A lot has happened in the search marketing space in 2018.
For episode 146 of Search Engine Nerds, I invited Loren Baker and Roger Montti, both members of the Search Engine Journal team and recognized SEO experts, to talk about:
- What’s been happening over the last year in search marketing.
- What’s important.
- What you should be paying attention to.
- What you should be looking forward to.
What do you think is the biggest thing that we’ve seen change or the biggest announcement in 2018 from an SEO standpoint?
Roger Montii (RM): Definitely, Danny Sullivan’s been bringing more transparency to what Google’s doing, in particular, the broad core algorithm update.
For many years, we’ve had this thing called the Phantom Update, and, really, what it has always been was and they’ve always said it was is broad core update.
Yet, the industry has been focusing on quality issues and the same thing month after month, year over year with regard to Phantom Update.
Then, when Sullivan stepped in and said, “Let’s stop this. Get off that train. There’s nothing to fix on your site. This is just we’re improving how we do, relevance,” And that really brought about a whole change in how these broad core updates are looked at.
What is the broad core update? What are the outcomes of these updates?
RM: The algorithm is a collection of a whole wide range of components. There are elements related to:
- Spam fighting
- And more.
There are different parts of an algorithm. So, when Google makes a general broad core algorithm update, that can be any number of things packaged all together.
Brent Csutoras (BC): I’m guessing they call it “broad core” for the sense that it affects a broad volume of the search engine. Right?
RM: Right. The algorithm doesn’t just do spam fighting or catching thin pages. I think it is more focused on:
- Identifying good links.
- Knowing what users mean when they type something in.
- Understanding what a webpage is about. Is this about helping users? Is this informational? Is this transactional?
All the different nuances. When you look at the search algorithms, you often see them making improvements in information retrieval, etc.
So it makes sense that when Google does a broad core update, the focus isn’t necessarily on finding spammy or low quality or thin pages.
This is changing how we do SEO because it leads directly into content marketing.
BC: I don’t know about you but this is probably the first big update that, to me personally, feels like nothing’s wrong with your site. We’ve just improved the way we and deliver our search results essentially nothing to see here continue on. So why are we even talking about this update?
Loren Baker (LB): I think from an SEO perspective, people get really caught up on an update that happened at this date or that date.
But it’s not like it used to back in the day where a Google update happened the first of the month and everything changed.
What’s going to happen is there’s an ongoing offsite component to SEO that’s continuously added on a daily basis and that’s the way Google serves their search display.
What can people do whenever there’s a change?
RM: I think Google can’t really explicitly tell you. But I’ve been seeing this a lot when people come to me for a site audit.
I look at the content and what’s ranking at Google. Sometimes it’s pretty clear that the focus has changed when you look at the search results.
When you’re trying to diagnose why you’re no longer at the top, take a look at what Google’s ranking now and who replaced you. There’s a clue there. Sometimes it’s in the phrases that you or your competitors use.
Where do you see the biggest play right now happening in SEO?
LB: It’s definitely on the microdata (Schema) side and also just targeting queries and intent that actually convert.
The ability to add data to your site that better defines what those pages are about, how those pages should be classified, and making sure that that data reflects what your business actually offers.
Google is really pushing for people to supply that information so they can insert featured snippets into the results.
Also, on the conversion audience. At the end of the day, if you don’t have a way to convert your traffic into a transactional flow, that traffic that you may have been getting previously may not even be that valuable for you in the first place.
I know that people want to get increased traffic numbers, but if I’m an ecommerce company, I’d rather see transactional traffic numbers increased more so than traffic that bounces.
BC: I think that content, understanding the storytelling, and the ability to give people the information they need and the way they need it has been super effective.
I have seen this huge shift every time that we go on a project. We focus on how the content is answering the questions that people have and then we see a huge spike in SEO – traffic and conversions.
If I could look back, I would say that really focusing on a content strategy has been one of the biggest things I’ve seen this year.
RM: Definitely focusing on content, but instead of thinking in terms of keyword phrases, think of what problems you’re solving.
Perhaps, more importantly, look at the SERPs and see what problem is Google trying to solve for users, what’s the most popular, and then create content that solves that in a better way than all your competition.
What are your thoughts on image optimization?
RM: I think one of the most overlooked opportunities is images. Using images in a more meaningful manner in order to integrate that into the text content because images are content, too.
I think people tend to think of images in terms of just breaking up the text, making the webpage look nicer. Images can serve so much more than that.
What can you say about content in 2018?
LB: I think it’s going to sound very cliché – quality over quantity.
A lot of the jobs that I’ve been working on recently are content consolidation and cleanup practices. We take old posts that used to compete against each other (which is basically the result of posting too much) then consolidate them into one epic post.
The other part is, remembering what your clients or customers or prospects are really looking for and mapping out your content from a customer journey perspective – top of the funnel (TOFU) or bottom of the funnel (BOFU).
Content is not just an SEO play. By making sure that the content that you’re putting together is integrated into email, social or PR campaigns, whatever it may be, you’re attracting similar traffic to it as well.
How important is video content for people right now and going forward? What would you say are some important steps to make sure that when you’re getting into video, you’re doing it right?
LB: Video may not be the traffic driver because most of the video we’re talking about is going to be hosted on YouTube or another hosting channel. But it could be a conversion mechanism.
Your video is your chance for a first impression and to add personality to your business and/or content.
RM: I think that the days of thinking of web content being just textual are long over. There are podcasts, there’s now the voice search coming up soon, and video is very mature.
You don’t have to necessarily make your own video. Sometimes you can just sponsor somebody and have them use your product in a meaningful way.
LB: When you post the video on YouTube or you share it on Facebook, it’s going to help your overall brand.
If you’re investing in one thing, whether it’d be text or video content for SEO, you can use it for a lot of other purposes.
Don’t look at SEO as being your only goal when you’re making that content investment. Look at how much you can squeeze across the board.
To listen to this Search Engine Nerds Podcast with Brent Csutoras, Loren Baker and Roger Montti:
Think you have what it takes to be a Search Engine Nerd? If so, message Loren Baker on Twitter, or email him at loren [at] searchenginejournal.com. You can also email Brent Csutoras at brent [at] alphabrandmedia.com.
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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita