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What Is Enterprise Content Marketing? Strategies You Need To Be Successful

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What Is Enterprise Content Marketing? Strategies You Need To Be Successful

Enterprise content marketing involves creating and sharing relevant content to attract, engage, and retain an organization’s target audience.

When enterprise content marketing is done well, it can drive tons of leads, conversions, and, ultimately, revenue. In addition, it can help with things like brand perception and awareness.

There’s a misconception that big enterprise websites rank for everything. They definitely have an advantage, but they still have to figure out what content to create and put in the work to rank.

Even with all the advantages that enterprise companies have related to the strength of their domain, as well as personnel and resources, they struggle to use SEO effectively to get more traffic.

Scale, complexity, politics, lack of strategy, lack of processes, and red tape make content marketing for enterprise companies more difficult than it is for smaller companies.

Here’s how to approach enterprise content marketing.

When starting out, you may not have any additional resources, funding, or even the personnel you need. You might have to bootstrap a program and even write the content yourself.

That’s okay! The point is to make progress. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

Personnel & resources

If you can at least get together a base team of an SEO, a writer, and an editor, then the process will be smoother. Also, try to have some folks with domain knowledge that you can interview before writing the content or have them review the content so you have expert insights.

As you make progress, you will get more resources and fill in more gaps. Eventually, you’ll probably have more writers, SEOs, editors, project managers, designers, content strategists, and developer resources. In my experience, it’s often easier and cheaper to bring in external resources as you’re scaling than it is to bring in someone in someone for a full-time role.

You’ll also want to make sure that your team has access to any enterprise SEO tools they need to be successful, like Ahrefs.

Have a place to publish your content

The main thing you need to do is make progress, and that means that content should be in a place that’s easy for you and your team to publish. A blog is where most people will start. If you have to have a bunch of custom design work or developers to create every page, it’s going to be hard to make progress.

Making your content marketing successful takes a lot of work. Here are some things you can do.

Create new content

There are many different types of content you can create, but with limited resources, it’s usually best to start out with informational content and videos since they provide high ROI. After you’ve got more resources, you can create things like virtual events, courses, e-books, case studies, white papers, podcasts, or even magazines or books.

The sales process for enterprise companies is typically longer. Many companies want to skip top-of-the-funnel and informational content and focus more on the end-of-funnel traffic that converts. In doing so, they narrow their pipeline and give their competitors opportunities to be seen as experts instead of them.

Starting with bottom-of-the-funnel content makes sense, but eventually, you’ll want to create that top-of-the-funnel content and expand your pipeline.

When creating content, you have to find a process that works best for your company and content creators. That will change depending on who is creating your content.

What content should you create?

I like to start with my competitor’s top pages rather than starting research with a list of keywords. If you export and combine this data, you end up with a list of your competitor’s most successful content, and you can start with the content you know already works and is likely driving value to a competitor. I talk about my process for this in our article on how to create great content.

Every team I ever worked with, whether product-focused or marketing-focused, loved to see this data. You may want to keep track of your content creation in Google Sheets or Airtable.

Alternatively, you can use the Content Gap tool to find these opportunities, but you may see some repeated opportunities because of similar keywords. We will update this to add clustering and help reduce this extra noise.

The Content Gap tool helps you find opportunities based on what your competitors rank for.The Content Gap tool helps you find opportunities based on what your competitors rank for.

For now, you may want to export the keywords from the Content Gap tool, paste them into Keywords Explorer, and go to the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab. This should give you actual content opportunities you may not be covering.

Cluster your keywords by Parent Topics to reduce the noiseCluster your keywords by Parent Topics to reduce the noise

SEOs creating content

For SEOs writing the content, I recommend you talk to the experts or interview them to get their insights. They may have papers, presentations, podcasts, or webinars you can repurpose. The sales team is another great source of information. I’ll also look at what people search around a topic and what other pages cover.

