In 2018 Google saw a major algorithm update, along with several unconfirmed updates that caused noticeable fluctuations in rankings. Not only were these updates part of Google’s continuous evolution in improving the way its AI and machine learning components refine search results, but this is a clear indication to where SEO is going into the new year.
Back in August Google confirmed a “broad core algorithm update” that had a massive impact in all industries but most notably in the health and wellness vertical. While some sites took massive hits in ranking (some even vanishing from the SERPs altogether), others saw significant ranking improvements.
There were four additionally known updates that took place between February and July, right before the major “Medic Update” rolled out in August–updates foreshadowing what was to come.
As we move into a new year of business growth it is important to notice what the impacted sites all had in common that took hits from these updates, as well as shared similarities in websites that improved in rankings. The best growth marketing SEO agencies are taking these parallels and incorporating them into their client’s organic search strategy for 2019.
This article will first explain what these commonalities were before presenting the right logic necessary for creating SEO-forward content that will rank and convert to revenue for business growth in the new year to come.
Google’s 2018 Algorithm Update Similarities
We know that Google’s bots, driven by AI and machine learning technology, crawl millions of sites and award ranking based on the relationship between content and search behavior. WEBITMD conducted its own investigation and even compared results with other industry experts to discover similar results. These are as follows:
Blog – Those who were running a topic cluster blog model with pillar pages saw no significant drop in rankings (excluding those with toxic backlinks). In fact, more than 75 percent of clients using this structure from the expert execution of a top SEO agency saw a big jump in rankings.
Web Page Content – Of those clients who approved content optimization on their home page and top web pages, an additional ranking improvement by 52 percent resulted.
Backlinks – Sites (even those with the topic cluster model) that had toxic and spammy backlinks saw a drop in rankings by roughly 38 percent while sites with healthy backlinks worked into the topic cluster model saw significant improvement.
Clearly, that which Google RankBrain set out to achieve in 2016 is evolving through continuous improvements to the algorithm via the vehicles of AI and machine learning to better understand search intent and rank content accordingly. And the similarities outlined above will improve the user experience while making content easier for Google to crawl, decipher and rank for the right audiences.
Shifting Your Logic
Enough has come out stressing the importance of writing for buyer needs and the various content strategies that go into producing SEO-friendly material. But for some reason most SEO strategies are still executed by stubborn or uneducated teams who focus their efforts around writing for high-volume keywords using outdated methods.
Google’s algorithm continues to self educate and learn the pain points behind every search query. By studying click behavior and website engagement behavioral patterns alongside the goal to decipher the searcher’s intimate needs, the search engine is able to rank content based on pleasing their users.
This means SEO agencies and strategists need to think like their target audiences. Sounds easy enough, but it isn’t and there’s a simple reason for this. In the past, an SEO expert was someone who knew how to manipulate Google’s algorithm by a number of tactics. Now these tactics trigger spam alerts and generate penalties, making this impossible to do with any success.
Now SEOs need to have an advanced understanding of marketing psychology and really have an academic background in business to know how to make the connections between buyers, industry products and define and hit growth goals through organic strategies. So if your logic is not grounded in this approach, your ability to rank the right content for the right buyers likely to convert will be dismal at best.
For some organizations with an ideal sales cycle and specific growth goals, incorporating SEO with an inbound marketing strategy and custom tool stack will enable a more efficient and profitable strategy. Part of shifting your logic means you are able to identify when technology stacks and multiple strategies will empower SEO efforts, or it might be the case that a modern organic search strategy alone will achieve your goals. Talk to a growth marketing agency that excels at SEO to further investigate this.
Why the Topic Cluster Blog Model Works
You will want to begin using this blog structure immediately, as it is already proven to be highly effective. In case you are unaware of this blog methodology, here’s an explanation: the topic cluster is a blog structure that breaks down at a category level. Each category then has a cluster of blogs under its umbrella that contain a unique topic and title. These blogs address subjects specific to the buyer’s needs, pain points, and touches on subjects relevant to your buyer personas. Then each blog links internally to another with a relevant subject, and each links to the pillar page which is most often the home page or primary product page.
This is highly effective for SEO for a number of reasons. First, the internal linking of similar topics improves the user experience by helping web visitors find the kind of content and information they care about. The longer one dwells on a site, the more likely they are to convert and a long dwell time sends signals to Google letting the search engine know that people favor the content. The internal link strategy helps Google understand topic relevance, and the links help circulate the search juice throughout the site.
SEO Backlinks Need to Be Relevant to Your Web Content
If you still syndicate links through directories, stop this practice. It is considered spamming and sites guilty of this attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm often stay buried in the SERPs. You should also abandon the practice of soliciting any domain with a high authority score, not should you pay domains for a link.
With the slew of algorithm updates that have happened over the years, Google is getting increasingly better at awarding sites that get backlinks from relevant referring domains. Remember, the reason for links to exist is to help users find additional information, so naturally a link should point to content that’s relevant and high quality.
Make sure the article hosting your link is on a topic directly related to your landing page, and use a longtail form of your main keyword in the anchor text that reflects a buyer-focused need. This will help Google get a better understanding of the relationship between your site and the referring domain, and it will add additional value in helping visitors find the content they are looking for.
Finally, make sure your link building strategy reflects the goals behind your blog strategy. You should also ensure your home page and top web pages are optimized with content designed to rank and convert visitors into buyers by maintaining relevance at all cost.
Use Google Trends to Improve Your Content’s Relevancy
By now you can see that relevance is key when it comes to creating high-value content. And one of the biggest and most common mistakes novice SEOs make is letting the same content sit on the website.
Content has a shelf life; it’s just not easy to detect unless you are willing to do some research as part of an SEO maintenance plan. There are a few tactics you can use to ensure your main content stays relevant and feeds context to lower level pages like blogs and sub category pages. One of these includes Google Trends–a website by Google that scrutinizes the popularity of top searches in the search engine that allows users to compare the search volume behind various queries over a set time.
Google Trends allows you to go as far back as four years to discover topical trending patterns and any consistency. If in fact you see any seasonal patterns or discover new related topics relevant to popular searches, set a content optimization strategy to update your homepage and primary product pages once every quarter. Make sure you re-submit the pages to Google’s index about two weeks before each quarter begins. This will give the search engine enough time to crawl the new content and re-evaluate its relevance in light of search queries.
Another method involves social listening. This is a tactic in which one notes how your target buyers talk about your brand, industry, product and services across social media platforms. Make a chart that notates the most popular topics people are talking about, what kind of content and subjects get shared the most or commented on, and pay attention to who the people are that engage relative content. Then take these queues and weave them into your website’s content to add that layer of buyer-focused relative content searchers value the most.
Want to Learn more About Modern SEO Strategies for 2019?
Download the FREE guide on buyer-focused SEO strategies, and see what it takes to hit your growth goals in 2019. If the strategy makes sense for your business give us a call and let’s explore the possibilities.