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Small Business Marketing 101: Getting Started



Small Business Marketing 101: Getting Started

Earning new customers is vital to the growth of any small business, and leveraging marketing strategies is the most effective way to accomplish that goal.

However, small business owners often have to wear multiple hats to keep their business running.

This can result in their marketing strategy falling to the wayside as they focus on the daily operations of running their business.

Thankfully, developing a small business marketing strategy doesn’t require a background or career in marketing.

Plus, it can be both straightforward and affordable.


This guide to small business marketing will break down how to create a sustainable, scalable marketing strategy that helps your small business earn new customers and grow revenue for years to come.

What Is Small Business Marketing?

Small business marketing is the process of getting your products or services in front of the eyes of more potential customers.

It consists of various online and offline strategies, but the end goal is to grow your small business revenue and expand market share.

Challenges Of Marketing Small Businesses

Small businesses face unique challenges with marketing that larger or enterprise brands just don’t have to deal with.

This is particularly true if there is no dedicated marketing expert on your small business’s team.

Lack Of Resources

Small businesses can’t always hire an in-house marketer or devote the time necessary to strategic marketing.


Marketing effectively and on budget requires time, technology, iteration, and close attention to campaign performance.

Smaller Budgets

Most likely, your small business has a strict budget that you allocate for your marketing.

Because digital marketing can be costly, it’s not uncommon for small business owners to blow their budgets.

Or, they may not allocate their digital marketing budget to the most profitable channels.

Competition From Larger Brands

Not only is your small business competing against other local or small businesses, but you’re also likely competing against larger brands that have stronger name recognition and an authoritative digital presence.

Larger brands can easily steal clicks on advertisements because of their brand recognition.


And with organic SEO, Google often prefers to rank websites with more authority and a trusted reputation.

Adapting To Trends and Technologies

The digital marketing landscape is competitive!

It can be challenging for a small business to adapt to the changing landscape of search algorithms, rising cost-per-clicks, and more.

Despite these challenges, it is possible for small businesses to successfully market their products or services with a significant return on investment.

Getting Started With Small Business Marketing

Before you start spending money to market your small business, you need to set yourself up for success.

The following steps are must-dos before you launch your first marketing campaign.


1. Know Your Audience

It’s important to understand your target audience before you start paying money to reach them.

Crafting audience personas can help you determine who your small business is trying to reach.

Also, where you can best reach them and how your product or service meets their needs or solves their problems.

Audience personas can include:

  • Demographics.
  • Geographic location.
  • Interests.
  • Budget.
  • Pain points.
  • Motivations.
  • And more!

Taking the time to create multiple audience personas sets the foundation for your marketing strategy.

It will help you choose the right messaging and channels to reach your ideal customers or clients.

2. Refine Your Messaging

Once you know who your audience is, what they need, and how your products or services solve their problem, you can do the work of crafting refined, impactful messaging.


Your messaging may involve educating customers, showing value, displaying authority or expertise, differentiating from competitors, and more.

Depending on the number or scope of your products and service offerings, you may have to craft several messages to reach your various audience personas more effectively.

3. Determine Your Budget

The reality is that marketing can get expensive if you don’t take the time to prioritize and strategize.

Some marketing channels are pricier than others.

So it’s important to determine what you are willing and not willing to spend before launching any campaigns.

Image created by author, March 2022

4. Setup Your Analytics

Before you get started on any digital marketing channel, you need to be able to measure its impact and effectiveness.

You can utilize all sorts of analytics tools, but if you’re just getting started, begin with these two analytics platforms.


As your small business marketing strategy grows, you may want to invest in an email marketing platform or a customer relationship management platform.

But for now, the two free platforms above can get you started.

Best Marketing Channels For Small Business

The biggest part of your marketing strategy will be determining which channels make the most sense for your small business and the customers you’re trying to reach.

Some channels will be more expensive than others.

Some will produce results more quickly.

Overall, there are pros and cons to every marketing channel, and no channel is guaranteed to produce revenue for your small business.


However, the below channels are often ideal for small businesses because of their effectiveness, longevity, and affordability.

Content Marketing

It’s best to look at content marketing as the foundation of your marketing efforts.

Without great content, any additional channels listed here cease to be effective.

Content includes your homepage, landing pages, product pages, blogs, social media posts, advertisements, or anything else your potential customers might engage with before purchasing.

