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How to Measure SEO ROI (Incl. 6 Challenges of Calculating It)

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SEO ROI (return on investment) estimates the business value of all SEO activities in contrast to their cost. It’s one of the most common topics any SEO consultant or manager has to address when it comes to allocating marketing budgets and resources.

In its essence, calculating ROI is quite easy and straightforward. But in SEO, there are many caveats you should be aware of. Those ultimately make measuring and interpreting ROI one of the most complex and challenging problems you can face in SEO.

But we’ve got you covered and will share the ins and outs of measuring SEO ROI. In this article, we’ll go through these:

Let’s dive in.

The ROI formula for SEO is simple in essence:

SEO ROI = (value of organic conversions – cost of SEO investments)/cost of SEO investments

In other words, you need to divide the SEO profit by the associated SEO costs. Let’s expand on each variable because it can be quite tricky to get to some final numbers.

1. Calculate your SEO investments

Organic search is often viewed as a “free traffic” channel, but that’s devaluing the huge time investments that usually go into it. And those are not the only associated SEO costs.

SEO investments can usually be divided into four categories:

  1. In-house employees – It’s obvious to count in dedicated SEO and content creation staff, but you should also account for the required designer and developer resources.
  2. SEO freelancers and agencies – This is straightforward. And if you hire SEO freelancers or agencies, they can and, in many cases, should be the ones measuring SEO ROI.
  3. SEO tools – Count in all your subscriptions for dedicated SEO tools like Ahrefs. You can also partially include the costs of tools used by the broader marketing department if you also use them for SEO (e.g., Similarweb, BuzzSumo, HARO, PR software, etc.).
  4. Content distribution and link building – As we know, SEO doesn’t end with publishing content. Consider partially including costs of content promotion efforts. Also, if you buy links as one of your link building tactics, count that in. Google and many SEOs warn against buying links, but the reality of link building is often different.

Combine these costs over your desired period of time. Now, choosing the time period is one of the big challenges. We’ll expand on that later, but you can start with monthly comparisons for the sake of simplicity.

2. Calculate the value of your organic traffic conversions

You need proper conversion tracking in Google Analytics (or its alternatives) to get this number. Segment the traffic to “organic” and check the value of conversions that you want to account for in the ROI calculations:

Conversions data in GA4

The type of conversions and how you assign conversion values will differ from business to business.

It’s pretty straightforward for e-commerce businesses, as they send the value of sales conversions to GA.

But, for example, it may be more complex for lead generation businesses. For them, it can be helpful to assign dollar values to new marketing or sales-qualified leads.

3. Account for the value of assisted conversions

Historically, we often had to get used to working with the default “last non-direct click” attribution model in Universal Analytics.

It’s a flawed model in most cases because it assigns 100% of the conversion credit to a single marketing channel closest to the conversion event.

Here’s a good sports analogy for understanding this: It’s similar to you only praising players who score a goal. Goalkeepers and those responsible for defense won’t be too happy.

Your website likely drives organic traffic at all stages of the customer journey. Even one piece of content can target multiple steps in the marketing funnel:

Table showing four questions with corresponding answers that are used to decide which stage(s) of the marketing funnel a blog article servesTable showing four questions with corresponding answers that are used to decide which stage(s) of the marketing funnel a blog article serves

For example, people may land on 10 of your articles from Google and then convert after clicking a search or retargeting ad. In that case, you’ll want to see that initial organic search contribution.

The shift to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) partially solves this problem via utilizing a data-driven attribution (DDA) model by default (more on that later).

The conversions and the values you see in all GA4 reports already account for the partial contributions of organic traffic to the overall website conversions. If you already use GA4, you don’t technically need to dive into the assisted conversions report.

Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to check and analyze the conversion paths of your visitors and how each channel contributes to conversions.

For Universal Analytics, I already covered the process of analyzing assisted organic conversions.

