The end of 2022 is fast approaching, but don’t worry. September’s roundup includes everything you need to hit your metrics before the new year.
First, sharpen your skills with the month’s guides. You’ll get a breakdown of where algorithm updates may be headed, find out why it’s getting harder to rank for commercial keywords and learn to identify warning content flags.
After that, bring confidence to your SEO choices with the latest data. The first case study takes a deep dive into Zapier’s successful strategy, while the second introduces you to UX and SEO red herrings.
The roundup closes on the news. You’ll get the latest headlines about the new Core Update, Google’s Helpful Content Update, the new “quick read” signal, and updates to structured data guidelines for articles.
Google’s Helpful Content Algorithm Update: Hypotheses from 23 Years of SEO Experience
Wil Reynolds calls on decades of experience to bring you this analysis of the Helpful Content Update. If you aren’t caught up, Wil provides a good summary of the goals, affected industries, and new signals that were included in the rollout.
He then breaks down for you who is getting hit with traffic drops and why they are likely in violation of Google’s new priorities. He explains why he suspects they were targeted and who is most likely to be endangered by future updates.
For example, one prediction he makes is that publishers that focus on a broad range of topics are in the most danger of being targeted.
He identifies sites such as Forbes and CNET as being at high risk. He argues that these sites and others like them may suffer because they don’t specialize, don’t provide unique value, and use automated content.
If you’re worried you might be affected, Wil closes the guide with some ideas to get your site and content back in line with what Google wants to see.
Your site content isn’t the only SEO factor that may become more challenging. The next guide looks at why you may be having trouble ranking for select commercial keywords.
Why It’s Getting Harder to Rank for Some Commercial Keywords
(+ What You Can Do About It)
Dominick Sorrentino has identified a culprit if you’ve recently had trouble competing for commercial terms. He experienced the problem himself, and his research led him to discover that listicles were taking over the top spots in the niche.
This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. He provides data-driven evidence that this problem is widespread and has resulted in serious shifts in many commercial SERPs in just the last year.
Throughout the rest of the guide, he explores what can be done now and what kind of actions you may need to take in the future.
He suggests you should respond to this trend by seeking out more mentions in list-type content in your niche (for example, directories). “Infiltrating” lists by having your company added to existing high-performing lists can be an effective shortcut.
He also recommends that you start producing some of your own list content for commercial SERPs that are rewarding it.
These are low-investment solutions, which is good because no one can really say for sure that Google intends for this to happen. Directories have started flexing their growing power (such as by charging extra for new listings) in ways that may attract responses from Google.
The last guide of the month also has some content advice for you. It will help you spot and resolve localization problems.
4 Warning Content Localization Flags
Isaline Muelhauser guest starred on the In Search SEO Podcast to bring you troubleshooting tips for when localization goes wrong. She covers some of the ways that content localized for different languages can warn you that it’s not performing as intended.
She highlights four warning flags in particular:
- Unusually low KPIs
- Traffic from countries not in your target market
- Translating keyword research
- Unusual amount of customer service requests in a translated language
Over the course of a long interview, Isaline teaches you how to spot each of these problems, and explains the threat that they pose to your long-term success.
As an example, she helps you understand the significance of traffic coming from the wrong country. She explains that this warning sign often appears when content is written for a language, but not a specific region.
This can be an easy mistake to make. For example, dozens of countries have French as an official language, but they don’t always use words in the same way.
If you hire a French writer to produce french-language content for a Canadian website, you may find you’re getting traffic from France without intentionally targeting it. This problem can be solved easily enough by making sure your localized content is produced by locals.
Isaline provides the same thorough explanations for the other warning flags.
You’ll read the latest case studies. First, you’ll learn how Zapier is bringing in millions of dollars worth of traffic with a powerful SEO strategy.
6 Things I Love About Zapier’s SEO Strategy: A Case Study
Mateusz Makosiewicz takes you on a deep dive of Zapier’s blog strategy. As he points out early in the study, Zapier’s products don’t even have a lot of monthly searches. Yet, the blog brings in more than 1.6 million visitors every month. He breaks down how they did it.
To start, he organizes the practices being used by Zapier into a series of principles that you can apply to your own site. He uses traffic data, examples, and visual aids to explain the importance of these principles and how to put them into action.
The case study includes breakdowns of how Zapier:
- Built backdoor pitches into its content
- Ranked for other people’s keywords
- Created self-building content hubs
- Massively interlinked its own content
This study is a valuable resource for people who want to achieve SEO success in a niche with little or no search demand. Almost all of these practices allow you to benefit from niches with more volume while you’re building your brand.