A lot of organizations create copycat content, but that’s just more content that’s the same as what is already out there. This isn’t future-proof. I encourage you to do better. If you can put in a bit more work and add to the information that already exists, your content will be more successful.

Writers creating content

You likely have a team of people who create the content, and you may be able to empower them to do this process themselves.

One of the things that I liked to use with content teams was a card-sorting exercise. Take the data you’re looking at around what people search and what the top pages talk about, and put them on index cards.

Have your content writers organize this in a way that makes sense to them. They’re going to be grouping your data into topics and subtopics and coming up with the content sections or pages they should write.

This helps train people to do this task themselves, and there’s no right or wrong answer as to how it should be organized. You can also show how top pages cover this information as confirmation that it works. As long as you’re writing about what people are looking for, you’re likely to be successful.

Alternatively, your SEOs can provide your writers with an easy-to-digest outline or content brief that covers what should be talked about in the article.

To see how each author or team is doing, you can create Portfolios. This will help identify star performers or writers or teams that might need some additional help.

Portfolio of pages by an author in AhrefsPortfolio of pages by an author in Ahrefs

Experts creating content

If your employees want to write content, you need to find a way to empower them to do so. These are your experts, and while the content they create may require some editing, the insights from these employees are valuable and may not be anywhere else.

If your experts don’t have the time to write content, another option is to interview them or have them review the content you create. Most people are usually happy to give quick insights verbally, which you can then use in your content.

Improve existing content

Making your existing content better can lead to quick wins. Here are some things you can look for.

Content with declining traffic

Apply a filter for “Traffic: Declined” in the Top pages report in Site Explorer and set your time period for the last 6 months or a year. Take a look at pages that lost traffic to see which ones are important to you and that you think you can improve.

Filter showing content with declining traffic that you may want to improveFilter showing content with declining traffic that you may want to improve

Low-hanging fruit

One common way to prioritize content improvements is to check for low-hanging opportunities, like pages ranking in positions 4-15 for their main keyword. You might be able to quickly improve these pages’ content to rank higher and get more traffic. Use Google Search Console or the Organic Keywords report in Site Explorer to find pages that fit the bill.

Filter showing low-hanging fruit keywords. You may want to improve this content.Filter showing low-hanging fruit keywords. You may want to improve this content.

Optimize for featured snippets

For informational content, targeting featured snippets can skyrocket you to the top of the SERPs.

Here’s how to find the easiest opportunities:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report
  4. Filter for keywords in positions #1–5
  5. Filter for keywords that trigger featured snippets “where target doesn’t rank”
  6. Look for keywords where your page is missing the answer, then add it
Finding the best featured snippet opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Finding the best featured snippet opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is arguably the most important section that you can write if you want to rank for informational queries. You can see what is already eligible for a snippet and the kind of things that these snippets mention, along with why one may be better than another. Now you just have to make something that’s better.

Here’s an example: For “how to create content,” the main snippet is from inc.com:

Search for "how to create content" showing a featured snippetSearch for "how to create content" showing a featured snippet

If you append “-inc.com” to your search, you’re removing this site from the results and can see the second eligible featured snippet from hubspot.com:

Search for "how to create content -inc.com" shows additional featured snippetsSearch for "how to create content -inc.com" shows additional featured snippets

You can repeat this process, removing more sites from the results to see more eligible featured snippets. Also, you can glean insights into what it takes to get featured snippets and figure out why one may be considered better than another.

For some head terms that are more informational in nature, you may have to refine the query as “what is [head term]” for this to work.

Translate successful content

Most enterprise companies operate in many countries and in many different languages, and their enterprise SEO teams will have to work on international SEO. If you have content that’s working well in one language, it’s likely going to work well in another language as well. You should translate successful content for those other languages

We’ve had success with this at Ahrefs despite allocating minimal resources to this process. It’s one of the areas where I expect massive growth as we start to focus on it more.

GSC data showing when we started focusing on translating Spanish contentGSC data showing when we started focusing on translating Spanish content

Create branded content, sometimes

You’re probably going to run into content that is too brand-focused, too product-focused, or even too keyword-focused. People will ask you to rank for terms with pages they control that don’t align with search intent. A good example is someone wanting to “sprinkle some keywords” into their product page to rank for an informational term.

You can use the “Identify intents” feature in Keywords Explorer to show the main intent of each term and the percentage of traffic to each result. A product page for “enterprise content management” isn’t likely to rank for this query as the main pages ranking are informational intent.

Identify intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerIdentify intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Sometimes, there may be one product page ranking for terms like this where you have a shot at ranking, but it’s usually the most popular product in that position.

There are times you may want to optimize and even create content for branded terms, but this shouldn’t be your usual strategy. Nor should you “sprinkle some keywords” into brand-or-product-focused pages to try to rank for informational terms. These pages may be full of marketing or sales jargon and not have the content you actually need to rank.

Many enterprise websites get a lot of their overall traffic from branded searches, and they may not rank well for unbranded terms. Branded traffic is a good thing. It’s high-quality and converts well, but you should be getting it even without SEO help.

The exceptions to that may be for terms related to companies that were acquired or products that were renamed. You may still need content or documentation to help you keep traffic for those terms and direct people to new versions of the product.

Syndicate content

Content syndication is when one or more third-party sites republish a copy of content that originally appeared elsewhere. It frequently happens with news content, although, to be honest, any popular site is going to have scrapers and enterprise sites may have a paid syndication strategy.

There are a lot of benefits to syndication, including increased reach. Check out our article on content syndication to learn more about it and how to follow best practices.

Redirect relevant old content

In many cases, your old URLs have links from other websites. If they’re not redirected to the current pages, then those links are lost and no longer count for your pages. It’s not too late to do these redirects, and you can quickly reclaim any lost value and help your content rank better.

Here’s how to find those opportunities:

I usually sort this by “Referring domains.”

Best by links filtered to 404 shows pages with links that aren't redirectedBest by links filtered to 404 shows pages with links that aren't redirected

Build and improve internal links

I’ve always found internal links to be a powerful way to help pages rank higher. Even these links may be difficult to get in an enterprise environment.

Sometimes different people are responsible for different sections of the website or even different pages, which can make internal linking time-consuming.

On top of the political hurdles, the process for internal linking can be a bit convoluted. You either have to know the site well and read through various pages looking for link opportunities or follow a process that involves a lot of scraping and crawling to find opportunities.

At Ahrefs, we’ve made this simple, scalable, and accessible so anyone can find these opportunities with our tool in Site Audit. We look at what your pages are ranking for and suggest links from other pages on your site that talk about those things.

Internal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site AuditInternal link opportunities in Ahrefs' Site Audit

I’d also recommend watching out for opportunities to use better link anchor text. It’s common for page creators to overuse generic link anchor text such as “learn more,” “read more,” or “click here.” You can look for usage of this kind of generic copy in the Internal anchors report in Site Explorer.

Filter for generic anchor text that shows link text you should improveFilter for generic anchor text that shows link text you should improve

Create “vs” pages

Creating content that compares you against competitors can be difficult to create in an enterprise environment because of all the legal hurdles. I still think it’s useful to push for these kinds of pages so that you can control the narrative.

There are ways you can do this without having giant tables comparing each feature. Those are always biased anyway. For instance, on our vs page, we show what users think of us and talk about the quality of our data and unique features.

This page has done well for us, and I believe we will create more pages like it in the future.

Traffic of our "Ahrefs vs" pageTraffic of our "Ahrefs vs" page

Create free tools

If you can create free tools around your product or data, you can use it as a lead-gen tactic for your main products.

We use this strategy at Ahrefs, and some of our most trafficked pages are from free tools. We even created a bunch of free writing tools, which we are starting to monetize.

Estimated organic search traffic to our free tools, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerEstimated organic search traffic to our free tools, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Create programmatic content

If you have the ability to create good pages programmatically using your data, it can be a great way to scale quickly.

We had some success with a small amount of effort by re-using components to create “SEO for x” pages, where x is different types of business. Most of these are ranking well already, but at some point I believe we will put in more effort and pull more data to make these pages even better.

The success of our programmatic "SEO for x" pages, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerThe success of our programmatic "SEO for x" pages, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We’re working on some additional programmatic plays that showcase our data even more, and I expect will drive a lot of leads.

Create video content

Video content can work extremely well for businesses. Sam Oh drives tons of leads for Ahrefs.

Ahrefs YouTube has over 500k subscribers with less than 300 published videos. Many of those videos have over 1 million views!

Subscribers and video count on our YouTube channelSubscribers and video count on our YouTube channel

In my past jobs, I’ve always treated videos the same way I would blog content and structured the talking points around the things people are searching for and want to know. This worked extremely well, even for industries where people were convinced that folks in the industry didn’t watch videos.

In enterprise organizations, it can be hard to find your way around, navigate the political landscape, and compete for resources. Don’t expect miracles right away. It can take a while to get traction. Here’s how to make progress.

Show off your successes

After you have some initial success, show that off repeatedly. Do the whole dog and pony show. Eventually, you’ll find advocates for your work and teams who want to work with you to repeat that success. Replicate your success with other teams or business units and show them off, too. Build momentum one win at a time, and eventually most of the organization will be bought in.

Also, try to get involved with any training initiatives the company may have. This way, you can showcase the success you’ve had and educate others on what to do at the same time.

When doing reporting and showcasing wins, try to show revenue generated or as close as you can get to revenue. Revenue, SQLs, MQLS, etc. It’s what executives care about, and you’re more likely to get attention.

Get promoted

As you move up higher in the org chart, it gets easier to make progress. There will be more money available, and it’ll be easier to get buy-in from executives. At a point, things typically start to get centralized, and you may see things like Centers of Excellence (CoE). As standards and processes are written, it’s easier to have everyone follow best practices. This should lead to more success and an easier time getting more buy-in. Every company seems to go through similar transitions in their SEO maturity.

Enterprise SEO maturity modelEnterprise SEO maturity model

Create enterprise SEO scorecards

Another tactic you can use to get things moving is to create scorecards for different product teams or different business units to showcase how each is improving across different metrics. This can help you identify areas that need additional help or may need some persuasion to get things moving. I describe how to do this in more detail in the Enterprise SEO metrics & reporting article.

Integrate with other teams

One way to get more buy-in is to show people the bigger picture. Communicate with other teams to integrate with them and then show everyone how that leads to more business success.

For instance, the paid team would love to re-market to the people who landed on your organic pages. The social team can help promote your content. If you can show execs the whole picture of how teams can help each other to grow the business, then you’ll get buy-in and resources easier. You can also ask them to help promote your content on their channels.

Align with business goals

It can also help if you can align with business goals. Pushing content around products or services the business wants to grow is a great way to get attention. Many companies have some kind of top 20 / top 50 project where they have specific things they want to push and grow. Start there, get the attention of the folks at the top, and you’ll have an easier time growing your enterprise content marketing program.

Final thoughts

There’s so much at stake in enterprise SEO and so many opportunities. Just keep pushing and building momentum one win at a time. When a company and its people finally get behind SEO, they can dominate an industry.

If you have any tips, enterprise SEO experiences you’d like to share, or questions, let me know on X or LinkedIn.



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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

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Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint: A Step-By-Step Guide

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.

The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.

The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.

How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?

INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.

Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.

Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times

The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.

1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times

Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.

Using Google Search Console

One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.

By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

1716368164 358 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service

Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.

Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

1716368164 404 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.

1716368164 975 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideImage created by DebugBear, May 2024

2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow

Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.

To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

1716368164 348 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.

In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.

3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions

INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

  • Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
  • Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
  • Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

1716368164 193 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.

High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.

4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP

Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.

A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

1716368164 369 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.

This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.

5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running

At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?

DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

1716368165 263 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:

  • onclick
  • onmousedown
  • onpointerup

You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.

In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:

  • .load_more.onclick
  • #logo.onclick

6. Review Specific Page Views

A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.

Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

1716368165 545 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

1716368165 981 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.

7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information

Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.

To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

1716368165 526 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue

In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

  • Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
  • Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
  • Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay

In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.

This can happen for various reasons, for example:

  • The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
  • A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
  • The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

1716368165 86 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.

The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

1716368165 114 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.

At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.

How To Investigate High Presentation Delay

Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.

You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

1716368165 665 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.

Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

1716368165 845 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint

Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

1716368165 494 Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint A Step By Step GuideScreenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.

DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.

This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.

Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Redesign.co. Used with permission.

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International SEO For 2024: 9-Point Checklist For Success

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International SEO For 2024: 9-Point Checklist For Success

Getting your international SEO strategy right can be an elusive feat.

There are a lot more factors at play than people give credit for, and it’s often a thankless job.

A successful international SEO strategy requires a deep knowledge of your company’s commercial strategy as well as technical SEO knowledge, cultural sensitivity, and excellent data skills.

Yet the industry often regards international SEO as just your hreflang setup.

In this article, I will distill the complexities of international SEO success into an actionable step-by-step list that will take you from beginner to advanced practitioner. Let’s begin!

Part I: Be Commercially Aware

1. Understand Why Your Company Is Going International

Companies can grow by expanding their products and services, focusing on gaining market penetration or expanding into new markets.

While your team’s goal might be traffic, leads, or revenue, the leadership team is likely working under a different set of parameters. Most of the time, leadership’s ultimate goal is to maximize shareholder value.

  • In founder-owned companies, growth goals might be slower and more sustainable, usually aimed at maintaining and growing profitability.
  • VC-owned companies have high growth goals because they must provide their investors with a return that’s higher than the stock market. This is what is known as the alpha, or your company’s ability to beat the market in growth.
  • Publicly traded companies are likely aiming to grow their share value.
  • Startups, depending on their maturity stage, are likely looking to prove product-market fit or expand their reach fast to show that their operations are scalable and have the potential to be profitable in the future. The goal of this is to aid in raising further capital from investors.

Understanding why businesses go international is essential for informing your SEO decisions. What’s best practice for SEO isn’t always what’s best for business.

You must adapt your strategy to your company’s growth model.

  • Companies choosing to grow sustainably and maintain profitability will likely expand more slowly to a market that resembles their core market.
  • VC-owned companies will be able to invest in a wider range of countries, with a smaller concern for providing their users with an experience on par with that of their core markets.
  • Startups can try to beat their competitors to market by expanding quickly and throwing a lot of money at the project, or they might be concerned with cash flow and try to expand fast but cut corners by using automatic translation.

2. Stack Rank Your Target Markets To Prioritize Your Investment

I promise I’ll get to hreflang implementation soon, but so much about international SEO has to do with commercial awareness – so bear with me; this will make you a better professional.

Many companies have different market tiers to reflect how much of a priority each market is. Market prioritization can happen using many different metrics, such as:

  • Average order value or lifetime customer value.
  • Amount of investment required.
  • Market size.
  • And market similarity.

American companies often prioritize developed English-speaking countries such as the UK, Canada, or Australia. These are most similar to their core market, and most of their market knowledge will be transferable.

After that, companies are likely to target large European economies, such as Germany and France. They might also target the LatAm market and Spain in the same effort.

The last prioritization tier can vary widely among companies, with a focus on the Nordic, Brazilian, or Asian markets.

Part II: Know Your Tech

3. Define Your International URL Structure

When doing international SEO, there are 4 different possible URL structures, each with its pros and cons.

ccTLD Structure

A ccTLD structure is set up to target different countries based on the domain type.

This structure is not ideal for companies that target different languages rather than different countries. For example, a .es website is targeting Spain, not the Spanish language.

An advantage to this kind of structure is that the ccTLD sends a very strong localization signal to search engines as to what market they are targeting, and they can lead to improved trust and CTR in your core country.

