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Competitive Analysis: A Comprehensive 9-Step Guide

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Competitive Analysis: A Comprehensive 9-Step Guide

A competitive analysis is one of the most important pieces of work you’ll do, especially if you’re starting with a new client or employer.

It’s a vital component of a successful SEO strategy.

As SEO pros, how can we do our jobs if we don’t understand the lay of the land?

The knowledge we gain from a competitor analysis makes us much better, more informed consultants. It helps us pinpoint areas of opportunities and threats.

These are some of the questions that competitor analysis can help us answer.

Gaining context on the competitive landscape:

  • What can we learn from our competitors?
  • Why do we believe competitors rank well?
  • What aren’t competitors doing that we can take advantage of?

Providing valuable business intelligence:

  • Who are the most visible competitors? Is there a distinction between ‘traditional competitors’ and ‘SEO competitors’?
  • Do they perform well for transactional or informational terms? Or both?
  • Are competitors growing their brand awareness?

Showing what a competitor is doing better than you is one of the best ways to get stakeholder buy-in.

Need help getting started with your competitive analysis? I created a checklist with everything you need  – and in this article, we’ll cover a comprehensive nine-step guide to conducting your own analysis.

Make sure you make a copy of the checklist to edit your own version.

How To Use The Checklist

I’ve split the checklist into two sections:

Domain-Wide Analysis

These sections focus on domain (or subdomain) level analysis and aim to uncover a domain’s relative strength or performance.

For example, backlink data.

Page Type Analysis

These sections focus on specific page type analysis. For instance, assessing the UX, design, and content of a page type.

Page types can include:

  • Homepage.
  • Category, product, or service pages.
  • Blog/guide pages.

When working through page type sections, view samples of different page types for your site and your competitors.

Additionally, ensure that you compare the same page types for a fair comparison.

For example, you wouldn’t want to compare a product page from one site against a category page on another site.

Task Notes

For some checklist items, task notes are provided to help with the analysis.

There are also “Opportunities” and “Threats” columns that you can use to brain dump things you notice during the analysis. I find it a great way to free up headspace and organize notes you might return to.

Now, let’s dive into the nine steps to conducting a competitive analysis.

1. Identifying The Search Landscape

This part of the analysis will show the competitive landscape based on estimated traffic share.

This will form the foundation of your analysis.

What You’ll Look At

  • Who are your search competitors?
  • Estimated traffic share (segmented by intent and topics).

Gathering Your Data

For this section, you’ll need:

Requirement 1: A relevant, non-branded keyword research list with associated search volumes.

Requirement 2: Keywords classified by intent and topics.

If you don’t have an extensive keyword research list and/or there isn’t intent classification, you can do a bit of quick and dirty research:

Enter your domain into a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs.

In Semrush, there is a “Main Organic Competitors” feature; in Ahrefs, the same feature is called “Competing domains.”

The video below demonstrates how to enter a domain into Semrush to see organic competitors:

 

  • Select the top performing competitors (2–5 competitors will do). You’ll be entering these domains into either Semrush or Ahrefs to extract the keywords they rank for.
  • To help speed up the intent classification, extract the keywords and ranking URLs that a blog subfolder, i.e., exampledomain.com/blog/ (or subdomain, i.e., blog.example.com), ranks for. You can then classify these keywords as “informational.”
  • Enter the domains again, but exclude the blog subfolders this time. These keywords can be classified as “transactional.”

I also recommend setting the tools to only extract keywords that rank between positions 1-20 to help avoid pulling through irrelevant keywords.

You may need to spend several hours refining that initial list to ensure it makes sense.

Semrush has a feature that defines the intent of keywords when you export them. This can also help speed up the eyeballing of your keyword list.

Unless you’re going to spend hours classifying keywords by topics, you might have to give topic classification a miss. It’s not the end of the world for this task.

Requirement 3: Click-through rates (CTRs) to get estimated traffic share. Advanced Web Ranking is my go-to choice for getting CTR values.

The formula you need to apply to get estimated traffic share is:

CTR * keyword search volume = estimated traffic share.

