As digital marketers wrap up 2021 and look for SEO tips for 2022, it’s essential to reflect on the past year to see where digital marketing is heading. And, boy, was 2021 a big one.
Google Made a Lot of Changes in 2021
Over the past year, there were a little less than a dozen confirmed Google algorithm changes, but they all substantially impacted digital marketing and search. The updates focused on a few overarching themes, including:
- Cleaning up content quality
- Spam updates
- Overhauling Google’s product algorithm
- A core vitals update
These changes indicate that Google focuses on providing a better user experience and minimizing webspam.
So, what should you be focusing on in 2022?
Our Top SEO Tips for 2022
In this blog, we will focus many of our SEO tips on content optimization, user experience, and SEO site architecture in hopes of aligning your website with Google’s algorithm.
This blog aims to provide digital marketers with in-depth content and onsite strategy that directly relates to and benefits your website’s SEO strategy. By the end of this blog, you will have plenty of actionable items that you can use to enhance your website’s overall content and SEO strategy.
Let’s talk about our top SEO tips for digital marketing in 2022.
SEO Tip #1: Audit Your Content: Refresh or Redirect Pages With Low Engagement
First up, content audits.
What is a Content Audit?
We believe so strongly in this SEO tip that we make content audits an integral part of our overall SEO process for our brands and our client’s brands. But, what is a content audit? We cover this topic in more detail in another blog, “What is a Content Audit and Why You Need to Do One This Year!” but from a high-level perspective, a content audit reviews and analyzes all of the content on a website.
An accurate content audit allows you to evaluate the content on each page for engagement, keyword clarity, and competitiveness. It also helps you address keyword content cannibalization or even indexation issues.
There are significant opportunities at the page level beyond tweaking meta tags, headings, and adding keywords. Conducting a content audit helps you drill down to those issues and turn them into opportunities for enhancing your website.
The Benefits of a Content Audit – Real World Example
Here’s an example.
One of our clients has a massive website. We’re talking about over 100,000 pages of content accumulated over the past ten years.
By performing a thorough content audit, we isolated pages that had poor traffic, minimal search impressions, no links, and in some cases, keyword cannibalization!
We also identified hundreds of pages dropped from Google’s index due to thin content, poor user experience, and poor site structure. Once we identified these issues, we first addressed the most significant problems and immediately corrected them.
Without the help of a content audit, we might never have known about these issues nor made it a priority to fix them!
How to Audit Your Content
While this sounds great, how exactly do you perform a content audit?
Lucky for you, there are plenty of free and paid tools that will help you conduct a decent content audit.
Using tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, and SEMrush, you can cross-reference data and obtain a page-by-page analysis of how each page’s content is performing.
Analyzing Your Content Audit Findings in SEMrush
Once you have all this data in one place, you can set rules in SEMrush that will help you decide what to do with each website page and start taking action.
One of the rules we use in SEMrush to help us make decisions about individual website pages is this simple question.
Does the page have more than 100 visits per year?
- If the page doesn’t have 100 visits per year, does it have any backlinks?
- If the page has fewer than 100 visits per year but has backlinks, we will consider a 301 redirect from that page to a better-performing page with a similar piece of content.
- If the page has less than 100 visits per year AND doesn’t have any links, we will consider rewriting the page, redirecting the page, or taking it completely off the website to allow better content to rank.
- If the page does have 100 visits per year or more, we look at the page’s engagement. For engagement metrics, we look at time-on-site and bounce rate.
- If the page with traffic has a high bounce rate, we manually review it for relevancy and potentially rewrite the content to better align with the targeted keywords on the page.
- If the page with traffic has a low bounce rate, we look at whether or not it converts. If the page doesn’t convert, we adjust the content on the page to encourage conversions.
As digital marketers and SEOs, we focus much of our time on keywords and rankings that we very rarely focus on the quality of our content and our conversion rates. But, as each year passes, Google focuses more and more on user experience, so we should too.
Content audits can help us do that.
What’s the point of bringing in traffic that doesn’t convert or immediately bounces off of the page?
For a more in-depth look at content audits and tips and tricks on how to perform them, check out our blog, “What is a Content Audit and Why You Need to Do One This Year!“
Let’s move on to our next SEO tip for 2022.
SEO Tip #2: Implement a Hub-and-Spoke Content Strategy
The hub-and-spoke content strategy is next on our top 9 SEO Tips for 2022.
Hub-and-spoke models have been around for a while now; however, you may have heard them called a different name, such as the content pillar model.
What is a Hub-and-Spoke Model?
The hub-and-spoke content strategy uses supplementary content to support and promote a larger piece of content. This model is a great way to become more relevant and expand your related keywords around that topic. Some of the other benefits of the hub-and-spoke content model include increased traffic, leads, and sales.
But, what exactly is the hub-and-spoke model?
Think of the hub-and-spoke model like a bicycle wheel where the spokes help to support and connect to the wheel’s central hub. In this case, the hub is the primary (and usually broader) topic you are trying to promote. The spokes are all the supporting content that relates to the main topic.
Hub-and-Spoke Model & Keywords
From a keyword perspective, the hub is the main head keyword, while the spokes are secondary keywords or even your meaty middle keywords.
To take this model further, you can extend the spokes by linking each page to even more granular long-tail keywords. Having topically relevant interlinked pages helps boost your authority with the search engines.
Now, let’s put this into action.
How to Create a Hub-and-Spoke Content Model
Let’s say you have an e-commerce store that sells shoes.
Your keywords are highly competitive, so, in this case, it would make sense to have multiple hub-and-spoke models inside of each other.
The Hub & Spokes
For example, let’s say you target the keyword “men’s shoes.” That is your hub.
Your spokes are keywords like “men’s athletic shoes,” “men’s dress shoes,” “men’s boots,” and so on.
To connect these pages, you will use an internal linking strategy from the spokes (i.e., “men’s athletic shoes,” “men’s dress shoes,” and “men’s boots”) to the hub (i.e., “men’s shoes”).
This hub-and-spoke model helps Google understand the authority of the primary keyword and the relationship between the main keyword to the secondary keywords.
Hub-and-Spoke Model & Site Hierarchy
As we mentioned before, in this case, it also makes sense to continue the hub-and-spoke model throughout the site hierarchy. Let’s explain.
For example, we would take one of those previously listed spokes, let’s say “men’s dress shoes,” and break out that spoke even further into more spokes such as “Oxford men’s dress shoes,” “Derby men’s dress shoes,” or “men’s dress loafers.”
Then, if possible, we would break out those spokes even further to include more long-tail keywords.
For example, we’d use one of the spokes, let’s say “men’s dress loafers,” and break out that keyword into even more spokes. These spokes would include things like “men’s dress loafers on sale,” “men’s dress loafers with tassels,” “men’s penny loafers,” or incorporate keywords with colors or material like “men’s dress loafers suede” or “men’s dress loafers black.”
This overall strategy allows you to create highly targeted and optimized content around a strategic keyword or small group of similar keywords. It also gives Google the context to understand the relevance and authority of these keywords as they relate to each other and your site.
Companies that employ the hub-and-spoke model see a dramatic increase in traffic and sales since their pages are more relevant to their search intent.
Are you interested in learning more about the hub-and-spoke content model? Check out our blog, “The Power of a Hub and Spoke Content Strategy” to learn more and get started!
Let’s move on to SEO tip #3.
SEO Tip #3: Improve Click-Through Rates (CTRs) by Optimizing Titles and Descriptions
And just like that, we’re onto our third SEO tip in our list of 9 SEO Tips for 2022, improve click-through rates (CTRs) by optimizing titles and descriptions.
Why is it Important to Optimize for Organic CTRs?
Optimizing for organic CTRs is one of the things SEOs tend to overlook. SEOs can become so focused on getting their keywords to rank and converting traffic that they sometimes miss the simple things they can do to increase their existing traffic.
The great thing about optimizing your organic CTR is that it is almost entirely independent of the keyword ranking conversion. Let’s explain.
As SEOs, we create SEO-friendly meta tags that involve crafting titles and descriptions that rank well in search AND entice a user to click on the organic search listing.
When optimizing content, we tend to leave the meta tags in place most of the time unless we feel the need to reoptimize it or refocus on specific keywords.
But, we rarely go through this exercise with conversions or CTRs in mind. That’s not to say that digital marketing agencies and other SEOs don’t do this. It’s just not commonly done. This means it’s even more important for SEOs to do this to help them stand out from the pack.
Optimized Organic CTRs Increase Traffic & Rankings
By testing and optimizing your CTR, you’re able to leverage existing traffic and rankings to increase the rate at which users click through to your website from the search engines.
Before we get into how you can optimize your organic click-through rates, let’s take a second to make sure we are all on the same page.
Let’s Talk About Organic CTRs
First off, I want to ensure that we all understand that we’re talking about organic CTRs, not CTRs from paid traffic, like Google Ads or social ads.
What Are Organic Click-Through Rates?
Organic click-through rates are the ratio of users that click on your organic result in the search engines compared to the number of times users see your organic listing. It would look something like organic clicks divided by impressions as a formula.
Research & Statistics on Organic CTRs
Backlinko did a study a couple of years back where they analyzed 5 million Google search results to understand the click-through rate better. The CTR varied dramatically between position 1 (31.73%) and position 10 (3.09%) for first page rankings, with an average of about 11%.
Throughout the study, they also found some interesting information about organic CTRs. For example:
- The number 1 position in Google is ten times more likely to get clicked than position 10.
- Organic CTR rates for positions 7-10 are essentially the same.
- Moving up just one spot in the search results increases your CTR by approximately 30%.
They also came up with some fascinating findings, such as:
- Title tags that contain a question have a 14.1% higher CTR than those that do not.
- Title tags between 15-40 characters have the highest CTR. About 8% higher than character lengths outside of that range.
- Adding descriptive adjectives like best, insane, powerful, and amazing decreased a website’s CTR by almost 13%.
- Title tags with emotional language (i.e., How to get SEO results that will make you jump for joy) increased CTR by around 7%.
- This didn’t change if the emotional sentiment was positive or negative.
- And lastly – organic listings with meta descriptions resulted in 5.8% more clicks than those without a meta description.
HUGE shoutout to Brian Dean over at Backlinko for putting this content together. If you guys haven’t seen Brian’s work, we highly recommend checking out his blog as well as his YouTube channel.
How to Improve Organic CTRs
So, now that you understand the dramatic difference optimizing your meta tags can make, let’s talk about how to do it. Don’t worry; it’s a lot easier than you think!
Step 1 – Audit Your Pages to Find Lowest Organic Click-Through Rate
The first action you need to take when optimizing your meta tags is to perform a content audit to identify the pages with the lowest organic click-through rate and start there.
There are a few ways to get this information, but let’s start with Google Search Console.
Once you are in Google Search Console, you’ll need to navigate to the Performance tab and select “Search results.” From there, you’ll need to make sure to select “Average CTR” at the top, and you’re looking at the Queries listed below the graph. Then, export the data.
This information will become your baseline so you can track the improvements or regressions from any changes you decide to make.
Don’t Forget to Check for Keyword Cannibalization!
Before we get into more detail, we’d be careless if we didn’t point out that now would be a great time to double-check for any keyword cannibalization.
For those new to SEO, keyword cannibalization is when you have multiple pages optimized for the same keyword.
Some of you may think that this sounds great because you’ll have numerous whacks at the apple, but what ends up happening is you spread out your organic clicks over multiple pages and end up competing with yourself while also limiting the click-through rate of each listing. This is a massive mistake in SEO and something you should correct in 2022.
Step 2 – Isolate a Group of Pages for Testing
Now, let’s get back to the testing.
Take that list and cut it in half once you isolate a group of pages with lower click-through rates. The reason you want to cut this list in half is that you’re going to change the titles on only half of this list, while the second half will act as your control group.
Once you have a list of pages you will experiment on, you can begin making changes.
As discussed above, consider using emotions, making your titles more concise, adding things like calendar year, free shipping (if applicable), and adding numbers or brackets.
If you’re running PPC or paid social ads, now would be a great time to pull your ad copy data to find out which ad titles (and, more importantly, which styles or themes) receive the most considerable click-through rate. Once you have optimized your titles, go ahead, and publish them.
Step 3 – Pull the Data & Compare the Metrics to the Control Group
In a few weeks, you’ll want to go back into Google Search Console and pull that data again to compare the changes you’ve made with the change in click-through rate.
Make sure you take note of your control group (i.e., the group you didn’t change) to make sure that it was your new title tags that moved the needle and not a Google update or general shift in the market.
Step 4 – Make Changes & Repeat
If the test was successful, make those changes to the control group and repeat the process.
Step 5 – Focus on Meta Descriptions
Once you update your titles, we recommend going through the same process with your meta descriptions to see if you can improve the CTR even more.
If you’re interested in learning more tips on how to improve your organic CTR, check out our detailed blog titled “11 Tips to Improve Your Organic CTR SEO.”
SEO Tip #4: Focus on Long-Form and Media Integrated Content
Now, let’s move on to SEO tip #4, focus on long-form and media integrated content.
2022 is the year of content. But, what is long-form content, and how can you optimize for it?
How to Write Long-Form Content for Your Website
One of the biggest questions we get from clients is always “How long should my content be?” or “Does size matter?” We’re talking about content, guys! Get your mind out of the gutter!
The answer is simple – yes, the length of your content does matter, but not in the way you would think.
The Truth About Content-Length
For years in the SEO community, experts have been pushing long-form content, and the recommended number of words seems to grow each month, but without any real strategy or reason behind it. That said, studies have shown that you typically need to meet a minimum requirement of around 300-500 words per piece of content, but you could need ten times that to rank.
Now, you’re probably thinking that this sounds like the most wishy-washy answer you’ve ever heard, but let me explain.
Both short and long-form content have their place depending on how they will be used. But the number of words needed per piece of content is a subject of competitive intelligence.
In other words, how many words (among other factors) does Google like to see in the top 10 search results for a keyword? A simple way to do this is to manually look at the top 10 web pages for the keyword you’re trying to rank. You’ll want to note word count, page structure, images, videos, and headings to understand better what ranking factors Google focuses on for that keyword.
In layman’s terms, you are trying to reverse-engineer the content on the first page of the search results to help you to optimize your content better.
Please note that this can be a pretty time-intensive endeavor, but a few tools make this much more manageable.
Content Writing Tools for SEO
Here are our favorite content writing tools for SEO.
SEMrush’s SEO Writing Assistant
SEMrush’s SEO writing assistant tool is a great way to compare your content to those ranking for your desired keyword. It will give you a score and some initial suggestions on how to improve your ranking by adding elements, keywords, and formatting your content.
Personally, our favorite new content tool is SurferSEO. If you’re not using this tool, you need to.
SurferSEO analyzes the attributes of the top 10 competing pages on the first page of the SERPs for your keyword.
It also brings natural language processing into their analysis. (Natural language processing is something that Google uses to understand search queries better and rank content better.)
Building your content in the editor tool will give you actionable suggestions and score your content. You’ll also be able to see each attribute of your content (like a heading, length, or title) compared to your competition.
Using a content tool like SurferSEO, you can optimize your content for length, format, and keyword usage. In most cases, SurferSEO will tell you to write more based on your competitors. Still, we’ve also watched a marketer put a 9,000-word article into the editor tool, and SurferSEO suggested that he reduce his content length by half. The marketer who wrote the content was shocked by this result, but he followed the suggestion and saw a massive increase in the SERPs almost immediately.
Benefits of Using Images and Videos in Content for SEO
Before we wrap up this section, we also want to briefly touch on the usage of integrated media like video, images, graphical data, statistics, and audio within your content.
We recently performed a content analysis for an enterprise-level client. We found that blog posts that contained video and images far outranked and saw more traffic than their text-only counterparts. Not only does this show that media helps increase engagement, but it also shows that Google likes to see a mixture of content forms within web pages.
Universal Search Results
Let’s also not forget that images and video also show up in Google’s universal search results.
When specifically talking about video, we know that over 60% of searches on Google will show videos in the results. We also know that 93% of SEO professionals surveyed noticed a significant increase in time spent on their page when they have a video.
Research & Statistics About Video
Video platform Wistia found that pages with videos are directly correlated with visitors spending over two times more time on the page than pages without video.
Wordstream found that content that has video is three times more likely to be linked to than pages without video.