In the next and final case study, you’ll learn how to stop yourself from chasing the wrong solutions to your biggest problems.
UX and SEO red herrings: A Case Study
Kevin Indig brings you this data driven list of the “red herrings” that can cause you to make bad assumptions while trying to diagnose SEO and UX problems.
He sets the stage by creating an example around three big sites: Wish, Zulily, and TheRealReal. All of these sites had factors in common before they experienced serious traffic loss.
All of these sites made users log in to shop, they all used the same business model, and they all declined around the same time. This might be enough to cause some SEOs to start planning updates around these factors.
However, using data, Kevin shows that none of these obvious factors provide a complete explanation. He points out that other factors show up on a deeper look including:
- The fallout from a recent algorithm update
- The presence of adult content in violation of Google policies
- Serious declines in the reputation/trust of all named brands
Kevin’s point is not to claim that these additional factors are more legitimate, but instead to point out that different interpretations can point you in wildly different directions. Without enough research, you’re at risk of wasting time chasing the wrong problem.
That covers the case studies for the month. Next, you’ll take in some of the biggest headlines, starting with the latest core update.
Google September 2022 Broad Core Update Is Live – What We Are Seeing Now
Barry Schwartz brings you a quick summary of the new Core Update that Google started rolling out on September 12. According to the official announcement, the update is expected to continue through the 26th.
The update is reported to affect all content. It is also reported to work by promoting good pages rather than applying new penalties to bad ones.
While Google has not released a list of changes, Danny Sullivan and other Google representatives have been answering questions from SEOs. Barry collected some threads from Google reps like Danny Sullivan that cover the goals and the scope of the update.
That’s all we know for now. Let’s look back on the last big update to hit, and the new signal that it introduced.
Google’s Helpful Content Update Introduces A New Site-wide Ranking Signal Targeting “Search engine-first Content”, and It’s Always Running
Glenn Gabe breaks down a new site-wide ranking signal that may play a key role in all of your future content.
This new signal arrived with the Helpful Content Update. It specifically targets content Google recognizes as either “low-quality”, or “made for search engines.” Once applied, the signal will impose a penalty that will make it more difficult for your pages to appear in search results.
If you host a lot of low-value content, the signal will be applied to your entire site. Google’s Danny Sullivan clarified that this signal will impact all content on your site when it is applied, not just the content that is judged to be low quality.
The signal is designed to fade away when content becomes compliant again, but you won’t be told which content resulted in the penalty in the first place. Instead, Google recommends that you make sure that all content:
- Is designed to attract humans rather than search engines
- Caters to your audience and readers
- Adds new information rather than just summarizing information from other sources
- Does not offer answers that it doesn’t have (for example, release dates that haven’t been officially provided)
Check out the complete story for a collection of Google’s statements about this update and what to expect. You can also find Glenn’s personal analysis of what this update means and how you can best prepare for it.
Plenty of other new features arrived with this update. Next, you’ll learn about the “quick read” label that will appear in SERPs and help searchers judge your content before they click.
Google Search testing ‘Quick Read’ label for brief articles
Ben Schoon brings you this report on the Quick Read label. This highly-visible label may now appear below search results that point to content—directing readers to results that offer a more digestible answer.
Two variations of the label have been spotted by SEOs. The first is “Quick Read”, and the other is “< 5 Min Read”. This may be a split test to see how searchers respond to each label, or it may signal that Google is testing different labels depending on the overall length of the content.
This test suggests that Google considers short content valuable and is looking for ways to help searchers find it more easily. It may also be a reaction against SEO strategies of past years that favored as much content as possible, even for simple answers.
Google has not yet officially announced this feature while it is undergoing testing. As a result, there is very little information about how Google measures and applies the label. There’s also currently no way to apply the label or request that it be applied.
Google has been more forthcoming about some recent changes, including the big changes to Amp and Top Stories that are covered in the final news item.
Google Updates Article Structured Data Guidelines
Roger Montti breaks down recent updates to structured guidelines and gives you some ideas for how to move forward under the new rules.
First, you are no longer required to implement AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to qualify for inclusion in top stories. Roger found that references to AMP had been stripped from the guidelines entirely.
Google also updated the image guidelines for publishers who want to appear in Top Stories. Previously, Google recommended a minimum of 800,000 pixels (when multiplying width and height) for best results. That has now been updated to 50k pixels.
Roger notes that some publishers, particularly news agencies, have been asking for this change for a long time. The old guidelines recommended images so large that they slowed loading times.
The new guidelines will allow publishers to be competitive on Top Stories without using massive high-resolution images.
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