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5 Crucial Tips for Search Engine Optimization in 2022

To say that search engine optimization (SEO) has changed a great deal over the past several years would be putting it lightly.  Today’s SEO landscape is nearly unrecognizable compared to what it looked like in 2018. And even now, it still continues to change. 

Here are a few tips to help you keep pace. 

Put the User Experience First

We’re just about rounding on the one-year anniversary of Google’s Core Web Vitals Update. Also known as the Google Page Experience Update, Core Web Vitals officially establish a website’s user experience as a ranking factor.  If you haven’t already started prioritizing things like interactivity, load time, and ease of use by now, it’s past time you do so. 

Because if you don’t, it’s not just your PageRank that’s going to suffer—your audience is going to ditch your website for a competitor that provides a better experience. 

hand shaking through laptop screen

Content is Still King

Fortunately, not everything has changed. Content is still the best tool in your marketing and SEO arsenal.  As long as you provide your audience with content that’s relevant and valuable to them, everything else will fall nicely into place. 

See, there’s a common thread in the majority of Google’s algorithm updates. Every single one is ultimately designed to make the search engine better at recognizing quality. The better your content, the more beneficial these updates will ultimately be for you. 

Rethink Audience Research and PPC Targeting

Arguably one of the biggest news stories of the past several years has involved Google’s decision to retire third-party tracking cookies from its Chrome browser. Unsurprisingly, this created a massive ripple effect in both advertising and SEO, effectively setting an end of life date for behavioral targeting. To replace behavioral advertising, Google is currently testing a new ad feature known as Topics, which consists of three broad components: 

  • A website or ad network’s topics/subjects
  • The topics a user is interested in, based on their browsing behavior
  • Alignment between user topics and website/network topics. 

Basically, it’s contextual advertising with a slightly different coat of paint. 

Now, it’s important to note that none of this is going to really come into effect until 2024, the current deadline for phasing out cookies.  Alongside Topics, Google is reportedly also testing multiple new Privacy Sandbox technologies. While much of these are still under wraps, it may be worthwhile to start assessing how you target content and research your customers now. 

Consider Exploring AI

Over the past few years, artificial intelligence has evolved in leaps and bounds. Many SEO tools now leverage a combination of AI, machine learning, and natural language processing to handle much of the backend work, from keyword research to topic suggestions. If done right, implementing them within your own organization could give you a considerable competitive edge. 

Empathy, Not Analytics

People are exhausted, and you can hardly blame them. The past several years have been some of the most emotionally trying in recent memory. What that means for you is that customers have less patience than ever for overly-salesly or irrelevant messaging. 

It also means that a little empathy can go a long way. Shape your content to be more conscientious, more focused on social responsibility, and more aware of your audience’s needs. 

strangely colored letters spell out seo

Dispelling Three Major SEO Myths That Refuse to Die

There’s a lot of misinformation floating around the search engine optimization (SEO) sector. Perhaps it’s because SEO scammers directly benefit from this lack of understanding. Or perhaps it’s simply an inevitable characteristic of any long-running industry. 

Either way, there are a few myths that seem to persist more stubbornly than others—today, we’re going to address three of the biggest myths currently plaguing SEO.  

More is Better

Our first is technically a twofer.

A lot of SEO novices develop something of an obsession with quantity. More backlinks. More keywords. Bigger numbers. 

The problem is that this never works. Content quality—and how well it fits intent—is far more important than keywords. And if you include too many keywords and keyword variations in a piece or attempt to hit some sort of quota, there’s a good chance you’ll be penalized for keyword stuffing.

Similarly, one relevant backlink is worth a hundred irrelevant ones. Worse still, in some cases backlinks could potentially even damage your credibility. It’s one of the reasons buying links is never advisable

Those purchased links are almost always toxic. 

Social Media and SEO are Directly Related

Plenty of SEO specialists have noted that there appears to be a correlation between social signals and page performance. It’s important to understand that this is not due to any action on Google’s part. Search algorithms have absolutely nothing to do with social marketing. 

