For search marketers, 2021 was filled with algorithm updates and volatility in the SERPs, leaving us with a lot to catch up on in 2022. With so much going on over the past 12 months, it can be difficult to know where to begin with your SEO strategy for the year ahead.
So we asked our SEO experts one question before the Christmas break: “What is the one piece of SEO advice you’d say to marketers as we head into 2022?”
Gabe Keegan, SEO Specialist
In June, Google announced a new AI breakthrough called Multitask Unified Model (MUM) that it claims will become 1,000 times more powerful than BERT. Since then, Google has teased several upcoming changes to the search experience and told us to expect plenty more changes as MUM’s influence grows (BERT took several years to maximise its impact).
Gabe says SEOs must pay attention to MUM and its potential impacts throughout 2022.
“Earlier this year, Google announced the Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update and it looks like this will have an even bigger impact than BERT. So we have to keep tabs on MUM and its potential impacts throughout 2022 because updates like these can take several years to fully mature.”
Some of the MUM features Google has teased look like they could drastically change the search experience and how users interact with web content. For example, the Refine this search and Broaden this search section will help users narrow and expand results without manually retyping queries.
A ‘Things to know‘ section will also help users explore topics in more detail by suggesting a range of topics, based on how other users have explored the same topic in the past. Features like this could mean Google is pushing towards a more explorational experience where users spend less time typing in queries manually and more time navigating through information pathways.
This is all speculative at this point, of course, but marketers need to keep an eye on how MUM changes the search experience and how it impacts the SEO opportunities available.
Lee Wilson, Head of Services
As our former Head of SEO, Lee Wilson understands the power of data as well as anyone. But he also knows that many marketers are overloaded with data and how this can distract attention away from what really matters in marketing: people.
“Take a step back from the data and put people at the forefront of what you do. Metrics such as impressions, sessions, users (and so many more) are hugely important, but at the end of every metric is a person looking to achieve something.”
We’ve talked about the big data burden before and how we use technology to overcome the biggest challenges of working with vast amounts of data. On this topic, Lee previously commented:
“Scale is a huge part of effective search marketing – now more so than ever before. This includes the depth and comprehensiveness of the data environment you have access to, right through to the ability to make fast and evidence-supported decisions with new and ever-changing data sets.”
The challenge marketers face is putting systems in place that can process large volumes of data quickly enough and help you gain meaningful insights without getting bogged down in analysis.
“It’s easy to get bogged down in data as marketers and forget that our goal is to satisfy the people behind the metrics.”
We face this same challenge here at Vertical Leap, which is why we developed our own AI-powered intelligent automation system capable of processing huge datasets from multiple sources. This system, Apollo Insights, algorithmically collects and organises data for us and uses machine learning to automatically gain insights from key tasks, including content gap analysis, action prioritisation, performance change and performance forecasting.
By automating the more time-consuming aspects of analysis, our team can focus on determining how these insights align with our customers’ target audiences. We can spend less time crunching numbers and focus on building meaningful engagement that inspires action from the people most important to our clients.
Adam Futer, SEO Specialist
In June, Google rolled out the page experience update, which combines a new set of Core Web Vitals signals with several existing factors, including the mobile-friendly and HTTPS signals.
Unfortunately, Google sandwiched the page experience between a run of several other updates during the summer, making it difficult to accurately measure the impact of the update. Meanwhile, Google’s Danny Sullivan has said that the page experience could become more important with time, as we saw with the mobile-friendly signal.
So with page experience, it could become a more important factor over time than with an initial launch as a great page experience becomes more common to pages. But also, and as we've kept saying, it's one of many factors: https://t.co/9halYfBgi3 pic.twitter.com/nbvGpxquxp— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 24, 2021
So with page experience, it could become a more important factor over time than with an initial launch as a great page experience becomes more common to pages. But also, and as we've kept saying, it's one of many factors: https://t.co/9halYfBgi3 pic.twitter.com/nbvGpxquxp
Considering that the mobile-friendly signal is included in page experience and the fact that Core Web Vitals includes a signal for loading times, we expect page experience will become a more important ranking factor, as Danny Sullivan suggests.
Adam Futer, one of our technical SEO specialists, says: “Make sure your website is as technically optimised as possible heading into 2022. Not only with the main technical SEO applications but a focus on Core Web Vitals and page speed, as this was part of a core Google algorithm update in 2021.”
After the crazy summer of algorithm updates, we can’t say how much impact page experience has had so far but, even if it’s a mild signal, for the time being, marketers should move to optimise their pages for the Core Web Vitals signals.
