2019 Google core algorithm updates: Lessons and tips to future-proof your SEO

There’s nothing that beats that organic #1 position in Google’s SERPs when it comes to brand visibility, increase in traffic, trust factor boost, reduction in cost per lead, and so on.

Everyone who’s anyone in online business knows this, which is why the struggle to grab that marketer’s Holy Grail can look like a cut-throat business to many SEO novices.

However, even SEO pros get confused when Google throws a wrench into the intricate workings of the rankings machine. Google’s core algorithm updates can mess up even the best SEO strategies, especially if you react in a panic to a drop in the rankings.

Today, I’ll share with you the three things I’ve learned from 2019 Google algorithm updates that will help you future-proof your SEO. First, however, take a look at the hints that Google rolled out alongside those updates to see if you’re building your SEO strategy on a healthy foundation.

2019 Google core algorithm updates and what they tell us

In 2018, Google reported 3234 algorithm updates.

That’s just a bit shy of 9 updates per day.

All of them change how the algorithm evaluates a website and its rankings (most just slightly, though).

However, three of them were so-called ‘core algorithm updates’ – meaning that their impact on the rankings was likely significant for most indexed websites. Google announced these (in March, June, and September of 2019), which is not something that they normally do. This should give you an idea of how important they were in the grand scheme of all things SEO-related.

Google Sear Liaison's tweet on its 2019 Google core algorithm updates

Websites were affected differently, with some seeing increases in their rankings and traffic, and others plummeting to Google’s page #3. Many of the sites that experienced significant drops are in the Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) niche.

(Verywellhealth.com shows a significant drop after the March core update)

“The sensitive nature of the information on these types of websites can have a profound impact on peoples’ lives,” says Paul Teitelman of Paul Teitelman SEO Agency. “Google has long struggled with this and at least one of these core algorithm updates was designed to push trustworthy YMYL content to the top while sinking those websites that contain dubious and untrustworthy information.”

Google signaled a path forward with these updates. If you were not paying attention, here are the key takeaways:

  • Google signals an intent to keep rewarding fresh, complete, and unique content. Focus on answering the searcher’s questions thoroughly and precisely.
  • E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) guidelines are more important than ever. Things like backlinks from reputable websites, encryption, and who authors your posts can make or break your organic rankings.
  • Google wants to see you covering a wide range of topics from your broader niche. Increase your relevance with content that establishes you as the go-to source in your niche.

SEO is far from an exact science.

If anything, it’s educated guesswork based on countless hours of testing, tweaking, and then testing again.

Still, there are things that you can do to future-proof your SEO and protect your websites from reacting too violently to core algorithm updates.

Based on Google’s recent hints, here are three things that you should focus on if you’re going after those page #1 rankings in the SERPs.

Three tips to future-proof your website’s SEO

Keep the focus on high-quality, actionable content

I know you’re annoyed with hearing it by now but high-quality content is a prerequisite to ranking at the top of the SERPs and staying there.

This means that you need to pin-point a specific question that the searcher wants answers to and then write a piece of content that provides a detailed clarification of the issue. Does it need to be 5,000 words long? That depends on the question but, in most cases, it doesn’t. What it needs to be is concise and thorough, and clarify any and all questions that the searcher might have while reading it.

Ideally, you will want your content to be 1500+ words. According to Backlinko’s Brian Dean and his research, Google tends to reward longer content.

 

Source: https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking

My advice is to ask yourself the following questions when you’re writing:

  • Am I providing the reader with a comprehensive answer to their question?
  • Is my content more thorough than what’s already on the #1 page of the SERPs?
  • Am I presenting the information in a trustworthy way (citing sources, quoting experts)?
  • Is my content easy to understand, and free from factual, stylistic, and grammar errors?

If your answer to these questions is a yes, you’re already doing better than (probably) 95% of your competitors.

Improve the E-A-T score of your website

In SEO, E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

In other words – who is authoring blog posts and articles that are published on your website? Are they penned by an expert in the field or by a ghostwriter?

Why should people trust anything you (or your website) have to say? That’s the crux of E-A-T.

The concept appears in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG), and SEO experts have debated for years whether or not it has any bearing on the actual organic rankings.

In 2018, Google cleared all doubts around it, announcing that QRG is, in fact, their blueprint for developing the search algorithm. “You can view the rater guidelines as to where we want the search algorithm to go,” Ben Gomes, Google’s vice president of search, assistant and news, said in a CNBC interview.