Google’s own John Mueller has directly said as much

The reason pages with more social activity tend to perform better on the search engine results page (SERP) is merely a matter of exposure. More people see the page because it’s being shared. And because more people see the page, they’re more likely to share it. 

twitter app open on iphone

You’ll Get Penalized for Duplicate Content

Our last myth is one that we’ve seen even experienced SEO professionals subscribe to.  The idea that your site will be penalized by Google for hosting duplicate content is quite frankly wrong. It’s important to understand, however, that this doesn’t mean duplicate content is a good thing. 

While there is no duplicate content penalty present in Google’s algorithms, duplicate content can still harm your ranking in a few ways: 

  • Cannibalized traffic
  • Diluted backlinks
  • Greater difficulty competing with content scrapers

So while it’s still worthwhile to run a site audit so you can check for and eliminate duplicate content, it’s not the critical SEO issue that some people make it out to be. It’s a minor optimization issue, at worst. 

Clearing the Air

The SEO myths listed above are far from the only misconceptions around the profession. They’re simply a few of the most prominent and persistent. Hopefully, in publishing this piece, we’ve taken one more step towards laying them to rest for good. 

Want to read more? Check out our blog, where we dive into SEO topics every month!

Scrabble pieces spell out SEO

Three Best Practices for Designing an SEO-Friendly Website

A lot of people forget that search engine optimization isn’t simply a matter of finding the right keywords and selecting the right topics. It’s about more than meta descriptions and site content.  User experience is every bit as crucial to creating an effective site. 

Because if your site doesn’t perform properly—if it’s not fast, intuitive, and easy to navigate—then none of the other stuff matters. People aren’t going to stick around to see your compelling content. They’re going to leave and likely end up navigating straight to one of your competitors.

Make Sure it’s Mobile-Friendly

By 2025, 72.6% of all Internet users will access the web exclusively on their smartphones. By 2030, that number is likely to be significantly higher. At this point, the simple reality is that if your website is not optimized to perform well on smartphones and tablets, you are alienating the majority of your audience.

crowd of people typing on iphones

And when you factor in that mobile-friendliness has been a ranking factor for some years now, you’ll very likely see yourself drop down the rankings of the search engine results page, as well. As for what this involves, you’ll want to do the following: 

  • Design your layout to be readable on smaller screens.
  • Keep the user experience consistent across pages.
  • Connect everything to social media where relevant. 
  • Test your site with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.

Optimize for Speed

You’ve probably heard the statistics. More than half of people will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load, and the majority of people won’t wait longer than six. Guidance from Google reflects this as well, recommending load times of under half a second. 

And like mobile-friendliness, speed is also a ranking factor, meaning you’ll want to do the following at the minimum to keep your site loading fast:

  • If you must use JavaScript, ensure the code is as light and efficient as possible.
  • Compress all images when uploading.
  • Utilize browser caching.
  • Avoid heavy use of rich media like video. 
  • If you’re using a tool like WordPress, use a responsive theme. 
  • Avoid pop-ups. 
  • Consider enabling Accelerated Mobile Pages. 

Structure Things Logically

We’ve all encountered sites that were difficult to navigate. 

Nested menus within nested menus, the end result is a confusing, frustrating mess. Links and categories that go in circles are as difficult to follow for humans as it is for search engines. Graphics that could be charitably described as an eyesore. 

Your website must be as streamlined as possible, with a sensible hierarchy and an easy path into and out of every single page. Every segment should flow naturally into every other segment, and no page on your site should be more than three jumps away from the homepage. 

In Closing

SEO is about more than keywords and content. Design is every bit as important. The best practices here are a good starting point in that regard, but they aren’t everything—the rest is up to you. Want more resources on SEO operations? Check out our resources page!

content audience

Your Content is Good — But is it Aligned to Your Audience?

How to Ensure Your Website Resonates

In many ways, content creation is as much a passion as it is a career. The desire to create and express ourselves is a fundamental part of what makes us human. And although content marketing can scratch that itch to some extent, content created for your business is not artistry. 