On the other hand, ccTLDs can dilute your site’s authority, as links will be spread across domains rather than concentrated on the .com.

gTLD With Subdirectories

This is my personal favorite when it comes to international SEO.

These URL structures can look like website.com/en if they’re targeting languages or website.com/en-gb if they’re targeting countries.

This configuration aggregates the authority you gain across your different territories into a single domain, it’s cheaper to maintain, and the .com TLD is widely recognizable by users worldwide.

On the other hand, this setup can look less personalized to people outside the US, who might wonder if you can service their markets.

gTLD With Subdomains

This setup involves placing international content on a subdomain like us.website.com. While once popular, it’s slipping in favor because it doesn’t bring anything unique to the table anymore.

This setup offers a clear signal to users and search engines about the intended audience of a specific subdomain.

However, subdomains often face issues with SEO, as Google tends to view them as separate entities. This separation can dilute link, similar to the ccTLD approach but without the geo-targeting advantages.

gTLD With Parameters

This is the setup where you add parameters at the end of the URL to indicate the language of the page, such as website.com/?lang=en.

I strongly advise against this setup, as it can present multiple technical SEO challenges and trust issues.

4. Understand Your Hreflang Setup

In the words of John Mueller: hreflang can be one of the most complex aspects of SEO.

Screenshot from Twitter, May 2024

Hreflang reminds me of a multilingual form of a canonical tag, where we tell search engines that one document is a version of the other and explain the relationship between them.

I find hreflang implementation very interesting from a technical point of view. Because development teams mostly manage it, and it can be very much hit or miss.

Often, hreflang is constructed from existing fields in your content management system (CMS) or content database.

You might find that your development team is pulling the HTML lang tag, which follows a different ISO standard than hreflang, leading to a broken implementation.

Other times, there is a field in your CMS that your development team pulls from to build your hreflang setup.

Finding out how your hreflang tags are generated can be extremely helpful in identifying the sources of different issues or mitigating potential risks.

So speak to your engineering team and ask them how you’re currently generating hreflang.

5. Implement Hreflang Without Errors

There are three ways to implement hreflang on your site:

  • On your sitemap.
  • Through your HTTP header.
  • On your HTML head.

The method most of us are most familiar with is the HTML head. And while you can use more than one method, they should match each other perfectly. Otherwise, you risk confusing search engines.

Here are some basic rules for getting it done correctly:

  • In your hreflang implementation, the URL must include domain and protocol.
  • You must follow the ISO 639-1 language codes – don’t go around making up your own.
  • Hreflang tags must be reciprocal. If the page you’re listing as a language alternative does not list you back, your implementation won’t work.
  • Audit your hreflang regularly. My favorite tool for this, since it added the hreflang cluster analysis and link graphs, is Ahrefs. For the record, Ahrefs is not paying me to say this; it’s a genuine recommendation and has helped me a lot in my work.
  • You should only have one page per language.
  • Your hreflang URLs should be self-canonicalizing and respond with a 200 code.

Follow the above rules, and you’ll avoid the most common hreflang mistakes that SEO pros make.

And if you’re interested in the technical SEO aspect beyond hreflang, I recommend reading Mind your language by Rob Owen.

Part III: Invest In Content Incrementally

6. Translate Your Top-performing Content Topics

Now that you have the basic commercial and technical knowledge covered, you’re ready to start creating a content strategy.

You likely have a wealth of content in your core market that can be recycled. But you want to focus on translating high-converting topics, not just any topic; otherwise, you might be wasting your budget!

Let’s go step by step.

Cluster Your Website’s Content By Topic

  • Crawl your site using your favorite SEO tool and extract the URL and H1.
  • Use ChatGPT to classify that list of URLs into topics. You might already know what you usually write about, so include those topics in your prompt. You don’t want to have a classification that’s too granular, so you can prompt chatGPT to only create groups with a minimum of 10 URLs (adjust this to reflect the size of your website) and class everything else as other. This is an example of what your prompt might look like: “I will provide you with a list of article titles and their corresponding URL. Classify this list into the following topics: survey best practices, research and analysis, employee surveys, market research and others. Return this in a table format with the URL, title and group name.”
  • Start a spreadsheet with all your URLs in the first column, titles in the second column, and the group they belong to in the third column.

