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E-commerce Marketing 101: How to Maximize Sales

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E-commerce Marketing 101: How to Maximize Sales

Marketing is one of the most important skills to learn as an e-commerce store owner. By learning marketing, you’ll always have a steady stream of new customers.

Plus, knowing the basics of marketing can get you ahead of the competition, and it’s valuable to have a base understanding if you ever hire marketing roles for your company.

In this guide, I share the five main marketing channels and how to use them, plus a few marketing tips to help you earn more and spend less.

The five main e-commerce marketing channels

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There are five main channels you can use to promote your products. They are:

  1. Search engines
  2. Social media sites
  3. Email inboxes
  4. Display ads
  5. Brand affiliates

Let’s talk about how you can use each of these channels in your e-commerce marketing plan.

1. Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing covers both organic and paid traffic from search engines like Google. 

Both are important. Take Solo Stove, for example. Its online store gets over 300,000 organic visits from Google every month—plus an additional ~28,000 monthly visits from paid ads:

Solo Stove traffic metrics using Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

In order to show up organically on the first page of Google’s search results, you need to learn and implement search engine optimization practices on your website. 

This includes things like:

  • Figuring out what keywords people are searching for to find your products.
  • Aligning with the search intent of the query.
  • Getting other websites to link to your website (aka backlinks).
  • And more.

I’ll discuss these steps in more detail in the “tips” section below. For now, if you want to learn more, check out our complete guide to e-commerce SEO.

Paid search ads

You can pay to “skip the line” and show up at the top of Google’s search results. This is called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and it’s a great complement to your SEO efforts. PPC ads are a quick and easy (albeit sometimes expensive) way to get in front of your target audience.

Here’s a chart explaining why you should utilize both PPC and SEO:

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Chart showing PPC vs. SEO ROI over time

What does this look like? You’ve probably seen ads like these, annotated with the word “Sponsored” next to them:

Google search results for "leather mens boots"

You can run Google Ads by creating an account, choosing the page you want to send visitors to, writing up various headlines and description ad copy, and selecting keywords to be displayed for. 

But there’s quite a bit more to it than that—it takes time and money to learn what works. Check out our guide to Google Ads basics to get started.

2. Social media marketing

Probably the most obvious place to market your e-commerce store is on the many social media apps. 

Again, with Solo Stove as an example—it uses both organic and paid social media marketing and has been able to gain over half a million TikTok followers, 347,000 Instagram followers, and almost 300,000 Facebook followers.

Solo Stove Instagram account

Let’s take a look at how you can do the same:

Organic social media marketing

Growing an organic following on social media is a great way to get your brand and products in front of people without spending a ton of money. However, it’s also a lot of work—especially if you plan on growing multiple channels.

If you’re not sure which channel(s) to use, a good starting point is SparkToro. You can type in a product keyword like “mens boots,” and it’ll show you social stats of relevant accounts:

SparkToro social insights

From here, if you hover over the social media icons, you can see the individual channel statistics. This tells you which channels brands have the most followers on, which can be a hint on which channels are most effective for them.

Instagram statistics for Who What Wear on SparkToro

Use this data to decide which channels you should invest your time in first. From there, check out this list of resources to learn more about how to grow your accounts.

Paid social media advertising

The other side of the coin is social media PPC ads. You can use ads to drive immediate sales—but at a cost. There’s a steep learning curve to maximizing sales while minimizing ad costs.

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That said, one of the easiest ways to run a successful social media ad is through retargeting customers who abandon carts. This works by putting a browser cookie on a visitor who adds an item to their cart but doesn’t check out, then using that cookie to show them ads on social media of the item they left in their cart.

Again, Solo Stove does this well. I added this heat deflector to my cart…

Solo Stove bonfire heat deflector in my cart

… then almost immediately saw this ad on my Facebook feed after leaving its site without buying:

Solo Stove Facebook retargeting ad

There’s a lot more you can do with these ads, though. Check out Mayple’s guide to social media advertising to learn more.

3. Email marketing

Email newsletters are typically one of the highest-converting traffic sources for e-commerce stores. This is because your email list, if done well, will be full of people who know who you are and have an active interest in your brand. That said, you need traffic to grow an email list, so it doesn’t make a good stand-alone marketing channel.

There are many ways to grow an email list, including:

  • Email opt-in forms on your site offering a discount or free information.
  • Collecting your customer’s emails when they make a purchase (with their permission, of course).
  • Running a giveaway for your products.

Once you have an email list, you can send them product updates, content from your blog, clearance sales, etc. 

Here’s an example from clothing brand Off The Grid, which uses its newsletter to give tips on how to get the most out of its clothes:

E-commerce email newsletter example

Just make sure you keep your list engaged by deleting inactive subscribers every three to six months and avoid sending too many emails. Your list is one of your biggest assets, so take care of it.

4. Display ads

Have you ever been bombarded by display ads on every website you visit after looking at an online store but leaving without buying anything? 