It’s part of a strategy

The thing a lot of people don’t realize about content marketing is that you cannot simply sit down and write whatever comes to mind. You need to be purposeful and deliberate in what you create. Whether you’re making blog posts, videos, infographics, or something else entirely, each and every one of your creations must be made with two things in mind. 

  • Your audience.
  • Your end goal. 

As you might expect, those two are interconnected. Successfully achieving one’s content marketing objectives demands an understanding of one’s audience. Because without that understanding, it doesn’t matter how good your content is. 

So how do you develop an understanding of your audience? How do you determine if the content is strategically-aligned to your brand? And finally, how do you go about defining your content marketing goals? 

Let’s break this down by section.

Researching Your Audience

You probably have at least some concept of the people to which your products and services appeal. You know, in a very general sense, who you need to draw in with your messaging. Before you start working on your content strategy, you need to drill down to specifics. 

You can leverage the following sources for this research: 

  • Social media. Specifically, pages and accounts operated by your competitors. Look at the people who most frequently and actively engage with your competition, and see if you notice common traits.
  • Internal survey data. Consider offering incentives to people who purchase your products or services so that they’re motivated to respond. 
  • Facebook Audience Insights. And other similar tools. 

Defining Your Goals

Before you start working out the details of your content marketing objectives, you need to know who you are. Your brand identity may not play a direct role in content marketing, but it will inform everything from topic ideation to the language you use in your content. 

Your brand identity consists of: 

  • Visuals. Logos, colors, fonts, etc.  
  • Your mission statement. Why your brand was founded, and what you ultimately want it to achieve. 
  • Messaging. Words that describe your brand, slogans, common statements, and sentiments. 

Sit down and brainstorm everything you currently know about your business, and figure out where you want to be in the near future. Focus on defining an objective that’s specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant. You may also consider the use of smaller milestone goals. 

Aligning Your Content

From here, it’s simply a matter of answering the following questions: 

  • What does your audience care about?
  • What entertains your audience? 
  • Why is your audience interested in your brand? 
  • What causes your audience to seek information? 
  • To what concepts and ideas is your audience resistant? 

There’s a bit more to strategic content marketing than we’ve covered here, of course. But for now, this should suffice as a primer. 

loading screen

What is the Largest Contentful Paint?

Officially added as a ranking factor in 2021, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is one of Google’s Core Web Vitals — the metrics by which the search engine measures user experience. In LCP’s case, it measures how fast a page loads. This is done by analyzing the load time of the largest piece of content on the page 

Content types that LCP may measure include: 

  • Background images 
  • Video thumbnails
  • Images
  • Block-level HTML elements such as paragraphs 
  • Headers

How is LCP Measured?

There should be a section in your Search Console that allows you to generate a Core Web Vitals Report. This will provide a granular view of how each URL on your site performs based on historical user data. Each URL will receive a score of Poor, Needs Improvement, or Good. 

For LCP, these values are measured as follows: 

  • Good: 2.5 seconds or less
  • Needs Improvement: Between  2.6 seconds and four seconds. 
  • Poor: Greater than four seconds. 

Alternatively, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, Chrome Lighthouse, or the AMP Page Experience Guide

How to Optimize for LCP

Load time has always been extremely important, even before Google officially started considering it a ranking signal. As noted by Google’s own support documentation, if a page’s load time increases from one to three seconds, the page’s bounce rate increases by 32%. Meanwhile, an increase from one to six seconds will see a 106% increase in bounce rate. 

What we’re saying here is that if you’ve been properly optimizing your website for performance, you shouldn’t need to do anything specific for LCP, as you’re already optimized. All the general advice and best practices from before still apply today. 

If you haven’t done much in the way of page performance or are simply curious if you’ve missed anything important, some areas of focus include: 

  • Reducing HTTP requests.
  • Minifying your JavaScript and CSS. 
  • Compressing and optimizing your images. 
  • Avoiding the use of resource-heavy content like video or hosting on external sites where possible. 
  • Enabling browser caching. 
  • Using a content delivery network or working with a host that leverages its own. 
  • If you’re using a platform like WordPress, eliminate any unnecessary or redundant plugins. 
  • Leveraging responsive web design, or else designing your site first and foremost for mobile devices. 