(And we all know that backlinks are vital in increasing your site’s domain authority and overall rankings.)
Finally, an agency named Lemonlight conducted a study that found that adding video to an optimized page increased their organic traffic from 10% to 250%.
The moral of the story here is that Google loves integrated content, and more importantly, Google (and users) LOVE video.
Are you intrigued by long-form content? We’ve only just begun! Check out our in-depth blog called “What is Long-Form Content and Does it Benefit Your SEO?” to learn more!
And, with that, we’re headed to SEO tip #5. Let’s keep going!
SEO Tip #5: Remove Outdated and Spammy SEO Tactics
Our fifth SEO tip in our 9 SEO Tips for 2022 series is to remove outdated and spammy SEO tactics.
Now is a great time to take a second and clean up your SEO efforts for things that don’t work in 2022.
One of the first things to help clean up your SEO efforts in 2022 is to focus on over-optimization. This includes keyword stuffing, keyword cannibalization, and spammy tactics that haven’t worked in a long time.
As SEOs, we spend a lot of time trying new things and almost no time removing outdated tactics or items that could be considered spam. There are hundreds of obsolete tactics from the past twenty years that no longer work in today’s SEO environment. Some of these tactics are just plain useless, but some can get you penalized by Google and derail your search efforts.
In this section, we will discuss five outdated tactics that you should remove or avoid from your search engine optimization tactics.
SEO Tip #5.1: Keyword Stuffing
The first outdated SEO tactic you want to avoid and remove from your website is keyword stuffing.
What is Keyword Stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is an old-school SEO tactic that came about in the late 90s when SEOs repeatedly tried to use the keyword and keyword variations throughout their copy to help them rank higher in the search engines.
In the early days, SEOs would even switch the color of the font text to white and continue to write the keywords at the bottom of the page so that only spiders could read them. This tactic had a very short lifespan, but general keyword stuffing is still alive and well.
One question you may ask is, “How much keyword usage is too much?”. That’s a tricky question, but the simple answer is what we call a gut check. The gut check is not a scientific measurement but instead considers readability. In other words, does your placement of the keywords make the content sound clunky or robotic? Keyword stuffing almost always stands out like a sore thumb.
Example of Keyword Stuffing
Here is an exaggerated example of keyword stuffing.
Are you looking for laptop repair in Lancaster, PA? Our technicians are the very best at laptop repair in Lancaster, PA. If you’re looking to service or repair your laptop in Lancaster, PA, you’ve come to the right place. We treat your laptop repair like it’s our very own. So, if you’re looking to repair your laptop in Lancaster, PA, give us a call today.
As we said, you can spot this keyword stuffing a mile away.
Evaluate Your Keyword Density
But, for those of you that like to have a little more quantitative support, we’d recommend using keyword density to help you evaluate keyword stuffing from your content.
Keyword density is just like it sounds. It takes keywords and their variants and compares them to the overall text. Typically, the industry looks for a 1%-3% keyword density. However, you can take it up to 5% if you feel lucky, but ultimately you don’t want to go higher than 5%.
To help you better understand this, we ran the previous example about laptop repair through a free keyword density tool. Our primary keyword has almost a 10% density level, three times higher than what we tend to expect.
SEO Tip #5.2: Recognize and Avoid Link Spam
The next outdated and spammy tactic you should avoid and clean up is link spam.
Link spam is one of the easiest ways to get penalized by Google. It’s so volatile that it created a whole underground industry of what is now called negative SEO. This unscrupulous industry exists to blast your domain with as much link spam as possible to the point where you receive a manual penalty from the search engines. Horrible, we know, but it’s essential to know that it exists.
Funny enough, some people hire SEO companies (usually low-cost agencies or agencies from overseas) that engage in this link spam practices as part of their primary link-building activity. Why do they do this? Because it’s scalable and easy to do, but it can also have horrible repercussions on your domain’s SEO efforts.
Some of the most common types of link spam include:
- Private blog networks (privately owned networks of blogs that all link to you or triangulate linking efforts)
- Paid low-quality links for the express intent of manipulated search results
- Link exchanges and link wheels
- Low-quality press release syndication
- Social bookmarking sites
- Blog/forum comment spam
There are dozens of types of link spam, but you get the picture. We’ll talk more about how to tell if you have these links and what to do about them later. For now, we want to show you some of the things that SEOs are still doing that have zero value and can hurt your website.
Bad Link Neighborhoods
Let’s talk about bad link neighborhoods. We always try to keep our links away from certain types of content in bad link neighborhoods.
We call them the six Ps of link building. They are, in no particular order:
- Porn (adult content),
- Poker (gambling),
- Payday loans,
- Paid affiliates,
- Pills (think gimmicky weight loss products),
- And private blog networks.
Now, these businesses may be fine on their own. Still, typically websites in these industries are associated with questionable link-building tactics, so it’s best to avoid links from these types of websites.
SEO Tip #5.3: Article Spinning (AKA Duplicate Content)
Another outdated and spammy tactic to avoid is article spinning, also known as duplicate content.
Using content to acquire backlinks is always the go-to method for link earning. But writing quality content (like this!) can take days or weeks.
Some internet marketers try to cut corners by using one piece of content on multiple external websites, which devalues the content in Google’s eyes. Article spinning came about to try and address this issue.
What is Article Spinning?
Article spinning swaps out words in the content with synonyms to change the terms without changing their meaning. There is even software that does this for you.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for good work, so cutting corners like this is a surefire way to get your website penalized. Instead, you need to ensure that ALL the content you produce, whether for your website or outreach purposes, is distinctly unique and of the utmost quality. Failure to abide by this rule can get you penalized by Google’s algorithm.