Measure Your Performance By Topic

  • Export your GSC data and use a =VLOOKUP formula to match your clicks to your URLs.
  • Export your conversion data and use a =VLOOKUP formula to match your conversions (leads, sales, sign-ups, or revenue) to the right URL.
  • You can then copy your topics column onto a new sheet. Remove duplicates and use the =SUMIF formula to aggregate your click data and conversion data by topic.

Choose What Topics You’ll Be Translating First

Using this data, you can now choose what topics are most likely to drive conversions based on your core market data. Choose how many topics or pieces of content you’ll be translating based on your budget.

Personally, I like translating one topic at a time because I’ve found that generating topical authority on one specific topic makes it easier for me to rank on an adjacent topic that I write about next.

7. Localize Your English Content

Once you’re set up with all your key pages and a few content topics, it’s time to evaluate your investment and see where you could be getting a bigger return.

At this stage, many companies have translated their content into a few different languages and likely copied the US content into their UK and Australian sites. Now that you’ve done some translation, it’s time to work on localization.

If you’ve just copied your US content into your UK and Australian sites, your Google Search Console indexing report might be screaming at you, “Duplicate, Google selected a different canonical than the user.”

A very easy fix that could yield great returns is to localize your English content to the nuances of those English-speaking markets.

You will want to instruct your translation and localization providers to adapt the spellings of certain words, change the choice of words, introduce local expressions, and update any cited statistic for the US with their local equivalent.

For example, if I’m targeting a British audience, “analyze” becomes “analyse,” a “stroller” becomes a “pram,” and “soccer” becomes “football.”

8. Invest In In-market Content

Once you’ve got the basics in place, you can start tackling the specific needs of other markets. This strategy is expensive, and you should only use it in your priority markets, but it can really set you apart from your competitors.

For this, you will need to work with a local linguist to identify pain points, use cases, or needs exclusive to your target market.

For example, if France suddenly made it mandatory to run a diversity and inclusion study for companies with over 250 employees, I’d want to know this and create some content on DEI surveys at SurveyMonkey.

9. Integrate With Other Content Workflows

In step six, we evaluated our top-performing content, chose the best articles to translate, and got it all down. But wait. Some of these source articles have been updated. And there is even more content now!

To run a successful international SEO campaign you must integrate with all the other teams publishing content within your organization.

Usually, the teams creating content in an organization are SEO, content, PR, product marketing, demand generation, customer marketing, customer service, customer education, or solutions engineering.

That’s a lot, and you won’t be able to integrate with everyone all at once. Prioritize the teams that create the most revenue-generating content, such as SEO, content, or product marketing.

Working with these teams, you will have to establish a process for what happens when they create a new piece, update some content, or remove an existing piece.

These processes can differ for everyone, but I can tell you what I do with my team and hope it inspires you.

  • When a piece of content that’s already been localized into international markets is updated, we get the content in a queue to be re-localized the next quarter.
  • When they create a new piece of content, we evaluate its performance, and if it’s performing above average, we add it to a localization queue for the next quarter.
  • When they change the URL of a piece of content or delete it, all international sites must follow suit at the same time, since due to some technical limitations, not making the change globally would create some hreflang issues.

Wrapping Up

International SEO is vast and complex, and no article can cover it all, but many interesting resources have been created by SEO pros across the community for those who want to learn more.

Navigating the complexities of international SEO is no small feat. It’s an intricate dance of aligning commercial strategies with technical precision, cultural insights, and data-driven decisions.

From understanding your company’s core motives for global expansion to meticulously implementing hreflang tags and localizing content, every step plays a crucial role in building a successful international presence.

