My SEO and Growth Predictions for 2022

4. Brand strength becomes a success gateway

A strong brand has always been important. Long before the internet made marketing more measurable, brand marketing was all there was in marketing. Some people literally went through magazines and cut out press clippings. Data was sourced through surveys and focus groups. Not a bad idea, but not scalable either.

But today, we find ourselves in a stalemate. With only four scalable growth channels and consumer platform stagnation, three factors predict the success of a company: superior IP, more capital, or brand. In most cases, brand is the result of #1 and #2 and now it’s becoming an absolute must-have for success.

A strong brand strength can be a proxy for PMF and lead to significant market share gains. Every month only ~6K people search for “find a job” but 2.6M search for “indeed jobs” and 13M for “indeed” in the US.

Brand traffic is “free” and highly intentful. Google Search results prioritize strong brands even more in 2021, in part because Google wants to rank trustworthy sites higher to combat fake news and keep trust with customers themselves. Remember, Google’s market position is the direct result of how much searchers trust it.

Tesla spends almost nothing on Marketing and a lot on RnD. Brand is a moat you can build strong customer relationships and defenses on.

When looking at the search volumes for the keywords “macys” and “nordstrom” below, which one do you think has a higher chance of gaining market share over time?

In 2022, companies will invest more in building and monitoring stronger brands as a driver of higher ROAS (returns on ad spend), lower CAC (customer acquisition cost), and organic rankings.

Growth Memo: My SEO and Growth predictions for 2022

The growing pains of crawling the web

IndexNow provides many benefits. It allows webmasters to notify all search engines at once. It democratized indexing and leads to fewer resources needed by search engines to crawl the web.

Search Engines have been struggling with crawling for a while. Challenges include spam, javascript rendering, but also the increased use of nofollow tags, which is one of the reasons Google started treating nofollow more as a suggestion than a directive.

I don’t think web discovery through links is the best approach and expect more search engines to lean on webmasters to bring new content to them through APIs like IndexNow.

Kevin Indig, Growth Memo

Mindset Shift

From Keyword Research to TAM

Let’s say you work for an online stationery eCommerce site. You’re trying to persuade the company to invest in content. You could look at the existing content rankings, look at the next 50 pieces of content you might write – essentially try and model out some growth bottoms up – starting with what you have today.

But top down, we might try and find a reference point to see what the total opportunity is. Turns out Hallmark’s content hub ideas.hallmark.com gets 21m visits / year (~40% of all of Hallmark’s organic traffic).

Now there’s all sorts of reasons why this may or may not be a good analogy – and who knows how much of that traffic is revenue-generating. But if I’m an executive at company competing with Hallmark, I’m likely paying more attention to your pitch than I was before.

From competitive analysis to competitive advantage

If you’re going to make pages you need to think about your competitors not through the lens of competitive analysis but through the lens of competitive advantage.

Competitive analysis asks: what do we have and what do competitors have?

Competitive advantage asks: what can we do that competitors can’t?

Not simply asking how do we grow, but how do we build defensible growth – how do we build a moat around our business to create deeper value.

Often we look at strong brands with jealousy but a strong brand positioning can often lead to a more constrained strategy (that’s often the point!) – competing head to head with them is competing on their terms. Instead look to change the rules and play in areas they can’t.

Tom Critchlow from The SEO MBA

TRevenue

NOT ALL TRAFFIC IS EQUAL

You don’t want JUST traffic, you want the traffic which can potentially bring revenue.

I call it TRevenue (Traffic + Revenue)

In order to create TRevenue with blog posts, you need:

Step 1: Define topics that are related to the products your online store sells

Step 2: Validate the topics by conducting keyword research

Step 3: Write the copy and include at least one in-text link to the product (products) sold in your store. No, just buttons in the sidebar don’t count. No, just a link from the navigation bar doesn’t count either. It should be an in-text link (in addition to the above-mentioned, of course). 

Step 4: Never skip the steps above

SEO Shop Up

“What Is It About Now?”

Steal This Book Infographic

Brand Mentions + SEO

One Impression At A Time…

“We anecdotally know that Google is continuously testing content and shuffling the search results, but it’s tough to find hard data about it.

Google tests new content on different positions for all queries it deems relevant. Interestingly, this understanding is very imprecise at first and then gets better over time. Content first ranks for many queries on lower positions, and then for fewer queries at higher positions if the content is of high quality.

Competitive and high-volume queries often have a sort of “probation period”. About two weeks after publishing, the article starts to rank for high-volume queries. Sometimes, they start on page 10, sometimes on page one.

For some queries, Google can identify the relevance and authority right away and rank a page high.

Once they “grooved in”, rankings don’t fluctuate as much anymore. Google has made a decision where the page fits in for a keyword and sticks to it until the page gains more links or someone else published a piece of content that competes with it (or Google updates its understanding of entities).

I observed that It takes Google 3-4 days to figure out where content should rank initially. From there, Google keeps testing how the piece of content would perform for different keywords throughout its lifecycle, one impression at a time.

Content needs to prove itself; nothing is guaranteed.

How Google tests new content in search results

Relations Publiques – l’art et la méthode

“…the basics are easy, but the execution is an art and a science.

