SEO Revisited (Post Google Algorithm Update)
SEO, aka search engine optimization, is a much talked about topic that is so often misunderstood, overlooked or confused that revisiting it is always a good idea. Add to that fact that Google updated its search engine algorithm in early May, and it becomes the perfect time to revisit our SEO principles, reassess our strategy and check up on how we’re doing. (P.S. Have you checked your analytics to see how you’re performing since the start of May? Might be time to have a look…)
What Google’s Engineers were doing during the pandemic – ICYMI (in case you missed it): here’s what happened in early May.
Google announced what is now known as the “May 2020 Core Update.” It has, according to SEO analysis experts such as SEOMoz, had a large impact on rankings of websites worldwide. According to SEOMoz, the May 2020 Core Update has created the second most volatile environment in terms of ranking winners and losers. Drilling down on the specifics of this algorithm update is fun, relevant and a perfect use of time for those who love marketing analysis, but I’d like to take a step back and revisit SEO holistically. Asking and answering questions like:
- Do we still understand SEO basics?
- Do we still follow SEO best practices?
- Have we adjusted our SEO strategies over time?
- And, (of course) how does it all fit into Google’s newly updated algorithm?
Revisiting SEO – The Basics, Best Practices & Beyond
Remember why search engines exist. The innate purpose of the search engine is to provide a place where users (aka human beings) can find information. The seeker types in a question, a key word or a phrase into the machine to find something they are looking for. In a nutshell, the SEO objective is to make the content that you publish easy to find for those seeking it.
Remember why we, as marketers, care about rankings. As marketers and business leaders, we can get lost in the metrics. Vanity metrics may have their place in certain scenarios, but focusing on numbers that matter is the way to gain real traction in the game of SEO. If certain metrics that we have become focused (for example, rankings) on don’t translate into revenue/conversions/new leads/etc., we have failed in our mission.
Deconstructing the 2020 Core Update. The SEO experts are in agreement that the May algorithm update was a big one. Big names saw hits to their SEO standings like Spotify and LinkedIn. Industries most impacted were determined to be real estate, health and travel. Now, let’s see if we can determine the why.
Even the experts often have trouble understanding why sites get hit hard during a core update. Google rarely shows its cards to avert attempts to “school” their system. In fact, many of those top SEO gurus from the likes of Rank Ranger, SEO Moz and Search Engine Land will agree that taking a step back for a wider view of the whole SEO channel is required to understand why a core update has had an impact on your performance.
SEO Best Practices That We Should All Be Doing – If you are doing all things correctly, following best practices and monitoring for changes, your SEO performance should be stable. That doesn’t mean you’ll always rank number one, but it should mean that you can leverage the power of search to meet some of your top business objectives. You don’t necessarily have to run out and hire a top SEO consultant to optimize the SEO channel. By following some essential best practices, you may get to a solid SEO performance all by yourself. (Either way, a consultant would want you to get the foundation in order, before taking things to the next level anyway.)
- Drilling down on keyword strategy. Having more traffic does not always translate into more revenue. As in most things related to marketing, it’s about quality, not quantity. Popular keywords may not be worth chasing and metrics like organic traffic may not help you grow your business. Boom, I said it! If you want to know what keywords you should be focusing on, pay attention to the human being on the other side of the machine – your customers! Here are some no-brainer tips to get more out of your keyword strategy:
- Make a list of questions are your customers ask most about the products and services you offer.
- Check out the keywords your competitors are ranking well for.
- Look for keywords that have three or more words in the phrase. These tend to convert better than one or two words phrases.
- Don’t go too broad. Compile a list of target keywords that are very relevant to what you offer.
- Create content or blogs around those keywords. Naturally weave the keywords into your text following best practices but not overdoing it.
- Pay attention to the UX. A top criterion of search engine success is the user experience. Google’s algorithm has placed deeper and deeper focus on criteria related to the user over recent years. It is, after all, a tool for the user to find what he/she is looking for. Remember, we covered that earlier? UX or user experience is an umbrella term that can cover many aspects of your site, including:
- Responsiveness – Google is elusive about many things, but this aspect of SEO success is not kept secret. Responsive sites rank higher. If your site is not optimized (responsive) on mobile, you will not succeed in your SEO goals – not optional.
- Speed – Pages that take a long time to load, you know the one with the shiny new (slow-to-load) video, will drive your SEO results down. Users want answers, and they don’t want to wait. Google will penalize you if you site is slow. Non-optimized images and large videos are typically the culprits of slow loading sites.
- Accessibility – It seems obvious, but for Google to consider ranking your site, it has to see it first. This comes down to having a well-coded, crawlable site with a site map that allows the algorithm to understand its purpose and then serve it up to users looking for related information.
- Next Level UX – These three user-related tactics for SEO are basic, foundational steps that should be done at the bare minimum. Of course, we can go to deeper, yet still fundamental, SEO steps to help you succeed in your SEO endeavors. Check out this list that you should be paying attention to, if you care about SEO, that is:
- Domain Age, URL and Authority – If your site has been around for a while, has a relevant name that matches your product and service and has a decent authority score, this will help achieve SEO goals.
- Optimized Content – This includes keyword strategy, title tags, relevance and word count. Posting solid, relevant content to your site and weeding out places where you have “thin” content pages can significantly help your SEO objectives.
- Links – When you think of links as they relate to SEO, your mind likely goes to external links. Of course, your team will be high fiving when you get a link back from a high authority site. (And, for good reason, it’s good for SEO!) But, did you know that internal links are good for SEO too? Linking from one area of your site to another, such as referencing one blog from another, signals to Google that you think your content is worthy, and Google likes that. The good news is this is a very easy thing to do on a regular basis and retroactively fit into your site.
SEO is complex, and it can be akin to a moving target, but goals can be achieved simply by following a few basic, best practices. Awve Marketing can help you audit your SEO and take strategic steps toward setting goals, working toward them and, of course, measuring them.