It’s important that your content is high-quality, relevant, and meets the needs of your target audience.

Investing in good content will give you permanent assets that you can utilize across marketing channels and will help build your brand recognition, expertise, and authority.



Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your small business website to appear in organic search results.

Most internet users turn to a search engine first to find new products and services.

If your small business website shows up for the keywords that those users rely on, it can mean more potential customers clicking through to your website.

That means more people browsing your products, scheduling a consultation, or making appointments.

SEO, however, is multidisciplinary.

Here are the aspects of SEO that are most important for small businesses to prioritize.


On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is the process of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher for relevant keywords.

Each web page on your small business website has the opportunity to rank in search engine results.

The primary steps involve:

  • Keyword research: Finding relevant keywords you want your web pages to rank for.
  • SEO copywriting: Writing in-depth, high-quality content that explores the topic in depth. You can use content optimization software to help improve the quality signals on your pages and improve their ranking potential.
  • Meta tag optimization: Including the target keyword in your page title, meta description, image alt text, and ensuring other key meta tags are optimized for search engine crawlers.
  • Internal and external linking: Including internal links to other relevant pages on your website and linking out to relevant, authoritative sources.

On-page SEO can be implemented easily in your CMS.

Or you can outsource the work to an SEO provider or digital marketing agency.

Although time-intensive, on-page SEO is one of the easiest ways to start earning impressions and clicks from organic search.


Local SEO

If your small business has a brick-and-mortar location or serves a specific geographic region, local SEO strategies can help your website appear in the Google Map Pack and location-based searches.

Example of Google Map Pack results Screenshot from search for [clothing stores near me] March 2022

To get started with local SEO, do the following:

  • Set up your Google Business Profile: This will provide Google and users key information about your small business, including location, phone number, store hours, and more.
  • Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP): These key details about your small business should be clear, accurate, and consistent throughout your website’s content. If your small business has multiple locations, it’s important to create different landing pages for each location featuring their unique NAP information.
  • Get listed in online directories: Google wants to see consistent information about your small business wherever it’s listed on the internet. Using a local citation builder service can help you start building off-site signals. It is an affordable way (under $100) to help Google crawlers better understand your location and the markets you serve.
  • Add the local business schema: Local Business structured data tells Google about your business hours, departments, reviews, and more. Adding schema markup will require the assistance of a web developer, but it can be very impactful.

Site Speed Optimization

The performance of your small business website matters to your ability to rank in search engine results.

screenshot of PageSpeed Insights reportScreenshot taken by author, March 2022

Google doesn’t want to show slow or underperforming pages to users.

So your website needs to meet the following standards:

  • Core Web Vitals: These metrics are the primary way that Google measures the performance of websites. They include Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift.
  • Mobile useability: The mobile version of your small business website needs to be responsive, fast-loading, and high performing.
  • Security: Your website needs to be safe and secure for users. Security is primarily measured through HTTPS protocols.

Pros And Cons Of SEO

The benefit of SEO is that it is arguably the most affordable way to increase your small business’s online presence.

Also, earning top spots in search engine results can send site traffic to your website for years.

That is, as long as you do the work of updating the content and maintaining its quality and technical performance.


However, SEO does take time.

It may be a few months before you see results and start earning traffic to your website.

But that traffic is essentially free and has a wonderful way of improving marketing KPIs, like customer-acquisition costs, in the long term.

Online Reputation Management

Like SEO, online reputation management (ORM) should be an essential part of any small business’s digital marketing toolkit for its affordability and impact.

ORM is the process of building and monitoring your reputation on popular review sites, and it is, essentially, free.

Online reviews are actually a key marketing tool for your small business.


Although you cannot fully control what others choose to say about your small business, you should do what you can to influence reviews and leverage them.

screenshot of yelp profilesScreenshot from Yelp, March 2022

It’s estimated that 94% of consumers have read an online review in the last year.

If your small business does not have profiles on the popular review sites in your industry, or you don’t have reviews of your products, users may choose another service provider or retailer.

Thankfully, getting a proactive online reputation management strategy together is pretty simple.

Get Your Profiles Set Up

Look for the review sites that your potential customers are actively using and are popular in your industry.

Examples include Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, and BBB (Better Business Bureau).


Then make sure your profiles are set up and adequately describe your offering.