Here’s what the QRG has to say about E-A-T

Source: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf

We have no idea if Google’s core algorithm can evaluate E-A-T parameters as well as an actual human rater. Still, if that’s Google’s end goal, it’s a good idea to pay attention to it now, regardless of whether it’s implemented or not. It most certainly will be at one point in the future.

To improve your E-A-T score, focus on the following

  • Add an author byline to your posts – every post that you publish should be authored by someone. Use your real name (or your author’s real name), and start building a reputation as an expert in the field.
  • Create your personal website – even if you’re trying to rank your business site, make sure to have a personal branding website of your own (and of any regularly contributing authors). Those websites should be maintained – you don’t need to SEO the heck out of them but you should publish niche-relevant content regularly.
  • Get featured on Wikipedia and authority websites – QRG clearly instructs raters to check for author mentions on Wikipedia and other relevant sites. That stands to reason because experts in the field will often be quoted by other publications.

(Image source: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/guidelines.raterhub.com/en//searchqualityevaluatorguidelines.pdf)

  • Get mentions on forums – same goes for forum mentions. If people name-drop you on relevant forums, that means that they feel you have something important to say.
  • Secure your site with HTTPS – security is an important E-A-T factor, especially if you’re selling something via your website. An unsecured website will have a low E-A-T score so make sure to invest in encryption to boost trustworthiness.

Build quality backlinks and establish a social presence

Quality backlinks are still a very important ranking factor.

However, according to a report released by Backlinko, it’s not about one or two backlinks, regardless of how strong they are.

What moves the ranking needle are sustainable, evergreen link-building strategies – backlinks from trusted, niche-related websites that are acquired by white hat SEO methods such as blogger outreach, guest posting, and collaborations with other influencers in the niche. The more of these types of backlinks you get, the better your organic rankings.

Additionally, getting backlinks from a greater number of referring domains ensures that your rankings are protected if, for example, a couple of those websites get shut down or penalized in the future. When you’re playing the link-building game, it pays to think ahead.

(Image Source: https://backlinko.com/google-ranking-factors)

And, while they don’t carry the same weight as true backlinks, you’d be wrong to underestimate the value Google’s ranking algorithm places on social media signals.

A truly authoritative website – and all the authors that write for it – will have a strong social media presence. They will use it to amplify their message, build additional authority, and drive traffic to their website. Ahrefs’ Tim Soulo does this better than any other SEO expert that I know.

how having a strong social media presence helps create authority and tackle 2019 Google core algorithm updates

All of this will affect the aforementioned E-A-T parameters. If nothing, it will distribute your name far and wide, signaling to Google that you’re not a complete nobody that just happens to run a website or write a blog about a certain topic. The stronger your social media presence; the more followers, comments, and shares you end up earning – the better it is for your E-A-T.

Get people to trust you and the algorithm will follow

Pretty soon, the key to top rankings will be how believable and trustworthy you are. Google’s current insistence on E-A-T parameters clearly demonstrates that. Everything else will be just the icing on the cake after that – the fancy schema you’re using, the on-page SEO gimmicks, and all the other loopholes SEO experts are now using to rank their websites.

I’m interested to hear what you think about the direction that Google is taking with this year’s algorithm updates. Have any of your websites been affected? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss.

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admin November 19, 2019 0 Comments

Transformation of Search Summit 2019: Highlight reel

On Friday we held the Transformation of Search Summit 2019 here in New York City. Huge thank you to all of our speakers, attendees, and sponsors who made the day a success!

In this article we’ve compiled some key quotes, stats, and otherwise tweetable highlights from the event.

Keynote: The transformation of search

First we heard from Carolyn Shelby, SEO Manager, Audience Development at the Walt Disney Company / ESPN.

One of the key quotes from her session was “The trick is to understand the psychology of people. Get in front of the consumer. That’s where search engines are going. What is the least amount of thinking that I can make a consumer do? How can I get them what they want the fastest?”

She also walked us through a brief SERP evolution, from collecting and organizing, to scoring / ranking relevancy, to now delivering immediate gratification.

The future of search is visual

Next up we heard from Michael Akkerman of Pinterest on the growth of visual search and its role in the future.

He talked about the evolution of consumer expectations, from physical stores, to digital convenience, to omnichannel promise, to the inspired shopping of today.