We know Google already takes loading times seriously and the Core Web Vitals protocol changes the way Google measures page speed – so this alone should be a priority in 2022. And, then, you’ve got the entirely new signals for interactivity and visual stability that have never been a ranking signal in Google’s search algorithm, until now.
Gemma Holloway, SEO & CRO Specialist
Gemma is an SEO and CRO specialist so she understands the importance of bringing the right type of traffic to your website – and this is the message she wants to hammer home for 2022.
“It’s important to focus on getting the right type of traffic. Whilst you can increase traffic volume easily, it’s not worth doing if that traffic isn’t likely to convert and complete the action you require.”
Search opportunities that promise to generate plenty of traffic don’t always attract the type of visitors who will buy from you or complete other important actions. Every SEO campaign should have a clear goal (or multiple goals), including target actions you want users to perform when they interact with your content.
These goals determine which search opportunities not only generate enough traffic but also the right kind of traffic.
Building on this further, Gemma also highlights the importance of behaviour metrics, which search engines like Google use (among other things) to determine how effectively your content delivers what users are looking for.
“Behaviour metrics are an important ranking factor, so don’t just focus on getting the traffic to the site. You need to drive engagement to achieve better rankings and consequently generate the right type of traffic.”
Behaviour metrics include avg. time on page, bounce rate, page visits, conversions, CTR clicks, link clicks, video play button clicks and plenty more. Generally speaking, the more users interact with your content, the more signals you’re sending to search engines that your page is giving users what they want – for the specific query they typed in.
If your pages perform well with behaviour metrics for all of their target keywords and related queries, it’s in Google’s best interests to rank them highly for those queries and keep sending the same type of traffic to those pages.
Carl Wood, SEO Specialist
One issue that’s developed over the years is that it’s taking longer for search engines like Google to crawl and index new content. As Carl explains, more websites and content are being added to the web every day and the backlog of work for search engines is only growing.
As a result, he recommends publishing new content faster in 2022, especially for newer websites that may not have Google’s attention yet.
“Publishing new content faster is a priority for 2022, especially for newer, less established websites that aren’t on Google’s radar yet. With more sites being added to the web all the time, the wait for search visibility is getting longer – so you can’t afford any unnecessary publishing delays.”
Google’s John Mueller has said it can take anywhere between a few hours and several weeks for the search engine to index new content – and, sometimes even longer.
Obviously, technical issues can cause indexing delays but Mueller also says quality is a key factor. Websites that don’t have a long history of publishing quality content regularly often have to wait longer for new content to get indexed.
Carl says: “Publish your new content live as soon as possible. It’s also worthwhile submitting any new or updated pages to Google for priority crawling, which can be done via Google Search Console.”
You’ll also find some useful best practices on website crawlability for large or frequently updated websites on this Search Central help page.
Gemma Scarth, SEO Specialist
For local businesses, Gemma says the priority should be getting as many Google Reviews as possible. Back in December, Google quietly announced the rebranding of Google Business Profile, which is now called Google Business Profile and enhanced to make it easier for smaller businesses to manage their online presence.
The revamp also helps customers and local businesses interact directly through reviews, Q&As, posts and instant messaging via Google Maps – although the last feature is only available in the US and Canada for now.
Increased interactivity should help businesses capture more reviews from customers and Gemma says marketers should take advantage of this.
“Get as many Google Reviews as you can for your Google Business Profile. Ideally, you want as many positive reviews as possible but don’t obsess about 5/5 scores. Customers generally don’t expect or even trust perfect review scores but they do want to see how you deal with issues.”
We’ve published an article looking at several ways you can get more Google Reviews from customers and it’s also worth taking a look at the official advice from Google.
As Gemma says, you don’t need to worry about getting perfect review scores – in fact, studies find customers don’t trust 5/5 ratings anyway. Meanwhile, an earlier study determined that an average Google Reviews score of 3.7 stars has the strongest positive impact on conversions.
Also, keep in mind that people use reviews to decide which businesses to deal with and they want to understand the pros and cons of buying from you. Individual reviews of 3-4 stars tend to include more of this balanced information and even bad reviews help potential customers to make these decisions.
Bad reviews always hurt but they’re also an opportunity to show potential customers how you deal with issues. Make sure you respond to negative reviews and demonstrate that you do everything reasonable to please your customers. For more info on how to deal with bad reviews, take a look at our guide on managing negative reviews in Google Business Profile.
Ben Jayston, SEO Specialist
Given the complexities of modern SEO, it’s easy to forget about the core essentials and Ben wants to remind marketers about a fundamental element of search optimisation that doesn’t get enough attention.
“Analyse your navigation, website structure and information architecture – both sitewide and on individual pages. Websites, as a medium, are designed to organise information and many SEOs lose sight of this.”
As Ben explains, the key characteristic of a website is that it organises information across multiple pages that users can navigate between. The navigational system of a website is arguably the most important factor in online user experiences and it’s certainly one of the most important factors for search engines.
Website navigation communicates function to the end user and provides contextual information about the structure of the website to both users and search engines. Website structure and navigation shape the pathways users take along the consumer journey and information architecture lays out the content and key messages that move them from one stage to the next – both on individual pages and between them.
“Good internal linking structure helps everyone get around the site better, and confirms what is important about the site architecture and linked keywords.”
Navigational structure is crucial for telling users and search engines which pages are most important on your website and how they’re related. Beyond that, navigational design and the cross-page information architecture should lay out the pathways guiding users from one page to the next, leading towards the next conversion goal.
Tom Light, Senior SEO Specialist
Speaking of SEO fundamentals, Tom wants to remind marketers that content is still their most valuable asset for search marketing in 2022. While many things have changed in the SEO industry over the past few decades, content is still the connection between websites, search engines and users.
As a result, Thomas says: “Content is still your most valuable asset in SEO so invest in it accordingly, especially if you’re a new business. Build topical authority for your niche and show search engines you deserve to keep ranking for the most valuable keywords.”
Google constantly tells us that content quality is the most important factor in search rankings. As recently as its documentation for the page experience signal we discussed earlier, Google says the following:
“While page experience is important, Google still seeks to rank pages with the best information overall, even if the page experience is subpar. Great page experience doesn’t override having great page content. However, in cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can be much more important for visibility in Search.”
The key lesson here is that, even with all of the other factors you have to optimise for, content quality always has and always should be the top priority for SEOs.
Dave Colgate, Head of Enterprise SEO
Marie Turner, SEO Specialist
Adding to Tom’s advice, Dave suggests marketers need to increase their standards for content quality in 2022. After a busy year of algorithm updates, Google’s demands for quality content are higher than ever and this means SEOs also need to raise their bar to jump ahead of rivals in the SERPs.
“Put more weight on ensuring what you are publishing goes beyond ‘okay’, that your content aligns with intent and it beats equivalent pages already available. Increase your standards of content quality because this is what search engines and users care about most.”
Fellow SEO specialist, Marie Turner, agrees that marketers should prioritise content improvements for 2022 by looking at what competitors are doing.
“Aim to create the best possible content for your terms and users by looking at what competitors are doing. What elements do they have on their page that add value and your page is lacking? Videos? Lists? Downloads? Image diagrams? See if you can improve them and make your pages even more useful.”
Take a look at the top-performing content for your most important keywords and determine what makes them stand out from the other pages ranking around them. This is the minimum standard you have to reach in order to rank in the top positions and, then, you can turn your attention to other factors like UX, page experience and engagement metrics.
Kerry Dye, Head of SMB SEO
In recent years, SEOs have spent a lot of time talking about E-A-T, an anagram coined by Google itself to represent three key characteristics of quality content: expertise, authority & trustworthiness.
Kerry says this should be a top priority for search marketers in 2022.
“Concentrate on your E-A-T (expertise, authority & trustworthiness) in 2022. This is getting leaned on harder with each core update, and it takes a long time to recover from.”
The buzz around E-A-T dates back to mid-2019 but several core algorithm updates since then appear to have strengthened the importance of these three characteristics. In fact, multiple updates in 2021 seem to have targeted pages that fail to meet Google’s E-A-T expectations, especially on websites that fall into the risky YMYL (your money or your life) category – namely heath, finance, legal, eCommerce, etc.
Not only does E-A-T seem to be gaining importance but the workload of updating content across an entire website to meet Google’s expectations can be huge. The worst part is, websites that get hit tend to suffer and the recovery period is long because improving content across every page involves a lot of work – so don’t put this off any longer.
If you’re still trying to catch up after a busy year of algorithm updates and unsure where to start for 2022, our SEO team can help you put the right strategy together – here are all the SEO services we offer. Call us on 023 9283 0281 to speak with our SEO experts or fill out the form below to arrange a callback.
Michelle joined Vertical Leap in 2011 as Marketing Manager, having spent the previous 15 years of her marketing career in the recruitment, leisure and printing industries. Her passions include dogs, yoga, walking, cycling, the beach, mountains and tapas.
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Categories: Content Marketing, SEO