In GA4, go to Advertising > Attribution > Conversion paths, select the conversion event you want to analyze, and check the impact of organic search throughout customer journeys:

Data on conversion paths in GA4Data on conversion paths in GA4

You can also filter the organic traffic only to get the most relevant data, as seen in the table below:

Conversion path data in GA4 (filter organic traffic only) Conversion path data in GA4 (filter organic traffic only)

The screenshots and data come from the official GA4 demo account, so the conversion paths are simplistic and won’t be like that in most cases. Also, feel free to play around with other attribution models to get some interesting insights there.

I can imagine this simplified process of calculating SEO ROI only raises more questions, so it’s time to dive deeper into all the nuances and caveats.

Six main challenges of measuring SEO ROI

You should be aware of these challenges to calculate SEO ROI and all the other related metrics as best as you can. I’ll provide a few recommendations to apply in practice along the way.

1. Marketing attribution is inherently flawed

Marketing attribution is one of those topics that provoke many discussions. We have experts on completely opposite sides of the fence.

Some say it’s almost never worth the resources to try and solve it properly and that you should trust your gut instead. Others are convinced that proper attribution can be almost always reasonably achieved.

One thing is for sure. Attributing conversions to marketing channels is inherently flawed regardless of the attribution model used. Heuristic models like the last non-direct click will just be much more flawed than the new DDA.

Customer journeys and touchpoints are often much more complex than analytics software makes them look.

Here’s a great example of a specific buyer’s journey of a SparkToro customer. (SparkToro is the SaaS company of Rand Fishkin, who is one of those experts on the “better trust your gut” side of things.)

Let’s take a look:

As mentioned earlier, organic search traffic is a marketing channel that can span the whole customer journey from awareness to retention. Attribution is especially tricky here, so let’s discuss the implications further.

DDA is a solid solution for this that will likely shift many people closer to the “proper attribution is possible” camp. But it still doesn’t solve many other problems. It’s a black box that gets more accurate with increasing traffic and conversions.

Unless you have “higher” hundreds (or ideally thousands of conversions) a month, I’d still take those numbers with a huge grain of salt. And ultimately, no matter the attribution model, you still don’t see data from sessions where the tracking code wasn’t fired (e.g., ad blockers and quick bounces).

2. The connection between SEO and brand-building

Let’s say you browse through some YouTube videos and see someone talking about an interesting product. You Google that brand or product, head to the website, and make a purchase. Organic traffic gets 100% attribution for the conversion.

You can come up with many other scenarios where the only organic search interaction is through branded queries. SEO gets the credit when it shouldn’t.

On the other hand, you can have strong SEO with high search visibility on the SERPs throughout the whole funnel. It’s perfectly capable of converting many prospects from start to finish by itself.

But social media ads, display ads, and search ads get in the way and make a bigger contribution to the conversion just because they’re more prominent.

DDA in GA4 partly solves this problem, but it still can’t take into account the branding aspect of SEO. The brand awareness and salience you build by being seen in top-of-the-funnel content either through your own content production or by outreach aren’t things we can measure well.

Not being able to segment branded vs. non-branded organic traffic with conversion data makes all of this difficult to assess.

3. We can’t measure the retention impact of SEO

Ahrefs is a great example of this. We produce product-led content that’s constantly educating our (potential) customers about all the ways they can use our tools to solve their SEO and marketing problems.

As we neither use GA nor store cookies, I can’t back this up with data. But I’d estimate that 20-30% of organic traffic visits to our blog come from people who are already Ahrefs customers.

The retention impact of SEO, in this case, can be divided into two categories:

  • As people learn to squeeze more out of our toolset, they start using the tool more and more, which leads to lowering churn rates.
  • Content about tools and features included in higher-priced plans makes some people upgrade their monthly subscriptions.

In other words, SEO has the power to increase the customer lifetime value, as many pieces of content also overlap with the retention and nurturing stages of the marketing funnel.

But again, it is difficult or even impossible to take this impact into account when calculating the SEO ROI.

4. Huge time discrepancies between “investment” and “return” periods

The variables in calculating ROI are the investments and returns over certain time periods. But when we look at that on the whole website and business level, it’s impossible to tie specific investments to specific returns in SEO.

This is where the simplified principle of comparing the same monthly periods of “investments” and “returns” fails.