Where it once may have seemed that consumers were only focused on convenience, we’re now seeing the re-emergence of shopping and discovery in the consumer experience.

He also talked about the role of Pinterest in consumer discovery. On Pinterest, he says, they have billions of text-based searches every month. Of those, 90% are non-brand searches. “People don’t know what they want,” he says. For brands looking to focus on the discovery portion of the consumer journey, Pinterest could be a great option.

Michael was joined on stage by Dave Fall, CEO of BrandNetworks. They did a Q&A about what brands can do to get started with visual search.

For many brands, they said, it can feel like there’s a big barrier of entry or that it has to be a huge undertaking. But, they noted, remember that your brand does have visual assets already — think about what you use for your website, display ads, Amazon product listings, etc. Consider how you can re-purpose those to get started.

What DTCs and legacy brands can learn from each other 

Next we heard from Kerry Curran of Catalyst (GroupM). She talked about what brands can do to flip their performance marketing mindsets.

One particularly interesting finding she shared was that in campaigns, when brands communicate like a human, it can improve conversion by 900%.

She also noted that in the US, women over age 50 have $15 trillion in buying power. For many marketers, it might seem like younger generations have more appeal — but older generations have deeper pockets.

Embarking on a search transformation project

After this, we had a panel discussion on “embarking on a search transformation project.”

The panel included experts from Conde Nast, Microsoft, Mindshare, Volvo, and McKinsey.

John Shehata from Conde Nast shared some work they did to refresh and consolidate older content in order to boost keyword visibility by up to 1000%.

The challenge, as he pointed out, is that 90% of online content was created in the last two years, and 90% of that content gets no traffic. And, 50% of searches on Google end in no clicks. To face that, his team is working on taking past content, consolidating multiple pieces, and focusing on making each piece amazing.

Noel Reilly of Microsoft also touched on the speed at which new content is created. She encouraged marketers to think more broadly about what people want and are looking to discover. At Microsoft Ads, she said, 18% of queries each month are new queries.

When inputs are continuing to change so much, she recommended marketers really look at their search query reports to build content around those.

John Shehata of Conde Nast also spoke a bit about what they’re doing to prepare for voice search. Overall, he’s adopting a more conservative approach: investing a little, getting the foundation ready, and waiting for more clarity before diving into larger scale investment.

He likened the current discussion of voice search to the conversation about mobile a decade ago: “Remember when we said ‘mobile is here’ for ten years? But then it took ten years.”

And to wrap up from this session, we heard another great point from Noel of Microsoft: “The most successful brands I see are the ones putting people at the center of their advertising. Regardless of what the next big thing is in search, your job as a marketer is to understand your customer.”

Amazon search

Next we heard from John Denny with some interesting statistics and expert tips on Amazon search.

When it comes to how different generations search, he revealed that 52% of Gen Z named Amazon as their favorite site for shopping. The number two spot went to Nike, who claimed just 4% of votes — putting Amazon at 13 times that.

He also discussed three of the main options CPG brands have for driving purchases / traffic: a brand’s own website, a brand’s detail page on Amazon, and in-store traffic.

For the largest 100 CPG brands out there, he said, there was five times more traffic on the Amazon detail page plus in-store than there was on the brand’s own website.

His message: for brands not on Amazon, might be time to consider it.

Optimizing for voice search

Next, we heard another panel, this time specifically on voice search, from Mastercard, Synup, and Advantix Digital.

While earlier in the day we heard a more cautious perspective from Conde Nast, this panel was a bit more bullish on voice search.

Synup CEO Ashwin Ramesh gave one interesting rationale around the rapid adoption of voice search globally in countries like India, Indonesia, and parts of Southeast Asia. In India, he says, 50% of all searches are already done via voice. “They’re leapfrogging markets,” he said. He also gave the personal example that his grandmother — she doesn’t type and has never used a computer, but she sends him voice messages via her iPad.

Paradigm shifts in search

After this we heard from Stephen Kraus, Head of Digital Insights at Jumpshot. He shared many interesting statistics about the current state of the search industry and how it’s shifting.

90% of all search happens on Google, he says, and it skews branded (unlike on Pinterest). Of the top ten most used search terms on Google in the past couple months, seven are brands: Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, Walmart, Craigslist, and BMW.

The other three, interestingly, were “you,” “weather,” and “news.”

While 90% of all search happens on Google, when it comes to product-related search, 54% happens on Amazon.