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Retargeting display ads following me around the internet

This is because the online store you visited placed a cookie in your browser that allowed it to “retarget” you with display ads across any websites that run these retargeting ads. What I already showed in the “social media ads” section above was a retargeting ad too.

It’s been found that it takes anywhere from 28–62 (or more) “touchpoints” to make a sale.

A “touchpoint” is any time a potential customer is shown a brand, either through an ad or by visiting your website or social media channel. Every time they see your brand or product, that’s one touchpoint.

That’s what makes these retargeting ads so effective. You can get multiple touchpoints of your product at a relatively low price compared to traditional PPC ads.

The catch is that you can only show retargeting ads to people who have either visited your website and allowed the cookie in their browser settings, or to people in your email list.

HubSpot has an excellent beginner’s guide to retargeting if you want to learn more.

You can also run general display ads, which are suitable for making people aware of your brand and products. You can use them to get people to your site, then run retargeting ads to those people who visited your initial ad but didn’t purchase.

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For example, Advance Auto Parts paid to show me these display ads across various blogs even though I haven’t visited its site before:

Example of display ads on a blog post

Check out Google Display Ads if that’s something you’re interested in.

5. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is where someone promotes your product or service and makes a commission any time they send you a sale. 

This typically works by giving your affiliate a unique ID that they include in their URL when they link to your website. It might look like this:

https://www.yourdomain.com/your-product?ref=UniqueAffiliateID

When a customer makes a sale through the URL with the unique affiliate ID attached, your affiliate program will attribute that sale to that particular affiliate so you can pay them their percent of the income.

For example, Solo Stove has an affiliate program, and I used to promote it in my articles and videos, like this blog post and YouTube video review: 

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Solo Stove bonfire review affiliate marketing example

To learn more about setting up an affiliate program for your e-commerce store, see this guide.

Seven best tips for marketing your e-commerce store

Now that you know where to promote your products, here are a few tips to help you maximize your sales and minimize your marketing costs:

1. Don’t compete solely on price

Above all, never get into a price war. You will never be able to compete with giant brands on price. They can afford to lose money until you’re long out of business.

Instead, compete on things like quality, customer service, experience, and value. 

Make sure the entire experience of finding your brand and buying from you is seamless and easy. And use your marketing to educate and entertain, not just to promote your product. If you offer people something of value first, they will be more likely to buy, even at a higher price point.

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For example, Squatty Potty both informs and entertains in what is arguably one of the best ads ever made:

Or, back to Solo Stove, it makes videos that teach you the best way to use its products:

2. Don’t offer big discounts

Offering discounts may be an easy way to make a quick buck. But in doing so, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. By offering frequent discounts, people may come to expect your discounts and won’t buy your products at full price because they know discounts are coming.

3. Begin with keyword research

Search engines can be a lucrative source of free marketing if you’re able to rank highly on them. But SEO can take years—especially for a beginner.

That’s why it’s best to do some keyword research to figure out what your customers are searching for so you can start optimizing your site right away. (You’ll thank me in two years.)

You can do this with Ahrefs’ free keyword generator tool. Type in a broad keyword that describes your products, and the tool will spit out keyword ideas with some basic data:

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Ahrefs' keyword generator tool showing results for "leather boots"

Keep in mind that you’ll want to find different keywords for different purposes. 

For example, “brown leather boots” may be a good keyword for your category page, while your product pages may be better served with more specific keywords like “brown leather ugg boots” or “womens brown leather knee high boots.” 

Basically, use broad keywords for category pages and specific keywords for product pages. Again, refer to our e-commerce SEO guide to learn more.

4. Optimize your website for search and conversions

Continuing from the last tip, you should take the keyword research you did and optimize your category and product pages for their best keywords. 

This is called on-page SEO, and it involves:

  • Talking about your target keyword in your title, URL, and within the page itself.
  • Writing a compelling title tag and description to make your result stand out on the SERPs.
  • Optimizing your images to load fast and have descriptive filenames and alt text.
  • Including internal links between your pages to make them easy to find.

There’s a bit more that goes into it, so read our on-page SEO guide to learn more.

Beyond SEO, you should also optimize your website for conversions. After all, you don’t want to spend all this time and money on marketing only to lose sales, right?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) includes things like using high-quality images, effective copywriting, and clean website design with minimal distractions. I highly recommend going through Shopify’s CRO guide.

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5. Start a blog

Having a great product and effective ads can only take you so far. If you want to utilize organic marketing channels like social media, search engines, and newsletters, you need to offer more than just advertisements for your products.

That’s where content comes in.

Photos, videos, and blog posts give you the ability to capture customers at different stages in the marketing funnel whom you otherwise wouldn’t have sold to.

Here’s what this may look like and what people may search for at each stage:

Marketing funnel stages and example searches at each stage

Let’s say you own a shoe store. A potential customer has a problem; they need a good pair of waterproof shoes that are functional but also look good. So they do a Google search for “stylish mens waterproof shoes” (the “service or product” stage).