Google’s Core Web Vitals are neither new nor revolutionary. They aren’t going to change the way anyone searches, nor should they have any impact on how you optimize and design your site. Provided you’ve already been following the proper best practices, you’re likely safe just to keep proceeding as you have been.

And if you’ve been falling short in any way, let these new ranking signals serve as a wakeup call for you. 

Should You Bother With Facebook Advertising in the New Year?

Or is it Time to Move to Greener Pastures? 

Facebook has had a bit of a rough year. 

The Facebook Papers first released by The Wall Street Journal (and recently made public by Gizmodo) revealed a company crippled by its own success. An organization that had become far too bloated, struggling under a management structure completely unsuited for its size. A business defined by questionable business ethics and poor technology management. 

Just a day after The Facebook Papers were released, the social network suffered one of its worst outages in history, which CNBC reported may have cost upwards of $100 million

Prior to both of these incidents, Facebook has experienced a history of boycotts, privacy flubs, and controversies. The worst of these was arguably Cambridge Analytica, detailed in this report from Vox.  In the wake of this cornucopia of problems, the general sentiment around the platform for business users and regular consumers alike seems best summarized by the following statement: 

“I have no idea why I’m still here.”

 “Through all these stories, we’re fundamentally ignoring a basic tenet of why people aren’t using Facebook anymore,” Forbes contributor Paul Tassi wrote in 2019. “It’s just a very, very exhausting and irritating platform to consume and utilize…The entire site needs a massive overhaul, but if it hasn’t happened now, I’m not sure it ever will.” 

Tassi’s article may be written from a consumer perspective, but it could just as easily apply to advertising. Although the social network makes a big deal of the power and flexibility of its suite of business tools, they are just as cumbersome and frustrating as the core site. Especially if you try to leverage Facebook ads.

The business suite epitomizes feature bloat, its interface so crowded and clogged with information that one’s eyes glaze over simply looking upon it. The algorithm that determines whether or not an ad is acceptable is, per The Verge, just as broken as Facebook’s much-reviled community standards algorithm. Whether or not it accepts or rejects an ad is seemingly arbitrary — a toss of the dice that has led to a noticeable decline in ad quality over the past two years. 

So in light of all this, why are businesses still using Facebook? 

Unfortunately, because it still works (at least for now). Even though younger audiences are largely abandoning the platform, Statista reports that as of Q2 2021, there are still approximately 2.91 billion active monthly users. In other words, for now, your best bet may be to keep using it, despite all the frustration. 

At least until a replacement comes along and supplants it. Hey, it happened with Myspace.

3 Tactics To Help You Learn More About Your Audience

Who are your customers? Why are they your customers? What do you offer that your competitors do not? 

More importantly, what sort of content is your audience interested in? What do they enjoy, and what do they find compelling? What questions do they want you to answer, and what topics do they want to learn about? 

These are among the most important questions that you need to address. Understanding your audience is critical to your content marketing efforts. Without this knowledge, you cannot effectively target your content.

Let’s talk about where you can look to learn. 

Spend Some Time On Social

In addition to being among the most powerful marketing tools in your arsenal, social networks like Facebook are an incredibly valuable source of information on your audience. 

Examine who is interacting both with you and with your competitors. Take a look at their likes, their dislikes, the kind of language they use, and their primary demographics. Look at your social analytic data to see who’s currently engaged with your brand. 

There’s bound to be a fair bit of variance, of course. Your goal here isn’t to understand every single individual consumer, but rather to put together a picture of the common threads between each and every person. And as an added bonus, you can also get a more complete picture of what kind of content really resonates with people and generates the most engagement. 

Check Your Metrics

Although it may not always provide you with comprehensive information, your Google Search Console can nevertheless give you at least a partial picture of your website’s visitors. If you manage a digital storefront or use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, you can augment your search and traffic data with information from both of these platforms. You’re looking to learn a few things here.

