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What Is Marketing Automation & How to Get Started?

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What Is Marketing Automation & How to Get Started?

Marketing automation is a must for any marketer, no matter the size of their company. It doesn’t matter whether you sell products or services. Those who ignore marketing automation are missing out on powerful resources.

According to EmailMonday, around 56% of companies use some form of marketing automation, and 40% of B2C companies plan to adopt the technology.

But marketing automation can be overwhelming, with so many different platforms, integrations, and services available. How do you know what works best for your business?

Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

In this guide, we’ll go through the following:

Let’s start by defining marketing automation.

What is marketing automation?

Marketing automation uses software, tools, or processes to automate repetitive tasks. This frees up time for more important tasks or increases efficiency. Automation can be used as part of an overall marketing strategy or for standalone tactics, such as email marketing, lead generation, sales, social media management, alerts, analytics, and reporting.

What are the benefits of marketing automation?

There are five main benefits of marketing automation. Here’s how it helps marketers and businesses.

1. Save time and money

The main benefit of marketing automation is it can save time and money because it automates repetitive tasks, such as sending emails or social media posting, which can reduce marketing expenditure.

For example, the University of Buenos Aires saved 28 employee salaries and $100,000 per annum by automating its student communication.

Except of article about University of Buenos Aires increasing efficiency by 500% using automations

2. Increased sales

Marketing automation can increase sales, as it allows companies to scale their marketing efforts across multiple touchpoints, campaigns, and channels at the right time.

This sports nutritionist generated $50,000 in eight weeks by adding exit-intent automation.

Excerpt of article about Rudy, the sports nutritionist, generating $50K in eight weeks

3. Higher lead conversion

Drift reported that 58% of B2B companies don’t respond to sales leads. To combat this issue, marketers can improve sales funnels by automating initial and follow-up touches with prospects and customers, leading to higher revenue.

Pie chart showing 58% "no response" rate of companies

4. Improved engagement or customer service

Automation helps customer service by handling many customer requests or issues in real-time. It is possible to create automated responses to common questions, such as “What is my order status?” or “How do I use Ahrefs’ Content Explorer?”

5. Better analysis and reporting

Automation can provide marketing teams access to data, information, or insights that are easier to interpret.

For example, Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker contains information that integrates with this Google Data Studio report that lets you monitor your Google rankings and competitors.

Ahrefs' Rank Tracker overview

Now let’s take a look at examples of marketing automation.

Examples of marketing automation

Here are some examples from marketers who use automation to help them improve different aspects of their businesses.

Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns are a series of emails automatically delivered over time that tell a story or educate prospects about a solution or problem.

Here’s an example: Blair Enns, who helps marketing agencies with pricing strategies, created a drip campaign to persuade people to buy his book.

Page showing picture of Blair; in bottom-right corner, visitors can enter contact details to get the first chapter of his book

After you opt in to get a free sample of his book, he sends you a series of emails based on his core message: “Charge more, buy my book.”

Email inbox; on right, Win Without Pitching's email

Outreach campaigns

Link building agencies use automation to follow up on prospects and earn more links from their outreach campaigns.

Here are the typical steps in an outreach campaign:

  1. Find prospects’ contact details
  2. Craft your pitch
  3. Outreach to prospects
  4. Secure links

According to Postaga, the average response rate for an initial email is 16%, and sending at least one follow-up will get a response rate of 27% on average.

So if you send 1,000 outreach emails and include one automated follow-up, that’s 110 more replies and link possibilities.

Sales conversion campaigns

I spoke to Adam Watson, the co-founder of Hollywood Mirrors, about automation.

Page showing ladies using mirrors; below, text field to subscribe and become a VIP

Here’s his reply:

We automate emails depending on the customer behavior on the site.

The customer gets the right email at the right time with the right offer.

We sent over one million automated emails last year from a small list, and they produce 25% of our total revenue.

One of five automated campaigns is triggered if the website captures an email address depending on on-site behavior.

  • Welcome series — for subscribers who recently subscribed.
  • Cart abandonment — those who add to the cart but don’t complete the purchase.
  • Browse abandonment — subscribers who browse products but don’t purchase.
  • Win back campaign — dormant customers who haven’t purchased recently.
  • VIP automation — aimed at high or frequent spenders.