The results aren’t shoe stores. They’re all blogs that talk about shoes:

Google search results for "stylish mens waterproof shoes"

It’s possible for you to write a blog post of your own with the goal of ranking well for that keyword and promoting your own shoes. You can also use that article as content to add to your email newsletter and social media feeds.

Pro Tip

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It will also be a great idea to reach out to all the blogs that are ranking to try and get them to include your shoes as well. If you start an affiliate program, you can tell them about it, and they’ll be more likely to include your products since they have an incentive.

Expand this idea for other issues potential customers may have, like learning different ways to tie shoes or ideas for outfits that can go with your shoes. You’re only limited by your creativity.

Check out my guide to e-commerce blogging to learn more.

6. Create video content

Video content is becoming more and more important. If you want to do well on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and even Facebook, you need to make videos. Plus, many of the SERPs now contain video results in addition to blog pages.

For example, we manage to rank for the keyword “learn seo” with both a blog post and a YouTube video:

SERP results for "learn seo" showing both a YouTube video and blog post from Ahrefs

We wrote a full guide to video SEO if you want to learn how we did it.

But what kind of videos should you create? 

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It depends on your audience, the platform, and your product. In general, shorter videos do better than long ones, like this five-second TikTok by Guess that got over 800,000 views:

Of course, there are a lot of ways to utilize video in your marketing plan, and there’s plenty of space for longer videos. Check out our guide to video marketing to learn more.

7. Make standard operating procedures

Many of your marketing tasks will be repeatable. Things like outlining your content, sharing your posts, and even running ads can all be standardized to make things quicker and easier.

This is why you should create standard operating procedures for these tasks. A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a document that outlines exactly how to do a task step by step—often with screenshots or videos—that allows you to hand off the task to a virtual assistant to free up your time and streamline the process.

For example, we have a guide to creating SEO SOPs. But you can make an SOP for any repeatable task, such as: 

  • Creating blog or product images.
  • Adding new products to your newsletter and social media feeds.
  • And so much more.

Here’s an example of a step in our SOP for creating content at Ahrefs:

Excerpt of an SOP

Creating an SOP is easy. Just create a Google Doc and use headings to organize your task into steps and add screenshots or even videos to show the process. The clearer and more concise you can be, the better. 

Final thoughts

Learning e-commerce marketing is a surefire way to make a lot more money from your online store. There’s a lot to learn, so take it one thing at a time.

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Eventually, you should aim to hire a VA or marketing team to help with these tasks so you can focus on other areas of your business. Having a basic understanding of how they’re done will help you make good hiring decisions.

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An In-Depth Guide And Best Practices For Mobile SEO

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Mobile SEO: An In-Depth Guide And Best Practices

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

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

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

What Is Mobile SEO And Why Is It Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile-First Indexing

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

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

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

How Much Of Your Traffic Is From Mobile?

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

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

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

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

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

You can also set up a report in Looker Studio.

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

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

Read more: Why Mobile And Desktop Rankings Are Different

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How To Check If Your Site Is Mobile-Friendly

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

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

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

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

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

To use, install the Lighthouse Chrome extension.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Google PageSpeed Insights Reports: A Technical Guide

How To Optimize Your Site Mobile-First

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

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

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

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

Read more: Top 7 SEO Benefits Of Responsive Web Design

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Best Practices For Mobile Optimization

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

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

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

Site Rendering

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

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

Responsive design is the most common of the two options.

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

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

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

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

This is the approach that Google recommends.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: An Introduction To Rendering For SEO

Interaction to Next Paint (INP)

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

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

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

What qualifies as an optimal INP score?

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

and these are common issues causing poor INP scores:

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

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

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

INP scores by GeosINP scores by Geos

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

Image Optimization

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid Intrusive Interstitials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Structured Data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: 10 Tips For Creating Mobile-Friendly Content

Tap Targets

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

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

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

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

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

Prioritizing These Tips

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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SEO

HARO Has Been Dead for a While

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HARO Has Been Dead for a While

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

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

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

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

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

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Here’s one of them: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So… I decided to confront him 😉 

Here’s what he said: 

Hunch, confirmed ;)Hunch, confirmed ;)

Shocker. 

I pressed him for more details: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sidenote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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Google Clarifies Vacation Rental Structured Data

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Google updates their vacation rental structured data documentation

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

Vacation Rentals Structured Data

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

VacationRental Structured Data Type Definitions

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

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

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

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

Address Schema.org property

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

This is what was recommended before:

“streetAddress”: “1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy.”

This is what it now recommends:

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

Address Property Change Description

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

The description before the change:

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

The description after the change:

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

This is repeated in the section for address.streetAddress property

This is what it recommended before:

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

And this is what it recommends now:

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

Clarification And Not A Change

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

Read the updated structured data guidance:

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Vacation rental (VacationRental) structured data

Featured Image by Shutterstock/New Africa

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