SEO can take a lot of time to provide returns on the investment. Yes, you can certainly have quick wins. But nothing is guaranteed.

A good alternative to choosing arbitrary time periods is to be more granular and start calculating ROI on the category, page, or keyword level. You can measure well the “return” of ranking with particular pages and can also know most of the “investments” that went into it.

We’d still omit technical SEO and other related costs and efforts that are usually applied to a broader scope of the website at once. But these partial costs are unlikely to shift a specific page from positive to negative ROI, so feel free to leave them out for simplicity’s sake—as long as you’re aware of them.

5. SEO testing has limited capabilities

One way to better understand the contribution of a marketing channel to overarching marketing objectives is to stop running campaigns on it for a while and see what happens.

For example, we ran such an experiment with PPC channels:

What you’d be looking for here is marketing incrementality—the lift the channel brings on top of a specific outcome that happens anyway.

Let’s say the outcome we want to monitor is conversions, so we’d be looking at how many conversions we’d still get if we halted specific marketing activities.

The problem with SEO is that you can’t just turn it off. Or well, you can. But no sane marketer will ever deploy noindex robots meta tag on the whole website.

Organic search is simply one of the most important channels for many businesses, and sabotaging your own SEO can have long-term detrimental effects.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t run SEO experiments and tests. You absolutely can. There’s been quite a lot of development and coverage about SEO testing in recent years.

But for the purpose of measuring incrementality and ROI, it is close to impossible for the vast majority of websites to come up with a good hypothesis and valid testing scenarios.

6. Forecasting future ROI

Last but not least, as SEOs, we’re often asked about the expected outcomes and ROI of certain SEO activities. This can get even more complicated, as SEO forecasting is a discipline on its own and can clash with all the aforementioned challenges as well.

Don’t try to beat around the bush. Instead, face the uncertainty head-on. Setting up SEO objectives and making sure we’re on the right track to achieving them is a crucial part of our job. Having good communication skills is another.

A good way to approach this is to consider the following factors when coming up with specific numbers:

  • Past SEO performance of the page(s) or a website and its competitors
  • Compounded traffic potential of the content in question
  • Estimation of an average conversion rate (can be applied just to the bottom-of-the-funnel content for simplicity’s sake)

For SEO performance, a good start is to look up your website in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, head over to the Performance chart in the Overview report, and add all your relevant competitors:

Site Explorer overview of ahrefs.comSite Explorer overview of ahrefs.com

You can also check the traffic value (estimated monthly cost of traffic from all keywords a site is ranking for if paid via PPC):

Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of traffic value for ahrefs.com and three other competitors Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of traffic value for ahrefs.com and three other competitors

And the number of organic pages:

Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of organic pages for ahrefs.com and three other competitors Line graph and pop-up list showing overview of organic pages for ahrefs.com and three other competitors

This should give you an idea about the relationship between the content output and organic traffic in your niche. It still leaves out link building activities and technical SEO, but that will only complicate things here even more.

As for the traffic potential, paste all the keywords you plan to target with the new proposed content into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and take a look at the Traffic Potential (TP) column:

Keywords Explorer's Overview report results Keywords Explorer's Overview report results

TP in Ahrefs shows how much organic traffic the #1 ranking page for your target keyword receives from all the keywords that it ranks for in your target country. You can either analyze this on a keyword-to-keyword basis or export the list to sum up the column values.

And lastly, we have the conversion. You should already have this data available for similar content in the tracking software, and you can also look up and/or survey other websites in your niche.

By the end of this, you can extrapolate and estimate the outcome of all the proposed SEO activities. Or you can go more “granular,” as that information will always be more accurate and easier to communicate.

Of course, stay away from any guarantees. But saying something along the lines of “I expect that [SEO activity] can increase traffic by X, which could bring Y conversions” can work when you set up the right expectations.

Alternative approach to measuring SEO ROI

To be honest, I’m in the camp advocating that it’s not even necessary to calculate the ROI of your SEO and related content marketing efforts. This is especially true if you can prioritize content creation and other SEO tasks well.