Automation helps with all KPIs such as conversion, sales, repeat orders, and customer lifetime value. The more a customer sees your brand over time, the more likely they will buy.

Another sales conversion automation example

Automation can also notify customers and staff about sales promotions, orders, shipping, and deliveries.

At the Nike.com shop, I added this product to my basket and then received this automated “Complete your purchase before we run out of your size” message.

Nike's pop-up message when item is added to cart

I most certainly do not wish to miss out on this garment.

Chatbots

A website chatbot is an automated tool that can interact with visitors in real-time via text messages, emails, or phone calls. It can also automatically answer questions from visitors.

The Ahrefs chatbot provides visitors easy access to the Ahrefs Academy, help information, and chat with support staff.

When you click “send us a message,” the chatbot interprets your message and proposes relevant help pages.

Ahrefs' chatbot showing several options (help center, talk to support, etc)

If the help articles aren’t enough to answer your question, you can talk to Ahrefs support staff.

Chatbox to talk to Ahrefs' customer support team

Alerts and notifications

An alert is a notification sent by a website owner whenever someone performs a specific action. For example, if someone joins your newsletter, you can email them to thank them for subscribing.

Last year, we launched Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, a free tool to help you get more out of your website.

Once you’ve verified a website and the domain is added to the dashboard, you can create automated backlink, keyword, Site Audit, and ranking notifications.

Click the three dots next to the domain name, then choose which notifications you wish to receive.

List of options to tailor notifications

WordPress uses automation to notify you about comments posted on your website and enable plugin updates, saving web designers, developers, and bloggers time.

List of WordPress plugins

For invoicing purposes, I use Harvest to send out invoices. If the customer pays via Stripe or PayPal, automation sends me a payment notification and the customer receives a thank-you email.

In addition, I can set up the invoice settings so that slow payers get friendly reminders every seven days until they have paid.

Page to set up reminder and thank-you messages

Leads and appointments

If you promote services on your website, the aim is to collect information from site visitors, specifically those interested in your services.

This lead qualification automation asks website visitors a series of questions and aims to book an appointment with serious prospects. But the automation doesn’t put off those who aren’t ready to speak to a company representative yet.

Flowchart of lead qualification; on right, a question with four options

In this example, here are the four questions a visitor is asked.

Question 1. What help do you need?

Question asking what user needs; below, four options to choose from

Question 2. What is your website built on?

Question asking what user's website is built on; below, four options to choose from

Question 3. What is your budget?

Question asking about user's budget; below, three options to choose from

Question 4. When are you looking to start?

Question asking when user wants to start; below, three options to choose from

If the prospect is a highly qualified lead, they are invited to book a call.

On left, cropped picture of two people talking; on right, form to book a call

A less-qualified lead can sign up for a newsletter.

On left, cropped picture of man smiling; on right, form to sign up for newsletter

This automation enables marketers to get immediate and future leads from their websites.

Personalization

Automated personalization allows marketers to tailor their messages to specific individuals instead of sending the same message to everyone.

I sent subscribers a personalized website audit using Ahrefs’ Batch Analysis tool and ConvertKit custom fields.

I sent 262 subscribers a personalized email containing:

  • Their Domain Rating (DR).
  • The number of referring domains.
  • The number of keywords they ranked for.
  • Organic traffic.
Fraser's personalized email to a recipient

Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. Export subscribers from ConvertKit into Google Sheets
  2. Select Data > Split text to columns to get their domain name from their email address
  3. Copy and paste domain names into the Batch Analysis tool to extract the website metrics
  4. Create new columns in Google Sheets for the DR, referring domains, keywords, organic traffic data
  5. Match this data with subscribers
  6. Create custom fields in ConvertKit for the domain name, referring domains, keywords, organic traffic information
  7. Import Google Sheet information back into ConvertKit
  8. Create an email broadcast
  9. Insert the custom fields into the email body copy to personalize each subscriber’s domain name, referring domains, keywords, and organic traffic information

Segment customers

Customer segmentation is the process of grouping together customers based on similar behaviors, interests, or needs.