These profile pages are also likely to rank for your branded search results, so do your best to add high-value keywords in your profile sections.

Add A Product Review App Or Plugin

If your small business is ecommerce, add a product review plugin or app to your CMS so you can start earning and showcasing reviews on your website.

Here is a list of WordPress product review plugins, and a popular Shopify product review app.

Ask Your Customers To Leave A Review


To start getting online reviews, simply ask!

If you know a customer had a positive experience or really liked your product, sometimes all it takes is asking them to leave a review.

Incentivize Reviews

If you’re struggling to acquire customer reviews, incentivizing reviews with discounts or promotions on repeat visits or purchases can help you get reviews faster.

It also encourages your customers to return to your products or services for a second time.

Always Respond To Negative Reviews


The biggest part of ORM is managing negative reviews that you are bound to receive.

By responding to your negative reviews, you have the opportunity to repair any negative impact.

Also, you show other potential customers browsing reviews that your small business does what it can to make things right.

Pros And Cons Of ORM

ORM is a free marketing strategy and can have a huge impact on driving customers further down the conversion funnel.

However, online reputation management can work against you if your products or services are low-quality.


It’s important to ensure that your small business provides the absolute best to potential customers before you pursue any online reputation management strategy.


Pay-per-click advertising is the process of advertising on another publisher’s website and paying a fee whenever a user clicks on your ad.

Unlike other advertising, you only pay if the user actually clicks over to your website, guaranteeing site traffic for your ad spend.

PPC – Search Engines and Display Networks

PPC is most commonly associated with top search engines like Google and Bing.

When a user enters a search term, Google and Bing serve ads at the top of their search engine results pages.


Small businesses can bid on relevant keywords to get their advertisement to show up at the top of the SERPs.

Screenshot of search engine adsScreenshot from search for [carpet cleaning services], March 2022

Google and Microsoft also have their own display networks.

In terms of widening the reach of your small business, the Google Display Network sites reach over 90% of internet users worldwide.

Example of a display network ad on a publisher siteScreenshot from The New York Times, March 2022

Successful PPC campaigns, though, are all about execution.

If you have no experience managing or optimizing PPC campaigns, it’s best to work with a paid media manager or agency with expertise in your industry.

PPC – Social Media Advertising

Social Media platforms like Facebook and Instagram empower your small business to do what other platforms like Google Ads can’t – allow you to target your audience by demographics and interests – because these platforms have so much information about their users.

These ads will appear alongside organic posts on social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.


As a career digital marketer myself, I often get served ads related to digital marketing.

Example of ad in the Facebook NewsfeedScreenshot taken by author, March 2022

Because social media ads also require a creative (rather than simply text-based search engine ads), it allows your small business to showcase your creativity and brand image even more.

Other features of social media advertising include:

  • Tracking pixels: Adding the Facebook pixel to your small business website allows you to find previous visitors to your website on the Facebook and Instagram platforms.
  • Interest targeting: Because social media users often self-select their interests through likes and engagements, interest-based targeting can be effective for reaching new visitors.
  • Lookalike audiences: Once you earn some business and have an even better idea of who your audience is, you can create lookalike audiences based on those data points. This can help you widen your reach to other users similar to your previous customers.

Pros And Cons Of PPC

The most positive benefit of PPC is that it can start driving traffic to your small business website immediately.

But CPCs are rising every year and platforms like Google Ads and Facebook are more saturated.

If you’re not careful or don’t take the time to optimize your PPC campaigns, you can max out your budget very quickly.

Email Marketing

Once you build up your list of leads, contacts, subscribers, or past customers, email marketing is a great way to connect with your audience and keep your small business at the top of their minds.


Email marketing has the potential for a major return on investment.

It allows you to drive sales of new products and services, create customer loyalty programs, and consistently promote your many content assets.

Some of the most popular email marketing platforms include:

Here are a few email marketing tips for small businesses:

Keep It Balanced

Make sure your emails are balanced between promotional and resource-driven.


Email marketing provides a great outlet for promoting thought leadership, ebooks, or other free resources related to your industry or products.

Segment Your Audiences

Blasting the same email to your entire customer database will be less effective than segmenting your audiences to one-time customers, frequent customers, or leads and crafting personalized, targeted messaging.

Optimize For Mobile

Many of your customers likely read their emails on their mobile devices.