First and foremost, obviously, is who is visiting your website, and why — what search terms they’re using, what platform they came from, and what they’re doing after they arrive. Second, when they’re visiting your site, what time of day do you generate the most traffic? Finally, what they do just before they leave, whether that’s purchasing a product, signing up for an email, or simply bouncing. 

Ask Your Customers Directly

Last but certainly not least, have you considered just talking to your customers? 

If there’s one type of audience research we see consistently overlooked, it’s surveys and interviews. Businesses either assume they don’t have the time and resources to handle survey data or else it just never occurs to them to ask their audience what they want. Done right, however, this can be one of the most valuable sources of information you’ll ever collect.

Note that in order for your surveys to be as effective as possible, you’ll need to offer some sort of incentive for people who answer. Maybe they’ll get a temporary discount code, or get information about an upcoming new product. Maybe they’ll be entered into a contest or raffle. 

The point is, you need to give them a reason to answer beyond “I want them to.” 

Listen. Learn. Grow. 

A thorough understanding of one’s audience is the foundation of a successful business. By understanding who your customers are, what they want, and what type of content interests them, you can execute a more focused, better-targeted, and ultimately more successful content marketing strategy. At the end of the day, it’s easier than you’d think to do that, too.

You simply need to know where to look, and how to listen. 

Will Google Always Remain The Dominant Search Engine?

When someone mentions search engine optimization (SEO), what’s the first thing you think about? Chances are good that if you’re like most people, it’s Google — or rather, its parent company, Alphabet. That’s not surprising.

While Google certainly didn’t invent the search engine market, it has, for more than a decade, defined it. Half of SEO amounts to trying to figure out what Google’s algorithms are doing, and what sort of content they want.  Other search engines rarely, if ever, even enter into the equation.

And if they do, they’re almost always playing second string to Google.

Will this always be the case, though? Today, we take the search giant’s dominance as a given. As history has shown us, however, dominance can vanish almost overnight.  

BlackBerry. Toys R Us. Blockbuster. Staples. Compaq. These were once household names. And while most of them are still operational, they operate in a smaller niche than anyone could have imagined in their heyday. 

According to research collected by statistics aggregator Statista, Google’s share of the search engine market has been on a steady decline for the past several years. It has, since April 2016, dropped from 63.8 percent … to 62 percent. Alright, admittedly, that’s not much of a decline.

That said, Microsoft’s share of the search engine has been climbing both consistently and significantly. Since 2012, the percentage of total search queries handled by Microsoft increased from 15.4 percent to 25.9 percent. Taken in tandem, these two statistics appear to suggest that Google’s position at the top of the search market may well be in jeopardy.

At the same time, looking at the data in its entirety paints a very different picture. Since 2008, Google has always hovered around the 60 percent mark. Although Microsoft’s climbing market share could, in the future, result in a shift, at the current juncture it’s still business as usual. 

And ultimately, it doesn’t really matter anyway. At the end of the day, all search engines ultimately have the same goal. Through their algorithms, they want to provide their audience with the most relevant, insightful, and valuable content possible. There are a limited number of ways in which one can do that.

They all boil down to intent. Understanding precisely what a user is looking for and providing that to them. This has always been the end goal of search engines (aside from generating advertising revenue, obviously). 

That isn’t to say you should ignore Google’s algorithmic updates, nor that you shouldn’t endeavor to understand the search engine. You still should. But at the same time, your focus should be on understanding your audience and using that understanding to create the best content and the most compelling brand image possible.

Do that, and everything else should follow.

How Embedded Video Can Improve Your Search Engine Optimization

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten times that. Modern audiences are intensely visual. It’s not surprising, then, that the streaming video market has grown positively titanic over the past few years. Per research aggregator Statista, digital advertising revenue is expected to top $11 billion by next year. 

On the video streaming front, meanwhile, marketing agency Allied Market Research reports that the video streaming market will reach $149.3 billion by 2026. With the massive shift towards digital and the upturn in streaming due to the coronavirus — news publication Variety reports a significant increase in video streaming subscriptions — the prominence of video will only increase. From a marketing perspective, this means that there’s a great deal of value in video, provided you can leverage it effectively.