For example, you can create rules aimed at people who open emails and then tag them by a product they’ve bought or a page they’ve visited.

Here, we can see that people who visit and start to exit this spreadsheet website receive a pop-up message with segmentation options.

Pop-up message with segmentation options

Upon selecting the “I’m new to Excel” option, I see that the website shows the “get 3 video lessons for beginners” offer.

Pop-up message about free course; below, text field to enter email address to get said course

Now the site owner can tailor follow-up content and offers aimed at their “beginner” customer segment.

Email triggers

An email trigger sends designated content to prospects or customers who take action on your site (e.g., sign up for a free trial, make a purchase, or raise a support request).

These emails confirm that your business noticed the customer’s request or action.

While most email marketing tools and automation platforms can trigger automatic emails, 49% of marketers don’t use these tools. So using these features gives you a competitive advantage.

Let’s say you sell training courses on a platform, such as Teachable or Podia.

After a customer buys your training course, you can send the order details to a marketing platform, such as Drip, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc., through an integration.

"Intergrations" page on Podia

When the order details come through the marketing platform, you can trigger an automation that emails the customer a welcome email and then another email 14 days later to check on their progress in the training course they signed up for.

Draft of welcome email

PPC and retargeting

Automated PPC bidding is when an advertis­er bids automatically based on their budget and other criteria to make managing advertising campaigns easier.

Automated retargeting is when you display ads to people who have just visited your website to encourage them to return.

1250ships.com, an e‑commerce website, created a Google remarketing ad in Mailchimp that generated over $8,200 in revenue and gained 19 new customers—leading to a 3,879% ROI in the first three months.

And here’s how you can create a Google remarketing advert with Mailchimp.

Reports

Automation can generate specific reports for specified people, dates, and times.

You can create automated reports for customers, clients, or staff within Google Analytics.

For example, here’s how to create a report showing all channel traffic:

  • Go to Google Analytics > Acquisition
  • All Traffic > Channels
  • Click the arrow next to the date range > Tick “Compare to the previous period” > Apply
"Channels" page on Google Analytics
  • Click the share button > Customize the email report options

Drop-down options to choose frequency of email reports

Additionally, Google Search Console sends regular performance reports each month.

Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of bringing users up to speed with your product/service as quickly as possible.

It’s about making sure they feel welcome and confident enough to use, purchase, and keep using your product/service.

Over the festive break, I considered migrating my website from WordPress to the Ghost CMS.

Here’s the Ghost onboarding process for trial customers.

Email inbox; on right, Ghost's welcome email

I purchased a custom theme but changed my mind and canceled the trial period.

The ConvertFlow onboarding process is more comprehensive than Ghost’s, including a video course, case studies, results, and techniques.

Email inbox; on right, email about lead capture rates from ConvertFlow

While I have abandoned interest in these services, I still receive valuable emails from both brands.

Social media

Automated social media uses software to post updates about a business on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Marketers can do this manually, but it’s much more efficient if done automatically.

We use MeetEdgar to automate posting and content distribution on our main social channels; you can learn more about Ahrefs’ marketing stack in our very own Mateusz Makosiewicz’s guide.

It’s now time to put what you’ve learned about automation into practice.

How to get started with marketing automation

If you’re new or want to automate more, here’s our seven-step guide to get started.

Flowchart to help you get started on marketing automation

Step 1. Goal

Define a specific goal. Note that certain goals—such as saving time or money and increasing sales, leads, conversions, or engagement—are too broad. You need to examine things more closely.

For example, let’s say you looked at Google Analytics and discovered that 1.7% of traffic becomes a lead.

But after delving deeper, you discover you don’t convert many of these leads into paying clients.

Thus, one of your main goals can be to increase qualified leads or increase your conversion rates between the lead and customer stages.

Step 2. Identify technology

Take a look at the technology you are currently using.

Are there options available to reuse the existing technology to reach your goals?

Are there resources you’re not using or could be using?

For example, if you generate leads but do not convert them, is your team following up on those leads?

Could you speak to the sales team that interacts with prospects and build an automated sequence that answers the key questions sales leads have?

Step 3. Look externally

Look how others in your industry are automating parts of their businesses.