Just ask the millions of sites negatively impacted by Google’s Panda Update (or Farmer update). It was a wrecking ball to many websites.
SEO Tip #5.4: Anchor Text Over-Optimization
Another spam tactic that has been used often over the last decade is the over-optimization of anchor text.
What is Anchor Text?
The anchor text is the clickable link you see on an actual web page. The anchor text helps Google better understand the page you are linking to.
For example, if the anchor text says “cats,” Google will understand that the destination webpage is about cats.
Anchor Text Over-Optimization and Google Bombing
We saw anchor text over-optimization work to a fault in the last couple of decades. It was how the search engine optimization community optimized link signals for a long time. This tactic was used so frequently that it was even named “Google bombing.” Let me illustrate the point.
If I were to ask you what webpage used to rank #1 in Google search results for the search term “click here,” what would you think it is? For an extended period of time, it was the Adobe PDF reader download page. Interesting, right?
It’s important to know that that page wasn’t optimized for the keyword “click here,” but instead, there were so many people that had linked to Adobe’s resource with the anchor text “click here” that Google associated Adobe’s page with that term.
If you think about it, the logic makes complete sense because websites that offered PDF content would almost always link to the PDF reader so their users could view the content. The sentence generally looked like this, “To download a PDF reader, click here.”
Anchor Text Over-Optimization and Google’s Algorithm
Over the years, Google evolved and added anchor text over-optimization into their spam algorithm. Nowadays, SEOs are very strategic and cautious in using anchor text. We still optimize for the main keywords, but we mix them in with other signals that include things like:
- Keyword variations
- Branded keywords
- Naked URLs, and
Anchor Text Diversification
One of the first actions we take, at Trusted Search, when we take on a new SEO client is to perform an anchor text analysis to ensure they use a variety of anchor text. Based on that assessment, we then balance out the diversification of their anchor text based on the competitive intelligence we collect. As weird as it sounds, our clients may see improvement in their overall ranking signals by simply varying their anchor text to include non-keyword-related terms. So, the action here is two-fold.
The big takeaways here are that you need to assess your link profile to know your strategy and then use your anchor text to support that strategy.
SEO Tip #5.5: The “is it that easy” test.
We could go on and on listing fifty different types of outdated SEO spam tactics that you should avoid, but instead, we’d like to teach you a simple test that we use to help identify spammy tactics. We ask ourselves, “is it that easy?”
Here are a couple of examples.
- Is it that easy to pay $300 a month for SEO and rank above companies that have been performing high-level SEO for years? Of course not, but thousands of people still do it.
- Is it that easy to use hidden doorways or cloak webpages to try and trick Google? No, if it is that simple, then expect Google to understand that you’re trying to trick them.
- Is it that easy to hide text or links on a page to manipulate the search engines? No, if it were that easy, everybody would be doing it, and we can assure you they are not.
The point here is that there is no shortcut in SEO, but tons of SEO agencies offer their secret sauce and tactics to try and game the search engines.
Some of these black hat tactics (or aggressive tactics) might work for a short period of time, but ultimately your website’s rankings will fall like a house of cards, and the cleanup and recovery time will take months.
As we move into 2022, we’d recommend taking a second and setting yourself up for success by assessing your risk for questionable SEO tactics. You can do this by researching these yourself or getting a second opinion from a qualified SEO agency. Most SEO providers will offer a free initial assessment (just like Trusted Search does), and they will quickly point these out.
Take a second and invest in future-proofing your SEO efforts. This could be one of the most important things you do for your business.
For a more in-depth understanding of these topics, check out our blog, “Remove Outdated and Spammy SEO Tactics.”
SEO Tip #6: Optimize for Voice Search SEO and Keyword Intent
Next up in our SEO tips list for 2022 is to optimize for voice search SEO and keyword intent.
Most SEOs are aware that in 2019 Google launched an algorithm update called BERT. This stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. The essential concept of this update was to increase Google’s capabilities of understanding a keyword’s true intent. BERT was a fundamental change to Google’s understanding of how people search for different things in different ways.
Voice Search Statistics
In 2019, voice assistants were starting to take off, but today the statistics are staggering. For those of you still holding out and thinking that this is some sort of future sci-fi endeavor that will go away, let us shine some light on some recent statistics related to voice search.
- Social Media Today reports that 52% of people use voice search while driving (Hello, local search!).
- 65% of consumers ages 25-49 use voice-enabled devices daily (PWC).
- Search Engine Watch reports that 21% of users use voice search every week.
These are just a few juicy statistics that make a compelling case as to why voice search SEO is such a big deal in 2022, but more than that, what’s important to note is that Google is optimizing for queries beyond keywords. With the introduction of voice search, queries have become more conversational as spoken search queries are often much different from typed search queries.
But what if I told you that BERT was just the appetizer to the main course? Over the past five years, Google has been in a massive acquisition mode attempting to get their hands on products in the natural language processing space to help their algorithm better understand more human and conversational search queries.
Google’s Focus on Voice Search Optimization & Keyword Intent in 2021 & 2022
In 2021, Google has gone even further to update its capabilities in interpreting the natural ways people search.
The most recent update is known as MUM or Multitask United Model. The head of Google’s search team went on record saying:
“Google’s new natural language processing model is 1,000 times more powerful than BERT and can multitask to unlock information in new ways.” Prabhakar Raghavan
MUM is an AI model that can truly understand the intentionality of the user. It incorporates things like context and feelings to help answer unique and hyper-relevant questions.