This isn’t exactly secret knowledge, mind you. Video is memorable, easy to engage with, and easy to digest. It’s highly shareable, too, with a great deal of potential for bringing new traffic and generating brand awareness.

What you may not know is that video has a more direct connection with search engine optimization. Effective use of video has the potential to shoot your page up in the rankings. There are a few reasons for this. 

  • Increased website traffic. Just as Google’s image search can display properly-optimized photos on your website, Google video search provides another means by which users can come across your brand. Just make sure you follow Google’s video best practices.
    • Ensure there’s a high-quality thumbnail image.
    • The video must be publicly available in order to be searched.
    • The video’s content must specifically apply to the host page.
    • Don’t hide your video with a complicated script. 
    • Use structured data markup or a video sitemap to describe your video. 
    • Make sure your site is verified in the Google Search Console. 
    • Host the video in a supported format. 
  • Better engagement. Although we don’t know the exact weight, we do know that Google keeps a close eye on how long each visitor spends on your site. A video that’s engaging enough to keep people watching for a while will keep people on the page longer. And that, in turn, will improve your rankings.  
  • More backlinks. As we’ve already said, video tends to be shared with great frequency. Where embedded video is concerned, that means more backlinks to your website. Not only does that increase your traffic, but it’s also likely to improve your placement. 
  • Enhanced conversions. We saved the best for last. As mentioned, video can be an incredibly compelling marketing tool. Provided you’ve tailored your video content effectively and created it with a clear goal in mind, it can go a long way towards your conversion goals.

Used right, embedded video can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. It can increase both traffic and engagement, generate shares on social, and drive conversions to your site. It’s not a format that will work for every brand, nor every topic.

But for the topics that it does fit, it fits like a glove. 

3 Great Sources of Inspiration For Topic Research

Some people can turn creativity on and off like a faucet, accessing an endless well of inspiration and imagination with ease. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t at least a little jealous. See, for most of us, creativity tends to be a fickle, fleeting thing, coming and going more or less as it pleases.

Most often, this manifests as a lack of inspiration in the brainstorming phase, the inability to come up with compelling content even in spite of knowing what your readers are interested in. The bad news is that there’s no way to avoid this kind of thing entirely. The good news is that if you know where to look, you can overcome this roadblock when it surfaces.

Here are a few of our favorite sources of inspiration to help you more effectively research, brainstorm, and create compelling content. 

Quora

Quora is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, one of our favorite resources not just for topic research, but for audience research as well. This Q&A community hosts content on virtually anything you can think of — if it’s a question someone’s asked, you’re likely to find it here. Whether you’re stuck on how to address a particular search query or simply looking for new content ideas, it’s the perfect place to look. 

Other, similar resources include Yahoo! answers and Reddit. 

Competitor’s Blogs

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? As such, if you’re trying to figure out where you should focus your content marketing efforts, it may be worthwhile to have a look at the competition. Note that we are not in any way suggesting that you directly copy them — plagiarism is one of the worst things you possibly do as a writer and something to be avoided at all costs.

Rather, take a look at what sort of topics your competition covers, and think about whether or not there are certain areas you can improve upon when compared to them. In essence, approach content marketing in the same way as you approach every other area of your business. Do what your competitors do, only better.  

Friends and Colleagues

Last but certainly not least, never underestimate the value of your contacts, both personal and professional. Even if someone isn’t part of your target audience or working in your particular field, having someone to bounce ideas off can be incredibly valuable. They’ll likely bring a unique perspective to the table, with insights you hadn’t previously considered. 

A good brainstorming session is an incredible way to get the creative juices flowing. 

Writer’s Block is Only Temporary

Struggling with a creative block can be incredibly frustrating. But if you know where to look, inspiration is usually only a few clicks away. And if the above advice doesn’t help, there’s one more thing you can do to get the juices flowing.

Take a break. Get up from your computer and go for a walk. Do something relaxing, fun, and energizing.

When you return to your work, you might be surprised at how much better you’re able to focus.