I used Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to find automation case studies rather than Google when researching this article.

Type “automation” AND “industry” (replace “industry” with your industry name) into the tool and sort by date.

Content Explorer search for this term: "automation" AND "marketing"

You’ll discover many examples and case studies specific to your industry that you can learn from.

Content Explorer results for this search: "automation" AND "marketing"

If you don’t believe your existing solutions or tools can help solve your issues or achieve your goal, look elsewhere.

For example, I’m comparing the templates offered by ConvertFlow and RightMessage because I believe their technology can help increase and convert more qualified leads than my current solution.

Various ConvertFlow templates in grid format
Various RightMessage templates in grid format

Most marketing automation tools will offer demonstrations, free trials, or “recipes” to help you decide if they are right for you.

Step 4. Map out the process

If you need to map out a process from scratch, use a mind-mapping tool like Xmind or MindMeister to visualize each user’s step.

This process for qualifying leads has already been mapped out.

However, there’s no educational and conversion process in place after the visitor subscribes to the newsletter.

Here’s an example of the process to generate qualified website leads.

  1. Define pages that prospects visit
  2. Create form, fields, and CTA
  3. Create a page, web form, and email reply
  4. Connect form submission with CRM by creating Zapier integration
  5. Set up a trigger to send follow-up emails
  6. Create relevant content for the email sequence

Step 5. Build, test, launch

After mapping out your process, it’s time to build the automation.

Most SaaS automation software lets you visually design the automation; if that fails, get your development team involved instead.

Then test out your process; for example, if you’re automating cart abandonment, go to Chrome Incognito and add a product to the basket:

PWRBioheat's page to choose delivery options; on right, an item added to cart

Then abandon the order and ensure the automation works the way it’s supposed to:

PWRBioheat's "Complete your Purchase" email

Step 6. Measure

Measuring performance against the last 30 days is usually the most accurate way, and most automation solutions have methods for measuring.

Step 7. Repeat

After tackling one problem or goal, repeat the process by identifying another problem or goal.

Final thoughts

This article covered everything about marketing automation.

Automating repetitive marketing activities can help you save time and money; improve sales, leads, customer services, and engagement; and allow marketers to focus on higher-priority tasks.

The best approach is to start by automating small marketing tasks first, then move on to more significant tasks. You should also check out how to build a martech stack and what online marketing tools Ahrefs uses.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.



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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

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

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

More People Publishing Newsletters On LinkedIn

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

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

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

A New Way To View & Comment

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

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

See an example of the new interface below.

Screenshot from: linkedin.com, June 2024.

Design Your Own Cover Images

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

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

More Subscriber Notifications

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

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

Mention Other Profiles In Articles

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

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

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

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

Preview Links Before Publishing

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

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

Why SEJ Cares

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

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

How This Can Help You

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


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The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You’ll Face in 2024

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The 6 Biggest SEO Challenges You'll Face in 2024

Seen any stressed-out SEOs recently? If so, that’s because they’ve got their work cut out this year.

Between navigating Google’s never-ending algorithm updates, fighting off competitors, and getting buy-in for projects, there are many significant SEO challenges to consider.

So, which ones should you focus on? Here are the six biggest ones I think you should pay close attention to.

Make no mistake—Google’s algorithm updates can make or break your site.

Core updates, spam updates, helpful content updates—you name it, they can all impact your site’s performance.

As we can see below, the frequency of Google updates has increased in recent years, meaning that the likelihood of being impacted by a Google update has also increased.

How to deal with it:

Recovering from a Google update isn’t easy—and sometimes, websites that get hit by updates may never fully recover.

For the reasons outlined above, most businesses try to stay on the right side of Google and avoid incurring Google’s wrath.

SEOs do this by following Google’s Search Essentials, SEO best practices and avoiding risky black hat SEO tactics. But sadly, even if you think you’ve done this, there is no guarantee that you won’t get hit.

If you suspect a website has been impacted by a Google update, the fastest way to check is to plug the domain into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Ahrefs Site Explorer screenshotAhrefs Site Explorer screenshot

Here’s an example of a website likely affected by Google’s August 2023 Core Update. The traffic drop started on the update’s start date.