Stay tuned for part two with highlights from the afternoon sessions, as well as some deep dives into specific insights!

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admin October 28, 2019 0 Comments

The State of SEO 2019 – Infographic

Zazzle Media’s second annual “State of SEO survey” has assessed the value and ROI of SEO, looking at its impact in securing funds or resources.

The data suggested that 60% of marketers find that resources and a shortage of budget are the main reasons they don’t spend more on organic search activity. However, almost a third of surveyed marketers still don’t know how to measure the impact of SEO on their results.

The survey reviewed 70% of in-house marketers and 30% of agency heads from various companies. It called for marketers to develop a better understanding of attribution models, measurement tools, brand value, and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

The main reasons cited for marketers struggling to secure investment are competitor awareness, revealing that marketers are too aware of their competitor’s activity, even noting that their branded keywords were being targeted by their competitors.

The report noted that data-led objectives can act as investment enablers as they can easily quantify and measure consumer traffic. They also help marketers prove ROI, by reviewing how marketing practices are improving year on year.

Yet the survey revealed that there is still a lack of understanding around best practices for marketers to use. A quarter of those surveyed called for clearer guidelines on best practice from Google Webmasters, revealing that there is, in fact, a knowledge and skills gap around SEO.

Zazzle Media’s head of search and strategy, Stuart Shaw, said

“As an industry, we’ve needed to educate, educate, educate – at almost every level of client infrastructure. That challenge still remains, in fact, it probably changes monthly but now with more noise than ever.

However knowledge has always been power in this industry, keeping up with updates, marketing news and best practice guidelines across Google and Bing can be the difference in the results marketers need to secure that extra budget.”

You can download the full results of The State of SEO here, and check out the top-line stats on the infographic below.

State of SEO 2019 infographic

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admin October 11, 2019 0 Comments

Optimizing for voice search in 2019: Q&A with Amine Bentahar

As we gear up for The Transformation of Search Summit at the end of October, we have another speaker Q&A. This time we’re hearing from Amine Bentahar about his upcoming session on voice search optimization.

Amine Bentahar is the Chief Digital and Operating Officer at Adantix Digital. He’s also an author and member of the Forbes Agency Council.

amine bentahar speaker interview

Amine’s session will be about “Optimizing for position 0: Everything you need to know about voice search.”

Tell us about your current work

Amine Bentahar: I’m the Chief Digital & Operating Officer at Advantix Digital. I’m in charge of operations and ensuring that we are delivering the best quality work and exceptional results for our clients.

I’m also responsible for the overall digital and marketing strategy for many of our key clients which includes publicly traded companies, companies backed by major VC and PE firms, and mid-sized companies from various industries. 

What are your key priorities over the next twelve months?

AB: Implement a voice search strategy for all of our B2C and B2B clients, and continue to leverage voice search as a channel to drive new customer acquisitions for our clients. 

What is your biggest challenge in achieving those?

AB: Most companies haven’t allocated a budget specific to just voice search, and aren’t taking the time to truly understand how their customers are either looking for information or shopping through voice.

Because of this, we are having to spend a lot of time educating companies about the importance of having a voice search strategy and budget. 

What’s your advice to others who may be facing similar challenges?

AB: Educate your teams or clients on voice search and how it’s changing the way customers are shopping or looking for information. 

What’s an interesting trend you’re seeing in the market right now?

AB: The integration of voice search technology in cars, TVs, appliances and other devices. 

How do you expect it will change in the next 6-12 months?

AB: With all the money being invested in R&D by the big players (Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft), I would expect to see this trend to continue growing, and for voice search technology to be available on even more devices. 

Tell us a bit about your session at the Search Summit?

AB: My session will be about optimizing for voice search and more specifically about the steps companies must take to rank for position 0. We will help attendees understand how voice search works and how to develop organic content to be “read” by Alexa or Google Home. 

What are you looking forward to most at the Summit?

AB: I’m looking forward to meeting other thought leaders and marketers and learning from their experiences about things that are disrupting the search world. 

What’s one of your favorite search technologies and why?

AB: Voice search as I find it somewhat amazing especially when you see the fast adoption rate of the technology and how it’s impacting the way customers are now searching. 

What’s something you do every day that helps you be more successful or productive?

AB: I do my best to exercise everyday and also I take at least 30 minutes of my day to read either about marketing or management. 

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admin September 27, 2019 0 Comments