Another remarkable ability of this initiative is understanding multiple search formats such as text, images, voice, and more.
As cool as this sounds, it’s essential to know that MUM is still in testing, but it is in the public domain, so, now more than ever, it’s necessary to optimize your website for intent and work on your authority signals, such as EAT.
What is EAT?
EAT stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. E-A-T essentially can be broken down into:
- Quality content that users love (E).
- Powerful links from trustworthy and relevant sites (A).
- Brand metrics and user sentiment (T).
Keep in mind that this is an oversimplification of the EAT process, we’ll go into this process in more detail in another blog, but you can see how EAT and MUM build off one another. It’s never been more important to take these new signals into account.
Lastly, it’s important to note that Google’s algorithm uses other relevant data to help make better decisions based on search queries. For example, Google will consider things like:
- Misspellings and abbreviations
- Previous search history
- What the user is currently looking at
- What apps the user is using
How to Do Voice Search SEO
So, now that we know why voice search and keyword intent are essential and what is driving this change, let’s talk about some tactics you can use to optimize your SEO for voice search and capitalize on user intent.
- Understand your customer.
- Time to brush up on your marketing personas and their usage of technology.
- Focus on conversational keywords.
- Long gone are the days of optimizing for a single keyword. You now need to optimize for long-tail keywords, including variants, questions, and conversational adaptations of those terms.
- Create detailed answers to multiple questions around a keyword.
- Use headlines to ask questions followed by a clean, concise answer.
- Use schema markups when applicable.
- Add FAQs to your site.
- Make sure you perform question-related keyword research.
- Consider Answerthepublic.com as a resource.
- Don’t forget to include local in your SEO Strategy.
Using keyword intent and optimizing for voice search is a current necessity that will only expand as we move into 2022 and beyond.
For more information on voice search SEO and keyword intent, check out our blog, “How to Optimize for Voice Search SEO and Keyword Intent.”
SEO Tip #7: Optimize for Google’s Rich Snippets
Can you believe we are already at SEO tip number 7? Our 7th SEO tip for 2022 is to optimize for Google’s Rich Snippets.
Structured data, schema, rich snippets, and featured snippets, these words are often used interchangeably. Let’s set the records straight!
Structured data is a markup (essentially code) added to a website to be easier understood by search engines. Google identifies and reads structured data to display that data correctly in the search results, usually in rich snippets.
Schema (otherwise known as Schema.org) is a vocabulary used to define structured data. It helps define properties and classes for describing specific resources like people, properties, locations, services, and more.
Rich snippets are structured data markups pulled into Google’s search results under specific listings. We see these in recipe listings where nutritional information and time to prepare are listed or even travel listings where prices and star ratings are listed. Essentially these rich snippets help enhance the overall experience by pulling relevant information into the search results.
10 Ways to Use Schema to Enhance Your Website in the Search Results
Let’s talk about what opportunities exist using Schema.org and marking up your site with the library of structured data. Remember that there are hundreds of markups to choose from, and all are available on Schema.org.
Here are some of our favorites.
1. Organizational Markup
This schema helps identify the organizational brand signal that enhances Google’s knowledge graph and website snippet within Google. Attributes included in this snippet include social media links, your logo, entity name, and contact info.
2. Breadcrumbs Markup
Breadcrumbs are extremely popular in site architecture because they clearly illustrate a sense of organization and relation between parts of the site. Breadcrumbs also help visitors feel more confident that they are in the right place on your website.
3. Product and Offer Markups
This is an essential markup for e-commerce sites and can be instrumental in increasing click-through rates for customers looking for specific products. The information given to search results could include ratings, review counts, pricing, availability, and other product attributes.
4. Ratings and Reviews Markups
Having ratings and reviews pushed into the search results from your website can drive people to your site. The best part is that these markups aren’t reserved for e-commerce. Instead, you can find ways to include these naturally on almost any website.
5. Local Business Markup
This is an essential snippet for local brick-and-mortar establishments looking to rank well in the local search results. Google can pull things like your physical location, hours, contact info, and many other relevant pieces of information.
6. Q&A Markup
With all the emphasis we have placed on content playing to user intent and working with conversational search queries, this markup can be very beneficial in helping Google bring your FAQ answers to the search results.
7. Video Markup
Google loves video content (and so do users!). You can help Google crawl and index video content on your website by adding video markup. Adding this markup will help Google pull your videos into the search results for relevant search queries.
8. Event Markup
The event markup can help promote your event (like concerts, webinars, festivals) in Google’s search results. This schema markup can bring helpful information like date, location, or price into a user’s view.
9. Recipe Markup
This makeup does not apply to all industries but is very powerful for the food industry. This markup can pull out information like prep time, cook time, total time, ingredients, images, nutritional information, reviews, and more. If you have recipes listed on your website, you should be using this markup.
10. Thing Markup
This kind of makes us laugh, but yes, you can mark up a thing. The bottom line is that if you have content on your website, you can use structured data.
Structured Data Testing Tools
If you’re curious whether you are already using structured data, we recommend using Schema.org’s markup validator to validate Schema.org’s structured data on your site.
Google also has a rich results test tool, which can test your structured data to see which Google rich results can be generated by the structured data you have on your website.
Structure data is not only a great way to tell the search engines more about your web pages, but it’s also a great way to encourage the user to click on your website’s search results.
For more tips and tricks on rich snippets and structured data, check out this blog, “Rich Snippets: What Are They and How to Optimize for Them.”
SEO Tip #8: Improve Your Core Web Vitals
Second to last on our SEO tip list is number 8, improve your Core Web Vitals.