Website impacted by Google's August 2023 Core UpdateWebsite impacted by Google's August 2023 Core Update
Hover over the G circles on the X axis to get information about each update.

From this screen, you can see if a drop in traffic correlates with a Google update. If there is a strong correlation, then that update may have hit the site. To remedy it, you will need to understand the update and take action accordingly.

Follow SEO best practices

It’s important your website follows SEO best practices so you can understand why it has been affected and determine what you need to do to fix things.

For example, you might have missed significant technical SEO issues impacting your website’s traffic. To rule this out, it’s worth using Site Audit to run a technical crawl of your website.

Site Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site AuditSite Audit screenshot, via Ahrefs Site Audit

Monitor the latest SEO news

In addition to following best practices, it’s a good idea to monitor the latest SEO news. You can do this through various social media channels like X or LinkedIn, but I find the two websites below to be some of the most reliable sources of SEO news.

Even if you escape Google’s updates unscathed, you’ve still got to deal with your competitors vying to steal your top-ranking keywords from right under your nose.

This may sound grim, but it’s a mistake to underestimate them. Most of the time, they’ll be trying to improve their website’s SEO just as much as you are.

And these days, your competitors will:

How to deal with it:

If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to do these two things:

Spy on your competitors and monitor their strategy

Ok, so you don’t have to be James Bond, but by using a tool like Ahrefs Site Explorer and our Google Looker Studio Integration (GLS), you can extract valuable information and keep tabs on your competitors, giving you a competitive advantage in the SERPs.

Using a tool like Site Explorer, you can use the Organic Competitors report to understand the competitor landscape:

Organic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerOrganic competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can check out their Organic traffic performance across the years:

Year on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerYear on Year comparison of organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can use Calendar to see which days changes in Positions, Pages, Referring domains Backlinks occurred:

Screenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerScreenshot of Ahrefs' Calendar, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can see their Top pages’ organic traffic and Organic keywords:

Top pages report, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTop pages report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And much, much more.

If you want to monitor your most important competitors more closely, you can even create a dashboard using Ahrefs’ GLS integration.

Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,Google Looker Studio integration screenshot,

Acquire links and create content that your competitors can’t recreate easily

Once you’ve done enough spying, it’s time to take action.

Links and content are the bread and butter for many SEOs. But a lot of the time the links that are acquired and the content that is created just aren’t that great.

So, to stand the best chance of maintaining your rankings, you need to work on getting high-quality backlinks and producing high-quality content that your competitors can’t easily recreate.

It’s easy to say this, but what does it mean in practice?

The best way to create this type of content is to create deep content.

At Ahrefs, we do this by running surveys, getting quotes from industry experts, running data studies, creating unique illustrations or diagrams, and generally fine-tuning our content until it is the best it can be.

As if competing against your competitors wasn’t enough, you must also compete against Google for clicks.

As Google not-so-subtly transitions from a search engine to an answer engine, it’s becoming more common for it to supply the answer to search queries—rather than the search results themselves.

The result is that even the once top-performing organic search websites have a lower click-through rate (CTR) because they’re further down the page—or not on the first page.

Whether you like it or not, Google is reducing traffic to your website through two mechanisms:

  • AI overviews – Where Google generates an answer based on sources on the internet
  • Zero-click searches – Where Google shows the answer in the search results

With AI overviews, we can see that the traditional organic search results are not visible.

And with zero-click searches, Google supplies the answer directly in the SERP, so the user doesn’t have to click anything unless they want to know more.

Zero Click searches example, via Google.comZero Click searches example, via Google.com

These features have one thing in common: They are pushing the organic results further down the page.

With AI Overviews, even when links are included, Kevin Indig’s AI overviews traffic impact study suggests that AI overviews will reduce organic clicks.

In this example below, shared by Aleyda, we can see that even when you rank organically in the number one position, it doesn’t mean much if there are Ads and an AI overview with the UX with no links in the AI overview answer; it just perpetuates the zero-clicks model through the AI overview format.

How to deal with it:

You can’t control how Google changes the SERPs, but you can do two things:

Make your website the best it can be

If you focus on the latter, your website will naturally become more authoritative over time. This isn’t a guarantee that your website will be included in the AI overview, but it’s better than doing nothing.

