This post was updated in September 2022, after the “Helpful Content” update and as we begin the September core update. Though it always seems relevant to say Google just had an update, they tend to target different things. Some may hit small business websites harder than others. In all cases, the meat and potatoes fundamentals of SEO haven’t changed much in the 16+ years I have been in the industry. When you get down to it, if you know how Google thinks and make your changes and adjustments to your site and to your content to help the users rather than to “trick Google”, you will be more algorithm-proof. Skip the gimmicks and stick with the fundamental elements that make things better for the user.
Helpful Content, Product Reviews, and Core Updates
It tends to feel like crying wolf as we prepare for and react to all of the Google algorithm updates. The truth is that they are updating things constantly but typically have a few big ones every year. I wanted to calm everyone that might get nervous from algorithm shift to algorithm shift. This September 2022 core update seems to be quite large in the early going and may impact a lot of sites. We are learning more about it as analysis is done each day.
However, it is important to have an SEO plan that focuses on fundamental improvements and doesn’t chase each algorithm update. Algorithm updates are just a little seasoning and Google getting a little bit better with each iteration and algorithmically rewarding the things that they have been telling us they are looking for since day one. Of course, with new technology and advancements, as well as shifts in user behavior, we do need to make tweaks and turns along the way, but if you aim at the fundamentals rather than chasing loopholes, you will consistently move forward and grow, as my clients have done for over 15 years. There are certainly times we step back and adjust our focus as Google appears to reward certain things more, but if you stay true to the fundamentals, the tweaks will stay small.
Hire Us To Turn Your SEO Up a Notch
Focus on the basics. Once you get moving, you can work on some of the advanced techniques that can dial things up a bit, but if you focus on the “meat and potatoes”, you will move forward and not have to worry as much about big algorithm shifts knocking you off of the map. If you can do a lot of this stuff yourself, the biggest advantage of working with someone like me is being in tune to ways to advance your site and get rewarded ahead of the competition because I stay up to date on an hour by hour basis, whereas big companies tend to shift their plans on a year by year basis if at all.
So here are the meat and potatoes.
Google separated itself from other search engines with links. I don’t know if you would even want to call the big directories and lists of sites leading up to Google search engines. It was more of an electronic card catalog. Getting reputable sites to link to you, or send their users to you, is a vote of credibility. Keeping that in mind, always look to turn your offline relationships into links and to secure online relationships. With nearly 15 years in the business, I have built up a lot of online relationships that my clients take advantage of, but even small businesses just getting started probably have some good reputable links to get going.
- Local Chamber of Commerce
- National Association Memberships
- University Alumni Pages
- Local Groups and Charity Events
- News stories in local (online) news outlets
- Networking Groups or Organizations
Those are all “real” links that can push your online reputation forward. Avoid links that have bad reputations or aren’t relevant to what you do. A news site is typically general and strong, so it is usually fine, as long as it is legitimate. If you aren’t quite sure, Moz has a free tool to give you an idea of domain authority (0-100). The tool will give you a certain number of free queries per month. You typically want to avoid links from sites with under a 10 domain authority, unless you are absolutely sure they are a legitimate organization. Sometimes local charity event sites can be fairly low in authority, but still, show you have local relevance to Google.
There is a sniff test here and links are hard to do. That’s why people hire me to help them so they can focus on their main business. However, getting those base-level links that you have already earned from being in business is a great way to get started and build site respectability.
Helpful and Unique Content
Of course, Google’s job is to deliver the best answer to someone’s query, so you need to have good answers. Though there is no set rule on how many words you need and some questions only require a short solution, you should aim to have thorough and well-explained content to help answer your potential customers or clients’ questions. You really want them to understand how to hire you and have all of their questions answered on your site. You can address the process, FAQs, why your product/service is useful, benefits of choosing you, etc. This is all great info for your users and helps build your site as an authority signal to Google on your topic. Building pages for all of this information and interlinking them to one another easily is a great way to rank for many different levels of the customer search process. It is also important to keep this content updated. The main reasons people might need you in 2018 are likely a little different in 2022 than they were in 2018. With the recent focus on “helpful content”, this is more important than ever. Focus on being useful and not just selling.
Though your content should be thorough, it should also be very digestible and easy to pick out the piece of information that is on the customer’s mind. Break your content up into easy sections with headers and bullets and even audio and video versions if you can. This just makes for a better user experience to help any type of visitor that may show up. In fact, you may want to have content addressing the need for what you offer for different types of people. You know your customers better than anyone. Build content specifically for the different types. Build out answers to common FAQ’s you get from customers or that you find being asked in Google. This brings us to the third and final big piece.
Good User Experience (UX)
Google would tell you that user experience is the top ranking factor, but this is vague and hard to put a measurement on. Generally, a good user experience means great content that loads fast and is easy to navigate through. The user should always be able to find their way around your site quickly and be able to find the content they are looking for, which leans heavily on the good content piece above.
Doing a good job is also a big part of a good user experience and lends itself to more links and good reviews coming your way. Good reviews are an important piece of the puzzle these days too, and a good user experience combined with asking for a review will grow your review count and score.
When you are ready to jump to the next level, give me a call.