Your ‘search landscape’ data might look something like the below:

Screenshot from Ahrefs, August 2022
Only one domain is shown in the screenshot, but the tab should contain all ranks, ranking URLs, and estimated traffic for all domains analyzed, including your own domain.

Requirement 4: Finally, segment your data and create your visuals.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Outlining who the leaders are when it comes to estimated traffic. Do they perform well for both informational and transactional keywords?
  • Understanding what topics competitors perform well for.
  • Understanding whether competitors have invested in informational content.
  • Evaluating whether any of the insights should be considered a threat.

To bring some color to the outcomes, I worked with a client whose competitor had clearly invested in informational content.

The chart below illustrates that the content was estimated to generate significant monthly traffic.

A bar chart showing estimated traffic share for informational keywords.Screenshot from Ahrefs, August 2022

This was considered a threat (and opportunity) and helped advance the buy-in to develop a content strategy.

Remember that showcasing what competitors are doing better is often one of the best ways to get stakeholder buy-in.

2. Backlink Profile

This part of the analysis will outline the strength of competitor sites from a backlink perspective.

While backlinks aren’t as influential as they used to be, they’re still a core part of Google’s ranking algorithms.

What You’ll Look At

  • Overall domain link profile strength.
  • Homepage link profile strength.
  • Correlations between link quality and ranking in positions 1-3.
  • Who’s acquiring more linking domains over time?

Gathering Your Data

Majestic SEO is my go-to tool for backlink data and, therefore, will be the choice of tool for the metrics we want to analyze.

However, feel free to use comparative metrics from other tools.

For this section, you’ll need:

Requirement 1: Overall domain Trust Flow and referring domains for each domain you’re analyzing.

Requirement 2: Homepage Trust Flow and referring domains for each domain you’re analyzing.

Requirement 3: Average Trust Flow of URLs that have keywords ranking in positions 1–3 and the count of ranking keywords in positions 1–3.

You’ll need to return to your search landscape spreadsheet and pull through Trust Flow scores for each URL.

Majestic has a Bulk Backlink feature that will allow you to get Trust Flow URL data, or you could even use Screaming Frog to sync to the Majestic API.

And your search landscape tab should have the keyword ranks for each domain you’re analyzing. From that, you can pull through the count of ranking keywords in positions 1–3 for each domain.

Requirement 4: To view monthly referring domain link acquisition over time in Majestic, click Tools > Compare Domains > Backlink History.

The interface and selected options will look something like the below:

Majestic resultsScreenshot from Majestic, August 2022

I often select Cumulative for the View mode option, which shows ever-increasing link totals. This can help see clearer trends as to whether a particular domain is acquiring links at a faster pace.

Make sure you select Historic Index as well, as it will allow you to see historic link data trends going back years.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Identifying who might have a ranking edge due to stronger link profiles.
  • The need to invest in tactical link building if there’s a correlation between link quality and ranking in positions 1–3.
  • Evaluating the threat of competitors acquiring links faster than your site.

As illustrated by the chart below, a competitor (blue line) had acquired links faster than my client (purple line) for several years.

link acquisitionScreenshot from Majestic, August 2022

Over time, this could hurt SEO and potentially brand awareness.

Showcasing this data helped facilitate further investment in link building activities.

3. Brand Awareness

This section looks at how your brand awareness stacks up against competitors.

The importance of brand awareness is indisputable; Think of things like brand association and recall.

It can also indirectly benefit SEO.

For instance, the more people that are aware of your brand, the more likely they are to link to you or search for your brand, to begin with.

A more debatable theory is the direct link between brand awareness and rankings.

Regardless, given the impact brand awareness can have on a business, it’s useful to know how you stack up against competitors.

What You’ll Look At

  • Who has the strongest brand awareness?
  • Who has the strongest product/service association?

From this, you can get an idea of:

  • If you’re ahead of your competitors.
  • If your competitors are closing the gap or further increasing their brand awareness.
  • If competitors have a topical authority advantage.