Prevent Google from showing your website in an AI Overview

If you want to be excluded from Google’s AI Overviews, Google says you can add no snippet to prevent your content from appearing in AI Overviews.

nosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentationnosnippet code explanation screemshot, via Google's documentation

One of the reasons marketers gravitated towards Google in the early days was that it was relatively easy to set up a website and get traffic.

Recently, there have been a few high-profile examples of smaller websites that have been impacted by Google:

Apart from the algorithmic changes, I think there are two reasons for this:

  • Large authoritative websites with bigger budgets and SEO teams are more likely to rank well in today’s Google
  • User-generated content sites like Reddit and Quora have been given huge traffic boosts from Google, which has displaced smaller sites from the SERPs that used to rank for these types of keyword queries

Here’s Reddit’s traffic increase over the last year:

Reddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerReddit's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

And here’s Quora’s traffic increase:

Quora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site ExplorerQuora's organic traffic increase, via Ahrefs Site Explorer

How to deal with it:

There are three key ways I would deal with this issue in 2024:

Focus on targeting the right keywords using keyword research

Knowing which keywords to target is really important for smaller websites. Sadly, you can’t just write about a big term like “SEO” and expect to rank for it in Google.

Use a tool like Keywords Explorer to do a SERP analysis for each keyword you want to target. Use the effort-to-reward ratio to ensure you are picking the right keyword battles:

Effort to reward ratio illustrationEffort to reward ratio illustration

If you’re concerned about Reddit, Quora, or other UGC sites stealing your clicks, you can also use Keywords Explorer to target SERPs where these websites aren’t present.

To do this:

  • Enter your keyword in the search bar and head to the matching terms report
  • Click on the SERP features drop-down box
  • Select Not on SERP and select Discussions and forums
Example of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerExample of removing big UGC sites from keyword searches using filters in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This method can help you find SERPs where these types of sites are not present.

Build more links to become more authoritative

Another approach you could take is to double down on the SEO basics and start building more high-quality backlinks.

Write deep content

Most SEOs are not churning out 500-word blog posts and hoping for the best; equally, the content they’re creating is often not deep or the best it can possibly be.

This is often due to time restraints, budget and inclination. But to be competitive in the AI era, deep content is exactly what you should be creating.

As your website grows, the challenge of maintaining the performance of your content portfolio gets increasingly more difficult.

And what may have been an “absolute banger” of an article in 2020 might not be such a great article now—so you’ll need to update it to keep the clicks rolling in.

So how can you ensure that your content is the best it can be?

How to deal with it:

Here’s the process I use:

Steal this content updating framework

And here’s a practical example of this in action:

Use Page Inspect with Overview to identify pages that need updating

Here’s an example of an older article Michal Pecánek wrote that I recently updated. Using Page Inspect, we can pinpoint the exact date of the update was on May 10, 2024, with no other major in the last year.

Ahrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerAhrefs Page Inspect screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

According to Ahrefs, this update almost doubled the page’s organic traffic, underlining the value of updating old content. Before the update, the content had reached its lowest performance ever.

Example of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerExample of a content update and the impact on organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

So, what changed to casually double the traffic? Clicking on Page Inspect gives us our answer.

Page Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerPage Inspect detail screenshot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

I was focused on achieving three aims with this update:

  • Keeping Michal’s original framework for the post intact
  • Making the content as concise and readable as it can be
  • Refreshing the template (the main draw of the post) and explaining how to use the updated version in a beginner-friendly way to match the search intent

Getting buy-in for SEO projects has never been easy compared to other channels. Unfortunately, this meme perfectly describes my early days of agency life.

SEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgetsSEO meme, SEO vs PPC budgets

SEO is not an easy sell—either internally or externally to clients.

With companies hiring fewer SEO roles this year, the appetite for risk seems lower than in previous years.

SEO can also be slow to take impact, meaning getting buy-in for projects is harder than other channels.

