has also increased.

How to deal with it:

Recovering from a Google update isn’t easy—and sometimes, websites that get hit by updates may never fully recover.

For the reasons outlined above, most businesses try to stay on the right side of Google and avoid incurring Google’s wrath.

SEOs do this by following Google’s Search Essentials, SEO best practices and avoiding risky black hat SEO tactics. But sadly, even if you think you’ve done this, there is no guarantee that you won’t get hit.

If you suspect a website has been impacted by a Google update, the fastest way to check is to plug the domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Ahrefs Site Explorer screenshotAhrefs Site Explorer screenshot

Here’s an example of a website likely affected by Google’s August 2023 Core Update. The traffic drop started on the update’s start date.

Website impacted by Google's August 2023 Core UpdateWebsite impacted by Google's August 2023 Core Update
Hover over the G circles on the X axis to get information about each update.

From this screen, you can see if a drop in traffic correlates with a Google update. If there is a strong correlation, then that update may have hit the site. To remedy it, you will need to understand the update and take action accordingly.

Follow SEO best practices

It’s important your website follows SEO best practices so you can understand why it has been affected and determine what you need to do to fix things.

For example, you might have missed significant technical SEO issues impacting your website’s traffic. To rule this out, it’s worth using Site Audit to run a technical crawl of your website.

Site Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site AuditSite Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site Audit

Monitor the latest SEO news

In addition to following best practices, it’s a good idea to monitor the latest SEO news. You can do this through various social media channels like X or LinkedIn, but I find the two websites below to be some of the most reliable sources of SEO news.

Even if you escape Google’s updates unscathed, you’ve still got to deal with your competitors vying to steal your top-ranking keywords from right under your nose.

This may sound grim, but it’s a mistake to underestimate them. Most of the time, they’ll be trying to improve their website’s SEO just as much as you are.

And these days, your competitors will:

How to deal with it:

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to do these two things:

Spy on your competitors and monitor their strategy

Ok, so you don’t have to be James Bond, but by using a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer and our Google Looker Studio Integration (GLS), you can extract valuable information and keep tabs on your competitors, giving you a competitive advantage in the SERPs.

Using a tool like Site Explorer, you can use the Organic Competitors report to understand the competitor landscape:

Organic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerOrganic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can check out their Organic traffic performance across the years:

Year on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerYear on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can use Calendar to see which days changes in Positions, Pages, Referring domains Backlinks occurred:

Screenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerScreenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can see their Top pages’ organic traffic and Organic keywords:

Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTop pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And much, much more.

If you want to monitor your most important competitors more closely, you can even create a dashboard using Ahrefs’ GLS integration.

Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,

Acquire links and create content that your competitors can’t recreate easily

Once you’ve done enough spying, it’s time to take action.

Links and content are the bread and butter for many SEOs. But a lot of the time the links that are acquired and the content that is created just aren’t that great.

So, to stand the best chance of maintaining your rankings, you need to work on getting high-quality backlinks and producing high-quality content that your competitors can’t easily recreate.

It’s easy to say this, but what does it mean in practice?

The best way to create this type of content is to create deep content.

At Ahrefs, we do this by running surveys, getting quotes from industry experts, running data studies, creating unique illustrations or diagrams, and generally fine-tuning our content until it is the best it can be.

As if competing against your competitors wasn’t enough, you must also compete against Google for clicks.

As Google not-so-subtly transitions from a search engine to an answer engine, it’s becoming more common for it to supply the answer to search queries—rather than the search results themselves.

The result is that even the once top-performing organic search websites have a lower click-through rate (CTR) because they’re further down the page—or not on the first page.

Whether you like it or not, Google is reducing traffic to your website through two mechanisms:

  • AI overviews – Where Google generates an answer based on sources on the internet
  • Zero-click searches – Where Google shows the answer in the search results

With AI overviews, we can see that the traditional organic search results are not visible.

And with zero-click searches, Google supplies the answer directly in the SERP, so the user doesn’t have to click anything unless they want to know more.

Zero Click searches example, via Google.comZero Click searches example, via Google.com

These features have one thing in common: They are pushing the organic results further down the page.

With AI Overviews, even when links are included, Kevin Indig’s AI overviews traffic impact study suggests that AI overviews will reduce organic clicks.

In this example below, shared by Aleyda, we can see that even when you rank organically in the number one position, it doesn’t mean much if there are Ads and an AI overview with the UX with no links in the AI overview answer; it just perpetuates the zero-clicks model through the AI overview format.

How to deal with it:

You can’t control how Google changes the SERPs, but you can do two things:

Make your website the best it can be

If you focus on the latter, your website will naturally become more authoritative over time. This isn’t a guarantee that your website will be included in the AI overview, but it’s better than doing nothing.

Prevent Google from showing your website in an AI Overview

If you want to be excluded from Google’s AI Overviews, Google says you can add no snippet to prevent your content from appearing in AI Overviews.

nosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentationnosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentation

One of the reasons marketers gravitated towards Google in the early days was that it was relatively easy to set up a website and get traffic.