Basics:

  1. Find the right publications to pitch (what they write about, what their audience wants, and how much authority they have as a domain.
  2. Find the right writers at those publications to pitch. People who have written similar content before.
  3. Write a pitch that is undeniably well researched, proves you are not a bot, and clearly connects your pitch to something the person you are pitching previously wrote.
  4. Pitch something worth writing about. If it isn’t newsworthy (usually meaning relies on some new data or data analysis), it isn’t worth pitching, and wont be interesting to the person you are pitching.

Success is predicated on all of the above things being done well.”

@kristintynski

“…it’s best to start with those basics and then fail cheaply the first 3-5 times, iterating and getting better every time and building that muscle.”

@josephrobison

“Which metrics do we use to prioritize search modifiers?”

“…there are two buckets – traffic and intent. The intent bucket is more important. The idea is to get more dollars, more sales, and more qualified leads in the short term. We’re going to optimize from tail to head. Backwards – from low traffic high conversion to medium traffic medium conversion to high traffic, low conversion.

It’s more important to get the leads and conversions in the door now, and then work towards scaling up traffic by creating relevancy from long-tail terms into the head.”

Link Graph & Relevancy Thread

Better Content Through NLP

“If you want natural language processing to understand that two entities in your content are closely related, move them closer together in the sentence. Move the words closer together. Reduce the clutter, reduce the fluff, reduce the number of semantic hops that a robot might have to take between one entity and another to understand the relationship, and you’ve now created content that is more readable because it’s shorter and easier to skim, but also easier for a robot to parse and understand.

Avoid jargon. Avoid marketing speak. Not to get too tautological, but the more esoteric a word is, the less commonly it’s used. That’s actually what esoteric means. What that means is the less commonly a word is used, the less likely it is that Google is going to understand its semantic relationships to other entities.”

Zero-Click Searches

“I don’t think zero-click searches are bad. There is this concept arbitrage. You should not benefit from someone wanting to know ‘What time the game starts.’ If that’s all you’ve done, ‘What time the game starts’, Google should be able to give that away for free.”

“Ignore Google’s whimsical 200 SEO signals – including speed!”

“…relevant content is number one for SEO. Speed affects User Experience (UX). Good UX then influences metrics like dwell time, bounce rate, and click through. Google interprets those as user intent.

In Google-speak, “intent” is motivation, or “relevance.”

Content is the user experience.

If you have no enthusiasm for your site topic, people will know. They will be unconvinced you’ll improve their life.”

Teare, Steve. October 2019. Ignore Google’s whimsical 200 SEO signals – including speed!.

“Search result layout is a bigger traffic factor than rankings.”

click through rate false positive example within google search results

“…we’re looking at nearly identical queries and the same target URL in SERPs with CTR difference of 39% simply because of the presence of one special SERP feature.

This is what Google calls “good abandonment”. While it’s certainly “good” for Google’s users, “good” is not how the #1 result on this page would describe this situation.”

Petrovic, Dan. July 2019. Emerging Search Quality Signals: Clicks, Attention and Satisfaction

The Secret: Images for SEO

“We used to recommend adding an image to every article. Now we recommend adding an image to every scroll depth of every article. So there is never a point at which the visitor doesn’t see something of visual interest.

And what’s the secret to high dwell time? Content that engages the visitor quickly and keeps their attention. That means no long blocky paragraphs and lots of compelling visuals.”

Crestodina, Andy. June 2019. How Images Affect SEO: Can Adding a Diagram Really Drive Rankings?

“The Biggest Trend in SEO”

“Yes, Google is constantly changing. And yes the changes affect your traffic. But no, the biggest SEO trends don’t affect your rankings. They affect your click through rates. There’s a big difference.

Changes to the ranking algorithm are real, but the much bigger SEO trends are the “SERP features,” such as featured snippets, maps and videos. There’s just a lot more stuff showing up in search results these days.

Over time, more and more searches are “no-click” meaning the searcher’s information needs are satisfied by the SERP features. That means less traffic is flowing from Google to websites.

So this is the mega-trend in SEO: more features on search results pages and therefore a lower click-through-rate to websites.

Crestodina, Andy. March 2019. The Biggest Trend in SEO

First Link Counts Rule

“The most important conclusion that I am drawing from this experiment is that I have not found a direct way to bypass the First Link Counts Rule by using modified links (links with parameter, 301 redirects, canonicals, anchor links). At the same time, it is possible to build a website’s structure using Javascript links, thanks to which we are free from the restrictions of the First Link Counts Rule.”

Cyrek, Max. November 2018. Here’s what happened when I followed Googlebot for 3 months.

The Long Click

“Search analysis is divided into “long clicks” and “short clicks”. A long click represents a satisfied customer. A user performs a search, clicks through on a result and remains on that site for a long time. They don’t come back to the result set immediately to click on another result or to refine their query. A short click is the opposite of a long click. It occurs when a user performs a search, clicks through on a result and quickly comes back to the result set to click on an alternative result. It represents a minor failure.”

Singhal, Amit. January 2013. Google and the Future of Search. The Guardian.

“Search is a multi-site experience.

This is what search marketers must realize. You will get credit for a long click if you’re part of the long click. If you ensure that the user doesn’t return to search results, even by sending them to another site, then you’re going to be rewarded.

Stop thinking about optimizing your page and think about optimizing the search experience instead…

…it’s easy to get tunnel vision about your own site and forget [about] the search experience. It’s a bit presumptuous to think that your resource is the only resource, so providing access to other content is a great way to fulfill query intent and match the reality of multi-site search experience.”

Kohn, AJ. April 2013. Time To Long Click. Blind Five Year Old.