What are Core Web Vitals?
In November 2020, Google added three user experience signals that make up the Core Web Vitals. These signals were added to the ranking algorithm in June of 2021.
Core Web Vitals are essentially made of up three metrics:
- Largest contentful paint (LCP),
- First input delay (FID),
- And cumulative layout shift (CLS).
These metrics were designed to help Google understand your website’s overall page experience and general user experience. Websites that fail to measure well within these metrics risk being shown lower in the search results, so it’s essential to understand where your website ranks for these metrics and what you can do to fix them.
Before we talk about how you can measure your results and how to fix any issues, let’s dive a little deeper into the three signals Google is measuring.
But, before we do that, we want to mention some general user experience fundamentals.
Basic User Experience Fundamentals for SEO
Securing your server with HTTPS
Having your site secured has been around for about five years now, but many websites are still not doing it. It’s a relatively easy thing to do and takes very little time. The entire point of HTTPS is that Google wants to ensure that a user’s experience and data are secure, so they strongly encourage the switch from HTTP to HTTPS.
Recent data shows that having an HTTPS in the URL correlates to higher rankings, and that’s pretty apparent by just looking at the top ten competitors for any keyword. Try it out for yourself!
The requirement for having a responsive or mobile-friendly website has also been around for years, and at this point, most websites are following that trend. However, there are still millions of websites that are not mobile-friendly.
Google is so invested in mobile-friendly websites that they have gone so far as to develop a framework for mobile websites called AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). The adoption of AMP pages has been slow, but there is no excuse not to have a mobile-friendly website in 2022.
Lack of Spam and Malware
Sounds obvious, right? Google is looking to serve the best experiences possible to its users, and having websites littered with obstructive pop-ups, ads, or infected with malware does not meet that objective.
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to take this opportunity to clean up things like malware, comment spam, and other mechanisms like pop-ups or other advertisements that detract from a positive user experience.
Google Core Web Vitals
Now, back to Core Web Vitals! Let’s discuss the three metrics in detail.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Largest Contentful Paint, or LCP, is essentially a load time metric. It measures how long the page takes to load in a user’s browser. But this metric shouldn’t necessarily be confused with page speed. LCP measures the real-world experience a user has with your website and when they can interact with it.
How to Measure LCP
To help you evaluate this for your website, Google has created a free and easy-to-use tool called Google Page Speed Insights to give you some guidance on how your website performs. You can also use Google Search Console to see how well your website performs. This can help you identify specific pages with issues on a global site view rather than running pages one by one in the insights tool.
Generally speaking, you want your LCP metric below 2.5 seconds. Anything above 5 seconds should be considered an immediate action item for your team to fix.
How to Fix LCP
So, how do you fix this? Great question! Unfortunately, this can be a bit of a trial-and-error situation. The insights tool and other third-party tools can help you identify which part of the page is slowing it down and give you a place to start, but you will need to do testing, research, and digging to find out the root of the cause.
We find that page speed is generally affected by one of these issues:
- Large images, videos, or page elements.
- Poor hosting performance – consider upgrading.
- Third-party scripts that may be slowing your website down.
First Input Delay (FID)
Google’s second metric within the Core Web Vitals is First Input Delay or FID.
This metric measures the amount of time it takes a user to interact with your website. These interactions could be any action but typically include using the navigation menu, clicking a link, adding text into a field, or opening drop-down menus or accordions.
This metric is important to Google because it measures the real-world time for users to interact with a website or use it. This is called a behavioral metric. This metric might not be as relevant for some websites with no interactions (like blogs), but if your website is more of an application, this metric is critical, and you want to optimize constantly.
Cumulative Layout Shift
Cumulative layout shift, or CLS, measures the stability of the page as it loads. This metric measures how page elements move around while loading, creating a poor user experience.
We’ve all seen pages that we think have finished loading, and then a big image appears in the header, and the rest of the content moves down. As you can imagine, this metric can also play into page load time and affect some of the other metrics we just talked about.
How to Fix CLS
Google defines a good CLS as a measurement of .01.
We find that most websites (especially larger ones) struggle with this. Here are some things you can do to minimize your cumulative layout shift:
- Use a set size attribute dimension for images and videos on your page, so Google knows how much space that element will need while loading.
- Ensure that your ad elements have reserved space and don’t push down content as they load.
- Add your heavier elements below the fold, so the top of the page isn’t pushed down.
As we mentioned before, there are many sites with tools you can use to evaluate these metrics, including free ones from Google, such as Search Console and PageSpeed Insights.
As you move into 2022, it is a great idea to see how your page performance is doing and plan to correct it.
Want to learn more about Core Web Vitals? Check out our blog, “What are Core Web Vitals and Why Are They Important?“
SEO Tip #9: Clean Up Your Backlinks!
Last but not least, our final SEO tip for 2022 is cleaning up your backlinks.
It seems that most SEO activities go in cycles.
For example, you’ll do keyword research once and then dust it off a year or so later. You’ll perform an SEO audit once a year, and that’s it. But building backlinks is the exception to this rule.
Building backlinks is something that we, as SEOs, continually do every month. That being said, when was the last time you completed a backlink audit? When was the last time you evaluated your link profile for toxic links and created a disavow campaign to clean them up?
Like most of us, this can be an afterthought and fall lower on the priority list as you attack more pressing SEO issues.
As we move into 2022, what better time is there to dust off these skills and focus on optimizing and cleaning up your backlink profile?
For this SEO tip, we’re going to focus on two specific tasks, a complete backlink audit (including your competitors) as well as a link cleanup campaign (if applicable).
