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How to Rank Higher on Google (10 Steps)

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How to Rank Higher on Google (10 Steps)

Hundreds of factors could improve your Google rankings. But some are more difficult to influence than others.

For that reason, if you want to rank higher, you need to be methodical. Start by working on the easy things that are within your control, then move on to more challenging things if needed.

Here’s the process:

How to rank higher on Google

Before we get started…

The process in this guide works best for internal pages. If you want to rank your homepage, read our guide to homepage SEO. If you run a local business and want to rank in local search, read our guide to local SEO.

If you already know which keyword you want to rank higher for, skip this step. Otherwise, you need to find a page that could rank higher for its target keyword. 

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Here’s an easy way to do this:

  1. Paste your domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Go to the Organic keywords report
  3. Filter for rankings in positions 2–10

You should now see all keywords you rank for on the first page of Google, but not in position #1. All you have to do is choose one.

Underperforming keyword rankings on the first page of Google, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Here’s a tip: look for your main keyword targets for the corresponding page.

For example, our guide to learning SEO ranks in position #10 for “how long does it take to learn SEO.” But this isn’t the primary target keyword for the page, so it’s likely not the best one to try to improve rankings for.

Example of a long-tail keyword that probably isn't worth trying to improve rankings for

Recommendation

If you don’t have any first-page rankings, try to rank higher for keywords on page two or three. It’s usually easier to improve rankings for pages that are already doing quite well. But if you don’t have any, improving rankings on page two or three is your best bet. 

Search intent is the “why” behind the query. It’s why 90% of the top-ranking results for “air fryer” are blog posts and not sales pages. Google understands that searchers aren’t ready to buy. They want to compare products.

People searching for "air fryer" are looking to compare products, not buy

You need to align your page with search intent to stand the best chance at ranking.

We learned this the hard way when trying to rank for “backlink checker.” 

Here’s the page we first created: 

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Our original backlink checker page didn't match search intent

You can see that it explains how to check a site’s backlinks with Ahrefs and offers searchers a free trial. 

This performed OK and ranked for years in positions #6–10—but it never cracked the top five.

In 2018, we realized this was a search intent issue. All the top-ranking pages for “backlink checker” were free tools. 

The top-ranking results for "backlink checker" in 2018 were all free tools

To solve this, we added a free tool to the page. Almost overnight, the page shot to #1—and it’s been there ever since.

Our rankings for "backlink checker" over time, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

To see how well your page aligns with intent, check the top-ranking pages for the three Cs:

  1. Content type Are they mainly blog posts, product, category, landing pages, or something else? 
  2. Content format Are they mainly tutorials, listicles, how-to guides, recipes, free tools, or something else?
  3. Content angle – Is there a dominant selling point, like low prices or how easy it is?

For example, all the top-ranking pages for “pancake recipe” are blog posts with recipes. And the dominant selling point is how easy they are to make.

People searching for "pancake recipe" clearly want a blog post with an easy recipe

3. Cover the topic in full

Even if your content aligns with search intent, you may not be giving searchers everything they want. There may be subtopics they’re looking for and expecting you to cover.

For example, most top-ranking results for “how to write a press release” are how-to blog posts. This paints a clear picture of search intent.

People searching for "how to write a press release" clearly want a step-by-step guide

But if you look at these posts, most of them include a template or links to templates.

Example of a page ranking for "how to write a press release" with a free template
Example of another page ranking for "how to write a press release" with a free template

Google likely knows that searchers value posts with templates more than those without, so you should probably include one if you want to rank higher for this keyword.

Here are a couple of ways to find subtopics to include in your content:

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  1. Eyeball the top-ranking pages for commonalities – Pay particular attention to subheadings. 
  2. Find keywords top-ranking pages rank for that you don’t – These often map to subtopics. 

Here’s how to do the latter in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:

  1. Paste your page into Site Explorer
  2. Go to the Content Gap report
  3. Paste in a few top-ranking URLs

For example, here’s what we get if we plug in our post about creating a go-to-market strategy

Example of subtopics searchers want to see

Freshness is a query-dependent Google ranking factor. If searchers are likely to value updated content, Google ranks fresh pages higher. 

For example, people value freshness when searching for “top google searches.” They want the most popular Google searches right now, not 10 years ago. That’s why rankings and traffic for our page drop when the content becomes stale and jump back up when we update the page.

Keyword ranking fluctuations for our list of top Google searches over time

If you’re unsure whether Google values freshness, check the dates on top-ranking pages. 

For example, all top-ranking results for “best headphones” were updated recently. But many top-ranking results for “best parks in london” haven’t been updated for months or even years. This doesn’t matter because it’s not like new parks are built daily.

The results for "best headphones" are all fresh
The results for "best parks in london" aren't particularly fresh

If freshness is important for your keyword, you may rank higher by refreshing your page

Making the purpose and relevance of your page clear to Google and searchers is the job of on-page SEO. It’s the icing on the cake that highlights the work you put into matching intent and covering the topic in full.