How long does SEO take illustrationHow long does SEO take illustration

How to deal with it:

My colleague Despina Gavoyannis has written a fantastic article about how to get SEO buy-in, here is a summary of her top tips:

  • Find key influencers and decision-makers within the organization, starting with cross-functional teams before approaching executives. (And don’t forget the people who’ll actually implement your changes—developers.)
  • Adapt your language and communicate the benefits of SEO initiatives in terms that resonate with different stakeholders’ priorities.
  • Highlight the opportunity costs of not investing in SEO by showing the potential traffic and revenue being missed out on using metrics like Ahrefs’ traffic value.
  • Collaborate cross-functionally by showing how SEO can support other teams’ goals, e.g. helping the editorial team create content that ranks for commercial queries.

And perhaps most important of all: build better business cases and SEO opportunity forecasts.

If you just want to show the short-term trend for a keyword, you can use Keywords Explorer:

Forecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerForecasting feature for keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer
The forecasted trend is shown in orange as a dotted line.

If you want to show the Traffic potential of a particular keyword, you can use our Traffic potential metric in SERP overview to gauge this:

Traffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerTraffic potential example, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

And if you want to go the whole hog, you can create an SEO forecast. You can use a third-party tool to create a forecast, but I recommend you use Patrick Stox’s SEO forecasting guide.

Final thoughts

Of all the SEO challenges mentioned above, the one keeping SEOs awake at night is AI.

It’s swept through our industry like a hurricane, presenting SEOs with many new challenges. The SERPs are changing, competitors are using AI tools, and the bar for creating basic content has been lowered, all thanks to AI.

If you want to stay competitive, you need to arm yourself with the best SEO tools and search data on the market—and for me, that always starts with Ahrefs.

Got questions? Ping me on X.



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Why Now’s The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

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Why Now's The Time To Adopt Schema Markup

There is no better time for organizations to prioritize Schema Markup.

Why is that so, you might ask?

First of all, Schema Markup (aka structured data) is not new.

Google has been awarding sites that implement structured data with rich results. If you haven’t taken advantage of rich results in search, it’s time to gain a higher click-through rate from these visual features in search.

Secondly, now that search is primarily driven by AI, helping search engines understand your content is more important than ever.

Schema Markup allows your organization to clearly articulate what your content means and how it relates to other things on your website.

The final reason to adopt Schema Markup is that, when done correctly, you can build a content knowledge graph, which is a critical enabler in the age of generative AI. Let’s dig in.

Schema Markup For Rich Results

Schema.org has been around since 2011. Back then, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex worked together to create the standardized Schema.org vocabulary to enable website owners to translate their content to be understood by search engines.

Since then, Google has incentivized websites to implement Schema Markup by awarding rich results to websites with certain types of markup and eligible content.

Websites that achieve these rich results tend to see higher click-through rates from the search engine results page.

In fact, Schema Markup is one of the most well-documented SEO tactics that Google tells you to do. With so many things in SEO that are backward-engineered, this one is straightforward and highly recommended.

You might have delayed implementing Schema Markup due to the lack of applicable rich results for your website. That might have been true at one point, but I’ve been doing Schema Markup since 2013, and the number of rich results available is growing.

Even though Google deprecated how-to rich results and changed the eligibility of FAQ rich results in August 2023, it introduced six new rich results in the months following – the most new rich results introduced in a year!

These rich results include vehicle listing, course info, profile page, discussion forum, organization, vacation rental, and product variants.

There are now 35 rich results that you can use to stand out in search, and they apply to a wide range of industries such as healthcare, finance, and tech.

Here are some widely applicable rich results you should consider utilizing:

  • Breadcrumb.
  • Product.
  • Reviews.
  • JobPosting.
  • Video.
  • Profile Page.
  • Organization.

With so many opportunities to take control of how you appear in search, it’s surprising that more websites haven’t adopted it.

A statistic from Web Data Commons’ October 2023 Extractions Report showed that only 50% of pages had structured data.

Of the pages with JSON-LD markup, these were the top types of entities found.

  • http://schema.org/ListItem (2,341,592,788 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/ImageObject (1,429,942,067 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Organization (907,701,098 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/BreadcrumbList (817,464,472 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebSite (712,198,821 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/WebPage (691,208,528 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Offer (623,956,111 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/SearchAction (614,892,152 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/Person (582,460,344 Entities)
  • http://schema.org/EntryPoint (502,883,892 Entities)

(Source: October 2023 Web Data Commons Report)

Most of the types on the list are related to the rich results mentioned above.