Let’s jump in!
How to do a Backlink Audit
While link building, in our opinion, is the most challenging task on an SEO’s to-do list, a backlink audit doesn’t have to be.
Most SEOs target potential backlinks by chasing link targets that are thematically relevant and have the highest domain authority they can find. While those two factors are critical, there are several other factors to consider.
Gather Intel on Your Top Competitors
Like anything in SEO, we use competitive data in the SERPS and reverse engineer what Google sees as the most favorable results. Reverse engineering your competitors’ links not only shows you potential link-building opportunities but can also help you to gain insight into the link profile of competitors ranking above you.
To complete a link audit, you’ll need to identify several competitors ranking above you for your keywords.
You’ll also need to use a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to analyze their backlink profiles and compare them to yours. Some of the metrics we would pay close attention to are:
Number of Links
The number of links is the most obvious metric you will need to consider. We should clarify that while we say you want to look at the number of links you have, we’re talking about the number of root domains. After all, Google doesn’t care if you get more than one link from a domain.
Besides the number of linking domains you have pointing to your site, it is also beneficial to identify your backlink profile’s relevant strength or authority. By looking at the domain authority or the authority score (each tool calls it something different) of the backlinks to your website, you can get an idea of the quality of your backlink profile, not just the quantity.
No-Follow vs. Do-Follow
It’s a well-documented fact that no-follow links don’t help you gain the appropriate domain authority that do-follow links do. Now, before we say anything more, we want to mention that the number one rule in SEO is to be as natural as possible, so it is entirely normal to have a mix of do-follow and no-follow links in your backlink profile. You might even need to add some no-follow sites to balance out your backlink profile. Use this ratio to see where you stand versus your competitors in your audit.
We don’t talk about link velocity much in the SEO community, but it’s essential to mention it. Link velocity is the speed at which links are built to your website. Many companies will hire an SEO agency to build links and then stop. But, having a natural scaling backlink profile is a vital authority signal. Comparing that data against your competitors can give you a sense of what velocity you should build backlinks.
Types of Links
Another metric that Google considers is the type of links your website gets. Suppose your backlink audit reveals that most of the links to your website are from images or redirects or numerous other link types. In that case, you’ll want to determine the best ratio for each link type and calibrate your links accordingly.
Anchor Text Diversification
Just like any other link metric we’ve discussed, it’s essential to acquire link anchor text that is naturally diversified. Back in the day (and still commonly done today), SEOs exclusively used the keyword in their anchor text to prop up specific keywords. Today we use a mixture of natural anchor text such as keyword variations, brand names, and naked URLs to craft a healthy-looking link profile.
You’ll also want to compare the number of toxic links between you and your competitors. Several tools can help you do this. We’ll talk about this in more detail below.
Analyze Your Findings
Once you’ve acquired these link metrics for your site, as well as your competitors, you can start to see how metrics of websites that rank above you differ from your website. Perhaps they have a higher percentage of do-follow links or more diverse anchor text.
Maybe it is just as simple as they have more links than you, or the links they have are higher quality or more thematically relevant to the subject matter. Whatever the trend you’re seeing, it will allow you to set some goals for your link-building campaigns that will enable you to close the gap between your website and that of your competitors.
The other action we recommend is doing a link cleanup.
Performing a Link Detox or Cleanup Campaign
Link spam is a real thing.
Our team constantly cleans up outdated or spammy links that our clients have paid other SEO agencies to build. There are also many links from scraper sites or sites that have been penalized by Google that need to be cleaned up.
There is even a nasty industry called negative SEO where SEOs build very spammy backlinks and use over-optimization signals to try and get a competitor penalized in Google’s search results. That said, link spam is so common that most SEO agencies include a link cleanup campaign in their link-building efforts.
How to Perform a Link Detox
If you’re hoping to do this yourself, there are many tools you can use to help with the process. Tools like SEMrush and link research tools are some of our favorites to use, but you can also evaluate toxic links yourself by looking at your backlink profile.
Step 1 – Identify Toxic Links
Once you have identified potential toxic links, you should first reach out to those websites and ask them to remove your link. Once that has been done, you can create a disavow file in Search Console, and Google will exclude those links from your backlink profile.
If you’re using a 3rd party link tool like SEMrush, most of the time, these tools will help you by identifying potential toxic links, and some even allow you to upload the list straight into Search Console.
However, we must caution you against uploading the file straight from a link tool to Google because the link tools are not always accurate. As a rule of thumb, you should always review the links manually before submitting them to Google via the disavow procedure.
Here are some tips to help you spot bad links right away.
- Links from bad link neighborhoods.
- These links are easy to spot based on their over-optimization and spammy tactics.
- Watch out for specific industries.
- Look out for the 6 Ps – porn, poker, pills, payday loans, paid affiliates, and private blog networks.
- Low quality and irrelevant sites.
- Anything that appears spammy.
Step 2 – Upload Disavow File to Google Search Console
Once you have double-checked your toxic link list and performed outreach asking for the link to be removed, you can upload a disavow file to Google through Search Console.
Once you have uploaded your disavow file to Google, know that it can take a couple of weeks for Google to deploy those changes in their index.
Once this is complete, you will have a beautifully manicured and well-optimized backlink profile that is ready to take on the new year.
If you’re interested in learning more about cleaning up your backlinks, check out your blog, “How to Do a Backlink Audit and Remove Harmful Links from Your Website.”
That’s a wrap!
We know that we went through many topics in this blog, but we hope that we made good on our promise to provide you with a ton of actionable items.
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