Gathering Your Data

Google Trends is the tool of choice to use here.

For this section, you’ll need:

Requirement 1: To add {brand name} into Google Trends (e.g. “boohoo”).

Requirement 2: To add {brand name} {product / service} into Google Trends (e.g “boohoo dresses”).

You can manually use the Google Trends interface to get these insights, and the output will look like the below:

Google Trends interfaceScreenshot for Google Trends, August 2022

However, automating the process using Python and the Google Trends API is the way to go if you need to scale a large data set.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Identifying that competitors have a potential ranking advantage for certain topics.
  • The need to invest in brand-building activities to close (or increase) the gap on competitors.

4. Internal Linking

This section looks at how sites are using internal linking to their advantage.

We all know the importance of internal linking.

Whether it’s to pass on PageRank or to help Google better understand your content, it’s a vital part of SEO.

What You’ll Look At

  • Do competitors use the main navigation and footer to link to strategically important pages?
  • Do competitors link to topically relevant pages? For example, a TV category page would link to different types of TVs, different brands of TVs, etc.
  • Are there links to supporting informational content?
  • The use of descriptive anchor text.

Gathering Your Data

This will require a bit of manual digging and running crawls to scale insights.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Better internal linking to topically relevant pages.
  • Recommending linking to informational pages from transactional pages (and vice versa) to improve the perceived value of pages to users and Google.
  • Optimizing the top-level navigation to better support key pages through PageRank distribution. Particularly valid if users navigate to these pages in large numbers.

5. On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization has been a foundation of SEO since its inception and continues to be one of the most influential means of moving the needle.

This section will look at on-page elements such as title tags.

Internal linking and content have their own dedicated sections.

Gathering Your Data

This section falls under page type analysis.

You can use the search landscape tab to categorize different page types quickly, or you could use a crawler tool, such as Screaming Frog, to get a deeper view of the different page types a site has.

I recommend using a crawler tool (list mode or crawl) to extract on-page elements for efficiency.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Recommending to keep the title or headings tags shorter and/or descriptive of pages.
  • Testing CTAs in title tags and meta descriptions (e.g., “Free Delivery,” “Lowest Prices,” etc.)
  • The need for descriptive alt text to encourage image thumbnails in search results.

6. UX, Design, And Content

This section examines whether a site’s UX, design, and content make it easy to understand and navigate.

In essence, we want to know how useful and engaging the user experience of a site is.

Does the user experience make it easy for a user to complete an action?

Or is the site difficult to understand and navigate – and, therefore, more likely to lead to a bounce back to search results?

The link between user engagement metrics (think pogo-sticking and CTR) and the impact on SEO have long been debated.

At the very least, it’s fair to argue there’s an indirect link with SEO.

For instance, a site that provides a good user experience is more likely to get a backlink, return visits, and so on.

However, beyond SEO, we know a site with a good user experience has a better chance of affecting the bottom line.

Overall, it’s an important area to assess.

What You’ll Look At

  • Assessing if the content is useful for users.
  • Assessing if the content answers users’ questions and fulfills their needs.
  • Assessing if the content is easy to understand and read.

Gathering Your Data

Notably, this part of the analysis is qualitative heavy and incorporates elements of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (QRGs). This is a nice summary of the guidelines if you want to learn more.

This section falls under page type analysis, so you’ll want to look at and compare pages manually.

Avoid analyzing blog/guide content for this part. The importance of informational content means it’s worthy of its own dedicated section.

You can use the search landscape tab to categorize different page types quickly, or you could use a crawler tool, such as Screaming Frog, to get a deeper view of the different page types a site has.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Highlighting the need to make the proposition clear and easy to understand.
  • The need to break up large blocks of text and sections into digestible formats.
  • The need to use relevant, non-generic imagery.

One client had used a lot of stock images.

This is a poor practice in general, as people have to work harder to understand what is being offered, which can negatively impact the conversion rate.

This was compounded by competitors who used relevant, high-quality imagery.

When we updated imagery to be more relevant, we generated more thumbnail images in search results and took up more real estate.