A marketing email that is not responsive or has layout issues is more likely to be ignored or worse, lead to an unsubscribe.


Offline Channels

There are a variety of offline channels available to small businesses as well.

Although they have a much narrower reach than digital marketing channels, they can effectively gain new customers and improve brand recognition for your small business.

Some effective offline channels include:

  • Direct Mail.
  • Events and Conferences.
  • Print Advertising.
  • Community Engagement.
  • Press releases.
  • Networking.
  • And more!

4 Strategic Tips For Effective Small Business Marketing

Each of the marketing strategies listed in this guide is its own unique discipline.

The more informed and strategic your approach, the more effective it will be.

However, your small business likely can’t become an expert overnight.

So, in general, here are some of the most important strategic choices to keep in mind.


1. Balance Your Paid Channels With Organic SEO

The reality is that paid media only drives traffic to your website during your campaigns.

Once your credit card or budget dries up, so does all the site traffic.

Balancing paid channels with organic SEO is one of the most strategic decisions your small business can make.

SEO drives clicks for free and, when done well, to perpetuity.

2. Leverage Retargeting On PPC Platforms

Platforms like Google Ads and Facebook give small business advertisers the option to retarget audiences that have already visited their website but left without making a purchase.

If your small business does the work of driving traffic from organic SEO, you can leverage retargeting even further to improve your total return-on-ad-spend,


3. Target Long-Tail Keywords Through Blog Content

Adding a blog to your small business website can be a game-changer in improving the total number of keywords that your website ranks for.

It’s one of the more affordable ways to expand the reach of your small business. If you don’t have a writer in-house, plenty of freelance content marketers can help get your blog started.

Long-tail keywords are often less competitive.

So make sure your craft blogs target those long-tail questions users ask about your small business products or offerings.

4. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate

The reality is that your initial marketing campaigns may not be profitable.

But as long as your analytics are set up, you can iterate on your campaigns and improve results.


Don’t take the “set it and let it” approach.

Pay attention. Make data-driven changes.

And invest in the channels with the best conversion rates that drive revenue at a cost-per-acquisition that is sustainable for your small business.


Developing a small business marketing strategy can have a huge return on investment for your business.

These include growing your revenue, earning loyal customers, being able to hire new employees, opening second locations, and more.

Make marketing a priority for your small business, and you will not be disappointed.


More resources:

Featured Image: lartestudio/Shutterstock

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2024 WordPress Vulnerability Report Shows Errors Sites Keep Making




2024 Annual WordPress security report by WPScan

WordPress security scanner WPScan’s 2024 WordPress vulnerability report calls attention to WordPress vulnerability trends and suggests the kinds of things website publishers (and SEOs) should be looking out for.

Some of the key findings from the report were that just over 20% of vulnerabilities were rated as high or critical level threats, with medium severity threats, at 67% of reported vulnerabilities, making up the majority. Many regard medium level vulnerabilities as if they are low-level threats and that’s a mistake because they’re not low level and should be regarded as deserving attention.

The WPScan report advised:

“While severity doesn’t translate directly to the risk of exploitation, it’s an important guideline for website owners to make an educated decision about when to disable or update the extension.”

WordPress Vulnerability Severity Distribution

Critical level vulnerabilities, the highest level of threat, represented only 2.38% of vulnerabilities, which is essentially good news for WordPress publishers. Yet as mentioned earlier, when combined with the percentages of high level threats (17.68%) the number or concerning vulnerabilities rises to almost 20%.

Here are the percentages by severity ratings:

  • Critical 2.38%
  • Low 12.83%
  • High 17.68%
  • Medium 67.12%

Authenticated Versus Unauthenticated

Authenticated vulnerabilities are those that require an attacker to first attain user credentials and their accompanying permission levels in order to exploit a particular vulnerability. Exploits that require subscriber-level authentication are the most exploitable of the authenticated exploits and those that require administrator level access present the least risk (although not always a low risk for a variety of reasons).

Unauthenticated attacks are generally the easiest to exploit because anyone can launch an attack without having to first acquire a user credential.

The WPScan vulnerability report found that about 22% of reported vulnerabilities required subscriber level or no authentication at all, representing the most exploitable vulnerabilities. On the other end of the scale of the exploitability are vulnerabilities requiring admin permission levels representing a total of 30.71% of reported vulnerabilities.