More resources: 


Featured Image: BritCats Studio/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Vision Driven By Panic, Not Users: Former Product Manager

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Hand pressing the red button. vector illustration

A 16-year Google veteran is raising concerns about the company’s current focus on AI, labeling it a “panic reaction” driven by fear of falling behind competitors.

Scott Jenson, who left Google last month, took to LinkedIn to critique the tech giant’s AI projects as “poorly motivated and driven by this mindless panic that as long as it had ‘AI’ in it, it would be great.”

Veteran’s Criticism Of Google’s AI Focus

Jenson stated that Google’s vision of creating an AI assistant for its ecosystem is “pure catnip” fueled by the fear of letting someone else get there first.

He parallels the ill-fated Google+ product, which he calls a “similar hysterical reaction” to Facebook’s rise.

Jenson wrote:

“This exact thing happened 13 years ago with Google+ (I was there for that fiasco as well). That was a similar hysterical reaction but to Facebook.”

Lack Of User-Driven Motivation

Jenson argues that Google’s strategy lacks motivation driven by genuine user needs, a sentiment echoed by a recent Gizmodo article that described this year’s Google I/O developer conference as “the most boring ever.”

The article, which Jenson linked to in his post, criticized Google for failing to clarify how Gemini’s new AI technology would integrate into its existing products and enhance the user experience.

See Jenson’s full post below:

Can You Turn Off Google’s AI Overviews?

One prime example of Google’s AI overreach is the AI overviews feature, which generates summaries to directly answer search queries by ingesting information from across the web.

This controversial move has sparked legal battles, with publishers accusing Google of violating intellectual property rights and unfairly profiting from their content without permission.

Related: Google’s AI Overviews Documentation: Key SEO Insights

Turning Off AI Overviews

While Google doesn’t provide an official setting to turn off AI overviews, a viral article from Tom’s Hardware suggests using browser extensions.

Alternatively, you can configure Chrome to go directly to web search results, bypassing the AI-generated overviews.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

  • Name: Google (Web)
  • Shortcut: www.google.com
  • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
  • Click “Add
Screenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

Lastly, click the three dots next to the new “Google (Web)” entry and select “Make default.”

1716224163 590 Googles AI Vision Driven By Panic Not Users Former ProductScreenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

After following these steps, Chrome will now default to showing regular web search results instead of the AI overview summaries when you perform searches from the address bar.

Tensions Over Data Usage

The controversy surrounding AI overviews creates tension between tech companies and content creators over using online data for AI training.

Publishers argue that Google’s AI summaries could siphon website traffic, threatening independent creators’ revenue streams, which rely on search referrals.

The debate reflects the need for updated frameworks to balance innovation and fair compensation for content creators, maintaining a sustainable open internet ecosystem.


FAQ

What concerns has Scott Jenson raised about Google’s AI focus?

Scott Jenson, a former Google product manager, has expressed concerns that Google’s current AI focus is more of a “panic reaction” to stay ahead of competitors rather than addressing user needs. He critiques Google’s AI initiatives as poorly motivated and driven by a fear of letting others get ahead.

How does Scott Jenson compare Google’s AI strategy to past projects?

Jenson parallels Google’s current AI focus and the company’s response to Facebook years ago with Google+. He describes both as “hysterical reactions” driven by competition, which, in the case of Google+, resulted in a product that failed to meet its objectives.

Why are content creators concerned about Google’s AI overviews?

Content creators worry that Google’s AI overviews, which generate summaries by ingesting web content, could reduce site traffic. They argue that this practice is unfair as it uses their content without permission and impacts their revenue streams that rely on search referrals.

How can users turn off Google’s AI overviews in Chrome?

Although no official setting exists to disable AI overviews, users can use a workaround by enabling a specific Chrome setting or using a browser extension.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

    • Name: Google (Web)
    • Shortcut: www.google.com
    • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
    • Click “Add

This will force Chrome to skip AI-generated overviews and show the classic list of web links.


Featured Image: Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

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