Here are a few simple ways to improve your on-page SEO:

  • Use H1–H6 tags to structure your content hierarchically Google recommends this. Wrap your title in an H1, subheadings in H2s, sub-subheadings in H3s, etc.
  • Use a short, descriptive URL Google says simple URLs convey content information. 
  • Write a compelling title tag and meta description – This may help you get more clicks and send positive signals about your content to Google.
  • Optimize your images – Google says to use brief but descriptive filenames and alt text. It’s also worth compressing images to improve page speed—which is a ranking factor.
  • Polish your copy – Google says users enjoy content that’s well written and easy to follow. Use short paragraphs, good grammar, and proven copywriting techniques to keep readers engaged.

Learn more: On-Page SEO: Complete Beginner’s Guide

Internal links are links from one page on your website to another. They’re important because they’re how PageRank flows around your site. In other words, internal links boost a page’s authority and tell Google it’s important.

Here’s an easy way to find relevant internal link opportunities:

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  1. Sign up for a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account
  2. Crawl your website with Site Audit
  3. Go to the Internal link opportunities tool
  4. Set the target URL to the page you want to rank higher

This tool takes all the keywords your target page ranks for in the top 100 and finds mentions of them on your site. It then suggests them as contextual internal link opportunities.

For example, suppose we set our guide to building a content marketing strategy as the target page. In that case, there are 13 potential internal link opportunities. 

Searching for internal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here’s one of them:

Example of an internal link opportunity, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Here, it’s suggesting that we internally link the phrase “content marketing strategy” in our list of content marketing tools.

Internally linking this phrase may help our post to rank higher. 

If you don’t see any results in this report, it’s either because:

  1. Your target page doesn’t rank in the top 100 for any keywords.
  2. You don’t mention any of the keywords it ranks for on your site.

Either way, you can find opportunities in Google by searching for site:domain.com "".

For example, there are plenty of mentions of “content marketing strategy” on our blog.

Searching Google for internal link opportunities

Having many similar pages about the same thing is shooting yourself in the foot. That’s because backlinks get spread between pages and are a ranking factor. So you can end up with many weak pages instead of one strong enough to rank.

One strong page about a topic will usually rank higher than multiple weak pages about that topic

To solve this problem, redirect weaker pages about a topic to the strongest one. This consolidates backlinks and creates a page more capable of ranking.

Redirecting and consolidating pages about the same thing gives you a strong page more capable of ranking

To find pages on your site about the keyword you want to rank higher for, search Google for site:domain.com .

For example, our site has two very similar pages about meta keywords. We have a blog post explaining meta keywords and a glossary page that does the same thing. 

Example of a possible keyword cannibalization issue

Redirecting one of these to the other to consolidate backlinks may help us rank higher for this keyword. It creates one stronger page from two weaker pages.

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Keep search intent in mind when doing this. If your pages fulfill different intents, redirecting may not be the best idea. This tactic is best when pages are very similar. 

Backlinks are one of Google’s most important ranking factors. Andrey Lipattsev, a search quality senior strategist at Google, confirmed this in 2016. 

Unfortunately, building high-quality backlinks is one of the most challenging parts of SEO. This is because it’s not something you can fully control. You have to create something worthy of earning backlinks, then convince people to link to you. 

This is why it’s the final step in our process. 

Here’s a good starting point if you’re new to link building:

  1. Paste a competing page into Site Explorer
  2. Go to the Backlinks report
  3. Look for backlinks you may be able to replicate

For example, let’s say we want to build links to our beginner’s guide to SEO. If we search Google for competing pages with the Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar installed, we’ll find that one has links from over 14K referring domains.

Number of referring domains to Moz's beginner's guide to SEO, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

According to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, here’s one of the pages it got a backlink from recently:

Example of a potentially replicable backlink via the Backlinks report in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Looking at the referring page, it seems the link comes from a section listing three of the best SEO guides. 

Example of page linking to competing beginners' guides

If we reach out to the author and introduce our beginner’s guide to SEO, there’s a chance they may add it to their page.

Rank tracking is the only way to know if your efforts to rank higher on Google are working. 

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Although you can do this for free by searching on Google, it isn’t usually reliable. This is because factors like location and search history can affect where you see a page ranking. Using a rank tracking tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker is much more accurate.

You can track 10K keywords in this tool, but you only usually need to track the main keyword for each page. 

Hit the graph caret next to any keyword in Rank Tracker to see its ranking progress over time. 

Rank tracking in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

Ranking high on Google for one keyword is great, but ranking high for many keywords is even better. So once you’ve followed this process for one keyword, repeat it for more.

You’ll rank higher for hundreds of keywords and get tons of organic traffic before you know it.

Final thoughts

You can do many things to rank higher on Google, but it makes sense to start with the easy ones that are within your control. If those don’t move the needle, invest in more challenging things like link building.

Give me a shout on Twitter if you have any questions. 

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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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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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