For example, ListItem and BreadcrumbList are required for the Breadcrumb Rich Result, SearchAction is required for Sitelink Search Box, and Offer is required for the Product Rich Result.

This tells us that most websites are using Schema Markup for rich results.

Even though these Schema.org types can help your site achieve rich results and stand out in search, they don’t necessarily tell search engines what each page is about in detail and help your site be more semantic.

Help AI Search Engines Understand Your Content

Have you ever seen your competitor’s sites using specific Schema.org Types that are not found in Google’s structured data documentation (i.e. MedicalClinic, IndividualPhysician, Service, etc)?

The Schema.org vocabulary has over 800 types and properties to help websites explain what the page is about. However, Google’s structured data features only require a small subset of these properties for websites to be eligible for a rich result.

Many websites that solely implement Schema Markup to get rich results tend to be less descriptive with their Schema Markup.

AI search engines now look at the meaning and intent behind your content to provide users with more relevant search results.

Therefore, organizations that want to stay ahead should use more specific Schema.org types and leverage appropriate properties to help search engines better understand and contextualize their content. You can be descriptive with your content while still achieving rich results.

For example, each type (e.g. Article, Person, etc.) in the Schema.org vocabulary has 40 or more properties to describe the entity.

The properties are there to help you fully describe what the page is about and how it relates to other things on your website and the web. In essence, it’s asking you to describe the entity or topic of the page semantically.

The word ‘semantic’ is about understanding the meaning of language.

Note that the word “understanding” is part of the definition. Funny enough, in October 2023, John Mueller at Google released a Search Update video. In this six-minute video, he leads with an update on Schema Markup.

For the first time, Mueller described Schema Markup as “a code you can add to your web pages, which search engines can use to better understand the content. ”

While Mueller has historically spoken a lot about Schema Markup, he typically talked about it in the context of rich result eligibility. So, why the change?

This shift in thinking about Schema Markup for enhanced search engine understanding makes sense. With AI’s growing role and influence in search, we need to make it easy for search engines to consume and understand the content.

Take Control Of AI By Shaping Your Data With Schema Markup

Now, if being understood and standing out in search is not a good enough reason to get started, then doing it to help your enterprise take control of your content and prepare it for artificial intelligence is.

In February 2024, Gartner published a report on “30 Emerging Technologies That Will Guide Your Business Decisions,”  highlighting generative AI and knowledge graphs as critical emerging technologies companies should invest in within the next 0-1 years.

Knowledge graphs are collections of relationships between entities defined using a standardized vocabulary that enables new knowledge to be gained by way of inferencing.

Good news! When you implement Schema Markup to define and connect the entities on your site, you are creating a content knowledge graph for your organization.

Thus, your organization gains a critical enabler for generative AI adoption while reaping its SEO benefits.

Learn more about building content knowledge graphs in my article, Extending Your Schema Markup From Rich Results to Knowledge Graphs.

We can also look at other experts in the knowledge graph field to understand the urgency of implementing Schema Markup.

In his LinkedIn post, Tony Seale, Knowledge Graph Architect at UBS in the UK, said,

“AI does not need to happen to you; organizations can shape AI by shaping their data.

It is a choice: We can allow all data to be absorbed into huge ‘data gravity wells’ or we can create a network of networks, each of us connecting and consolidating our data.”

The “networks of networks” Seale refers to is the concept of knowledge graphs – the same knowledge graph that can be built from your web data using semantic Schema Markup.”

The AI revolution has only just begun, and there is no better time than now to shape your data, starting with your web content through the implementation of Schema Markup.

Use Schema Markup As The Catalyst For AI

In today’s digital landscape, organizations must invest in new technology to keep pace with the evolution of AI and search.

Whether your goal is to stand out on the SERP or ensure your content is understood as intended by Google and other search engines, the time to implement Schema Markup is now.

With Schema Markup, SEO pros can become heroes, enabling generative AI adoption through content knowledge graphs while delivering tangible benefits, such as increased click-through rates and improved search visibility.

More resources: 


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