Our CMO, Tim Soulo, wrote a great Twitter thread about the ROI of content marketing that’s highly relevant to this topic and also shows how we think about that in Ahrefs:

So what’s the alternative? Choosing and tracking the most suitable SEO KPI that’s not based on conversions.

The best candidate for this KPI, in most cases, is search visibility. It’s the SEO version of one of the most important marketing KPIs, share of voice (SOV), which measures how visible your brand is in the market.

That’s important because there’s a strong relationship between SOV and market share. Generally speaking, the higher your SOV, the bigger your share of the pie.

Line graph showing the higher your SOV, the more your market shareLine graph showing the higher your SOV, the more your market share

For the most accurate tracking of search visibility, paste the keywords that matter to you into Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker. Note that these should be the main keywords that encompass what your target audience is searching for (don’t bother with long-tails).

Rank Tracker page where user can add keywords to track; notably, "SOV" tag has been addedRank Tracker page where user can add keywords to track; notably, "SOV" tag has been added

From there, head to the Competitors Overview tab and check the Visibility column:

Competitor Overview tab showing visibility data for Ahrefs and two competitors Competitor Overview tab showing visibility data for Ahrefs and two competitors

That’s it. As long as you see a long-term growth trend in the search visibility for your website, you should be confident that your SEO efforts are paying off.

I know this isn’t a possible alternative for many teams that are required to show “money metrics,” but it’s definitely worth tracking as one of your SEO KPIs.

Final thoughts

I could have taken the easy path here and just touched the surface without diving into all the challenges and caveats of calculating SEO ROI. But this is what stakeholders care about the most, so we should all be knowledgeable and confident in communicating these matters.

Many topics covered here can be in-depth standalone articles. If you’re interested in learning more about everything related to marketing analytics and attribution, I highly recommend you check out the blog of Avinash Kaushik.

Got questions or interesting insights regarding SEO ROI? Ping me on Twitter.

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

LinkedIn is launching several new features for people who publish newsletters on its platform.

The professional networking site wants to make it easier for creators to grow their newsletter audiences and engage readers.

More People Publishing Newsletters On LinkedIn

The company says the number of LinkedIn members publishing newsletter articles has increased by 59% over the past year.

Engagement on these creator-hosted newsletters is also up 47%.

With this growing interest, LinkedIn is updating its newsletter tools.

A New Way To View & Comment

One of the main changes is an updated reading experience that displays comments alongside the newsletter articles.

This allows readers to view and participate in discussions more easily while consuming the content.

See an example of the new interface below.

Screenshot from: linkedin.com, June 2024.

Design Your Own Cover Images

You can now use Microsoft’s AI-powered Designer tool to create custom cover images for their newsletters.

The integration provides templates, size options, and suggestions to help design visually appealing covers.

More Subscriber Notifications

LinkedIn is improving the notifications sent to newsletter subscribers to drive more readership.

When a new issue is published, subscribers will receive email alerts and in-app messages. LinkedIn will also prompt your followers to subscribe.

Mention Other Profiles In Articles

You can now embed links to other LinkedIn profiles and pages directly into their newsletter articles.

This lets readers click through and learn more about the individuals or companies mentioned.

In the example below, you can see it’s as easy as adding a link.

1718346362 491 LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter ToolsScreenshot from: linkedin.com, June 2024.

Preview Links Before Publishing

Lastly, LinkedIn allows you to access a staging link that previews the newsletter URL before hitting publish.

This can help you share and distribute their content more effectively.

Why SEJ Cares

As LinkedIn continues to lean into being a publishing platform for creators and thought leaders, updates that enhance the newsletter experience are noteworthy for digital marketers and industry professionals looking to build an audience.

The new tools are part of LinkedIn’s broader effort to court creators publishing original content on its platform amid rising demand for newsletters and knowledge-sharing.

How This Can Help You

If you publish a newsletter on LinkedIn, these new tools can help you design more visually appealing content, grow your subscriber base, interact with your audience through comments, and preview your content before going live.


Featured Image: Tada Images/Shutterstock

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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.

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