7. Blog/Guide Content

In this section, you’ll review and compare informational content produced by competitors.

Informational content is important. It can have a range of benefits, including:

  • Diversifying traffic.
  • Brand building. The more people that land on a certain brand’s blog or see their blog ranking in search results, the more likely they are to search for the brand directly.
  • Passive link building.
  • Building retargeting lists for paid media.

What You’ll Look At

  • The UX and design of content.
  • Quality of content.
  • The credibility of authors.
  • How content is syndicated.
  • The effectiveness of the content in acquiring links.

Gathering Your Data

This section is largely qualitative-focused.

You’ll manually review blog homepages and a sample of different content pieces.

However, this section can be a great opportunity to combine qualitative and quantitative insights, which can be an impactful way to really hammer home the story you’re trying to tell.

I love data as much as the next SEO professional, but I think we can bury our heads in spreadsheets a little too deep sometimes.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Recommending using varied types of content (e.g., video, when it makes sense).
  • Improving the UX/design of the blog.
  • Showcasing how useful informational content can be in generating links.

The last takeaway can be an ideal chance to combine qualitative and quantitative insights.

For example, comparing the quality of UX and content (qualitative) with how many links competitor informational content generates relative to your own (quantitative)  can tell a compelling story.

While I can’t show the qualitative aspects, the chart below tells a story in its own right.

A bar chart showing the number of referring domains pointing to blog content.Screenshot from Majestic, August 2022

This further reinforced the need to invest in informational content for a client.

8. Core Web Vitals

In this section, you’ll review how performance stacks ups against competitors.

Improving Core Web Vitals (CWV) has been a priority for many sites since it became a core part of Google’s page experience update.

The relationship between performance and conversion is also well documented.

What You’ll Look At

CWV Chrome UX data for your site and competitors for the below metrics:

Gathering Your Data

There are many existing guides out there that detail the process of extracting CWV data, including this CWV auditing guide, so I won’t go into the details.

However, to clarify, you’ll need to extract CWV performance for both your competitors and your own site.

This is another page type section. If you’ve worked through the UX, design, and content sections, you should already have categorized pages by page type.

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Opportunity sizing. If you perform relatively well (and better than your competitors), then happy days! You know it’s not an area of priority. Conversely, the opposite is also valid.
  • Highlighting the specific CWV metrics that require improvement, particularly if they fall within the ‘red’ range.
  • The need to perform a dedicated CWV audit to provide recommendations to improve performance.

Once again, it’s a lot easier to get stakeholder buy-in for further audits when you can showcase competitors are performing better for these metrics.

9. Structured Data

This section looks at the structured data markup competitors use to enhance their search result snippet.

Enhancing the way your listing stands out in search results is a great way to take up more real estate and increase your CTR.

What You’ll Look At

Structured data markup that enhances search result snippets, for example:

Gathering Your Data

Screaming Frog is your friend once again.

You can simply select some configurations that will extract structured data on pages when running a crawl of your competitors.

To configure Screaming Frog, click Configuration > Spider > Extraction > Click the Structured Data options:

How To Use The Insights Gained From This Section

Some common takeaways include:

  • Learning the different types of structured data markup types competitors use to enhance their search result snippet.
  • The different page types competitors implement structured data on.
  • The lack of structured data used by competitors.

The last takeaway is often an interesting insight.

It comes back to what I mentioned at the beginning of the article: What aren’t competitors doing that we can take advantage of?

In my experience, identifying a means to one-up competitors helped prioritize implementing structured data across key page types for a client.

This wouldn’t have been the case had I not shown a clear area of opportunity.

Conclusion

Competitor analysis is a fundamental task you must carry out if you want to create a truly impactful SEO strategy – and be the best consultant you can be for your client.

You can ascertain which challenges and threats need your immediate attention, which opportunities you can jump on for maximum value, and also provide clear business intelligence to help your team get buy-in from clients.

Now you can really get to work, start digging into areas of opportunity and create a real impact for your brand or team.

More resources:


Featured Image: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock



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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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