Recently, there have been a few high-profile examples of smaller websites that have been impacted by Google:

Apart from the algorithmic changes, I think there are two reasons for this:

  • Large authoritative websites with bigger budgets and SEO teams are more likely to rank well in today’s Google
  • User-generated content sites like Reddit and Quora have been given huge traffic boosts from Google, which has displaced smaller sites from the SERPs that used to rank for these types of keyword queries

Here’s Reddit’s traffic increase over the last year:

Reddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerReddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

And here’s Quora’s traffic increase:

Quora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerQuora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

How to deal with it:

There are three key ways I would deal with this issue in 2024:

Focus on targeting the right keywords using keyword research

Knowing which keywords to target is really important for smaller websites. Sadly, you can’t just write about a big term like “SEO” and expect to rank for it in Google.

Use a tool like Keywords Explorer to do a SERP analysis for each keyword you want to target. Use the effort-to-reward ratio to ensure you are picking the right keyword battles:

Effort to reward ratio illustrationEffort to reward ratio illustration

If you’re concerned about Reddit, Quora, or other UGC sites stealing your clicks, you can also use Keywords Explorer to target SERPs where these websites aren’t present.

To do this:

  • Enter your keyword in the search bar and head to the matching terms report
  • Click on the SERP features drop-down box
  • Select Not on SERP and select Discussions and forums
Example of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerExample of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This method can help you find SERPs where these types of sites are not present.

Build more links to become more authoritative

Another approach you could take is to double down on the SEO basics and start building more high-quality backlinks.

Write deep content

Most SEOs are not churning out 500-word blog posts and hoping for the best; equally, the content they’re creating is often not deep or the best it can possibly be.

This is often due to time restraints, budget and inclination. But to be competitive in the AI era, deep content is exactly what you should be creating.

As your website grows, the challenge of maintaining the performance of your content portfolio gets increasingly more difficult.

And what may have been an “absolute banger” of an article in 2020 might not be such a great article now—so you’ll need to update it to keep the clicks rolling in.

So how can you ensure that your content is the best it can be?

How to deal with it:

Here’s the process I use:

Steal this content updating framework

And here’s a practical example of this in action:

Use Page Inspect with Overview to identify pages that need updating

Here’s an example of an older article Michal Pecánek wrote that I recently updated. Using Page Inspect, we can pinpoint the exact date of the update was on May 10, 2024, with no other major in the last year.

Ahrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerAhrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

According to Ahrefs, this update almost doubled the page’s organic traffic, underlining the value of updating old content. Before the update, the content had reached its lowest performance ever.

Example of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

So, what changed to casually double the traffic? Clicking on Page Inspect gives us our answer.

Page Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerPage Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

I was focused on achieving three aims with this update:

  • Keeping Michal’s original framework for the post intact
  • Making the content as concise and readable as it can be
  • Refreshing the template (the main draw of the post) and explaining how to use the updated version in a beginner-friendly way to match the search intent

Getting buy-in for SEO projects has never been easy compared to other channels. Unfortunately, this meme perfectly describes my early days of agency life.

SEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgetsSEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgets

SEO is not an easy sell—either internally or externally to clients.

With companies hiring fewer SEO roles this year, the appetite for risk seems lower than in previous years.

SEO can also be slow to take impact, meaning getting buy-in for projects is harder than other channels.

How long does SEO take illustrationHow long does SEO take illustration

How to deal with it:

My colleague Despina Gavoyannis has written a fantastic article about how to get SEO buy-in, here is a summary of her top tips:

  • Find key influencers and decision-makers within the organization, starting with cross-functional teams before approaching executives. (And don’t forget the people who’ll actually implement your changes—developers.)
  • Adapt your language and communicate the benefits of SEO initiatives in terms that resonate with different stakeholders’ priorities.
  • Highlight the opportunity costs of not investing in SEO by showing the potential traffic and revenue being missed out on using metrics like Ahrefs’ traffic value.
  • Collaborate cross-functionally by showing how SEO can support other teams’ goals, e.g. helping the editorial team create content that ranks for commercial queries.

And perhaps most important of all: build better business cases and SEO opportunity forecasts.

If you just want to show the short-term trend for a keyword, you can use Keywords Explorer:

Forecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerForecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
The forecasted trend is shown in orange as a dotted line.

If you want to show the Traffic potential of a particular keyword, you can use our Traffic potential metric in SERP overview to gauge this:

Traffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTraffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And if you want to go the whole hog, you can create an SEO forecast. You can use a third-party tool to create a forecast, but I recommend you use Patrick Stox’s SEO forecasting guide.

Final thoughts

Of all the SEO challenges mentioned above, the one keeping SEOs awake at night is AI.

It’s swept through our industry like a hurricane, presenting SEOs with many new challenges. The SERPs are changing, competitors are using AI tools, and the bar for creating basic content has been lowered, all thanks to AI.

If you want to stay competitive, you need to arm yourself with the best SEO tools and search data on the market—and for me, that always starts with Ahrefs.

Got questions? Ping me on X.



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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

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Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results

Schema.org has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized Schema.org vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • http://schema.org/ListItem (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/ImageObject (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Organization (907,701,098 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList (817,464,472 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebSite (712,198,821 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebPage (691,208,528 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Offer (623,956,111 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/SearchAction (614,892,152 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Person (582,460,344 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/EntryPoint (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these Schema.org types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Schema.org Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The Schema.org vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific Schema.org types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the Schema.org vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

More resources: 


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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

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