Permission Levels Required For Exploits

Vulnerabilities requiring administrator level credentials represented the highest percentage of exploits, followed by Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF) with 24.74% of vulnerabilities. This is interesting because CSRF is an attack that uses social engineering to get a victim to click a link from which the user’s permission levels are acquired. This is a mistake that WordPress publishers should be aware of because all it takes is for an admin level user to follow a link which then enables the hacker to assume admin level privileges to the WordPress website.

The following is the percentages of exploits ordered by roles necessary to launch an attack.

Ascending Order Of User Roles For Vulnerabilities

  • Author 2.19%
  • Subscriber 10.4%
  • Unauthenticated 12.35%
  • Contributor 19.62%
  • CSRF 24.74%
  • Admin 30.71%

Most Common Vulnerability Types Requiring Minimal Authentication

Broken Access Control in the context of WordPress refers to a security failure that can allow an attacker without necessary permission credentials to gain access to higher credential permissions.

In the section of the report that looks at the occurrences and vulnerabilities underlying unauthenticated or subscriber level vulnerabilities reported (Occurrence vs Vulnerability on Unauthenticated or Subscriber+ reports), WPScan breaks down the percentages for each vulnerability type that is most common for exploits that are the easiest to launch (because they require minimal to no user credential authentication).


The WPScan threat report noted that Broken Access Control represents a whopping 84.99% followed by SQL injection (20.64%).

The Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) defines Broken Access Control as:

“Access control, sometimes called authorization, is how a web application grants access to content and functions to some users and not others. These checks are performed after authentication, and govern what ‘authorized’ users are allowed to do.

Access control sounds like a simple problem but is insidiously difficult to implement correctly. A web application’s access control model is closely tied to the content and functions that the site provides. In addition, the users may fall into a number of groups or roles with different abilities or privileges.”

SQL injection, at 20.64% represents the second most prevalent type of vulnerability, which WPScan referred to as both “high severity and risk” in the context of vulnerabilities requiring minimal authentication levels because attackers can access and/or tamper with the database which is the heart of every WordPress website.

These are the percentages:

  • Broken Access Control 84.99%
  • SQL Injection 20.64%
  • Cross-Site Scripting 9.4%
  • Unauthenticated Arbitrary File Upload 5.28%
  • Sensitive Data Disclosure 4.59%
  • Insecure Direct Object Reference (IDOR) 3.67%
  • Remote Code Execution 2.52%
  • Other 14.45%

Vulnerabilities In The WordPress Core Itself

The overwhelming majority of vulnerability issues were reported in third-party plugins and themes. However, there were in 2023 a total of 13 vulnerabilities reported in the WordPress core itself. Out of the thirteen vulnerabilities only one of them was rated as a high severity threat, which is the second highest level, with Critical being the highest level vulnerability threat, a rating scoring system maintained by the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

The WordPress core platform itself is held to the highest standards and benefits from a worldwide community that is vigilant in discovering and patching vulnerabilities.


Website Security Should Be Considered As Technical SEO

Site audits don’t normally cover website security but in my opinion every responsible audit should at least talk about security headers. As I’ve been saying for years, website security quickly becomes an SEO issue once a website’s ranking start disappearing from the search engine results pages (SERPs) due to being compromised by a vulnerability. That’s why it’s critical to be proactive about website security.

According to the WPScan report, the main point of entry for hacked websites were leaked credentials and weak passwords. Ensuring strong password standards plus two-factor authentication is an important part of every website’s security stance.

Using security headers is another way to help protect against Cross-Site Scripting and other kinds of vulnerabilities.

Lastly, a WordPress firewall and website hardening are also useful proactive approaches to website security. I once added a forum to a brand new website I created and it was immediately under attack within minutes. Believe it or not, virtually every website worldwide is under attack 24 hours a day by bots scanning for vulnerabilities.

Read the WPScan Report:

WPScan 2024 Website Threat Report


Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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An In-Depth Guide And Best Practices For Mobile SEO




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.


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.


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


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, 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.


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


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.


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 in a full desktop display vs. a mobile display using responsive design.Screenshot from, 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.


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 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.


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:

  • 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.


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.


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.


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.

  • 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.


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



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. 


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 ;)


I pressed him for more details: 


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.


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. 


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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