We spend countless sleepless hours poring over each major Google algorithm update. Google labels these as core updates. We had a core update in March of 2019 and again in June of 2019. We will focus on these updates as smaller updates come out continuously with no notice.
Google’s core updates can cause rankings to fluctuate wildly for some sites while others feel little to no impact. To some website owners, these changes appear random, leaving them confused as to how they should respond to recapture lost rankings. The purpose of this blog post is to demystify the purpose of these core updates and to help you adapt to further updates. It is important to understand that both of Google’s core updates in 2019 are really extensions of an update released in August of 2018 called “The Medic Update.” The SEO community update the “medic” update because of its pervasive impact on medical and health-related websites. Website owners who quickly determined they could ignore this because they were in different industries, may have done this in error. Google’s so-called medic update devalued sites with low EAT (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness) scores. The reason medical sites were impacted more than other industries is that a lot of medical and health-related content was written by authors with little or no credentials to be writing the content they were writing. Furthermore, the content was thin and not particularly useful for users.
Both of Google’s 2019 core updates were further refinements of this medic update.It is also important to understand that Google did not start caring about content quality in 2018; they have been trying to improve your search results since day one. Google accomplishes that goal by providing it’s audience with an excellent user experience. Here we’ll explain how you can optimize your website to provide a great experience that Google will recognize.
Understanding Searcher Intent Is Key
Understanding searcher intent creates alignment between your website and Google’s mission. Google’s primary purpose is to provide users with answers to their search queries. Those search queries include users searching for solutions to their problems and to find products and solutions that improve their business or their lives. Google will reward your site if you focus on creating an experience on your site that positions you as an expert problem solver. We will provide you with step-by-step instructions to help transform your site into a variable resource for both users and for Google.
The first step to understanding user intent is to understand which keywords your potential clients type in to find websites in your business category. Users initiate two kinds of searches: voice and keyboard. Optimizing for both will help you capture the maximum number of relevant website visitors.
Voice search volumes are increasing rapidly, so it is important to understand how to optimize your site to tap into this traffic source. Voice searchers tend to use conversational keywords. To finda bakery, a voice searcher might say, “Find a bakery near me” or “Which bakeries are open?” Because voice searchers tend to ask questions, we recommend that you create an FAQ page on your website to address questions. We also recommend that you incorporate answers to common questions under service pages and devote entire blogs to answering more complex questions. Answering these questions positions you as helpful to the user and as a resource to Google.
Optimizing for keyboard searches is relatively straightforward. Your first assignment is to understand which keywords your customers type in to find your business. For most businesses, the keywords are quite simple. Take our bakery example. When our same searcher searches for a bakery on their computer, they are more likely to type in phrases such as “Bakery Dallas” or “Dallas Bakery” or a close variation. Because keyboard searches typically involve some combination of the city of the searcher plus the type of service they’re looking for, we recommend that you optimize the metadata of your website and content of your website to include these phrases.
When creating content for a website that contains well-researched keywords, it is also important to speak directly to your ideal customer. You can do this by addressing their fears, solving their problems, and improving their lives. If you have not spent time defining your ideal customer, we recommend that you create an ideal customer profile. Meet with your team and ask them what characteristics your top customers have in common. Your team understands your customer base better than anyone. They answer their questions every day and know what they need to understand before making a purchase. Once you have an ideal customer profile in place, you can begin to create content that will turn those website visitors into customers.
Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence
To further increase the efficacy of your SEO campaign, it is important to understand the role of artificial intelligence and how you can optimize your SEO campaign for Google’s RankBrain. RankBrain uses machine learning to improve the relevancy of Google search results. Follow these three tips to help Google’s RankBrain learn about your website faster.
- Improve click-through rates: Google uses user data as an important quality indicator in its search results. The more frequently people click on your website when presented with an array of 10 choices on page one, the more likely you are to improve your search engine rankings, which will, in turn, lead to an even higher click-through rate. The easiest way to improve your click-through rate is by improving your description tag. Each page on a website has a description tag. Google typically shows your description tag immediately below your search result. We added a screenshot below to show you exactly where the description tag is located in a typical search result. Good description tags contain 155 characters or less, contain a call to action, include relevant keywords, and help users understand what products you offer and why they should purchase them from you.
- Keyword research: When optimizing for RankBrain, we suggest you focus on medium-length keyword phrases that are three to four words total. Three- to four-word phrases are long enough to be very specific, which leads to higher conversion rates, and short enough that users type them with enough frequency to make it worth your while.
- Content quality: RankBrain is looking for high-quality content that Google can show when users type in their most frustrating questions and need their most difficult problem solved.
- Link building: Just as Google learns which sites are useful when people click on them, it also learns which sites are popular as users link to those sites. Think of links as votes for a website. Google interprets a link to your website as an indicator that previous users found that content to be helpful and useful. So useful, in fact, that people took the time to link to that content. Creating content is the first step to attracting links; however, in our experience, we have found that content creation alone is not enough to consistently attract links. We recommend that you hire a digital marketing agency to assist with your backlink building efforts as they have the experience needed to consistently build high-quality links to your website. A well-run digital marketing program by a professional agency will help accelerate your SEO efforts and improve your campaign results.
Create Long-Form Website Content That Users Will Love
Many website owners create content on a regular basis because that is what nearly every SEO article they have read has told them to do. Although content creation is critical to your SEO success, we recommend that you produce fewer pieces and add far more detail to each. For example, many businesses create one 400-word blog post per week. We would highly recommend that you write one 2,000-word blog post per month. Long-form content gives you the opportunity to go into great detail and to provide the answers to users’ questions in a meaningful way. Not only will long-form content engage readers with this detailed approach, it will increase the amount of time they spend on that page of your website. Time on page is another quality indicator Google uses to determine which content readers find most useful. Longer content gives you the room you need to incorporate more keywords into your content, which will mean that your blog post will be more likely to show up in more search results. Most importantly long-form content will position you as a thought leader in the eyes of your readership. This will encourage visitors to read additional content on your website, which moves them one step further toward becoming a customer.
We encourage you to incorporate these tips into your overall marketing efforts. Understanding user intent, the role of artificial intelligence, and the role of long-form content will help you improve your search engine visibility and attract your ideal customer. Do not become discouraged if your efforts do not show immediate results as SEO typically takes six to 12 months to produce optimal results.
Adam Stetzer holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has published on the topics of Internet marketing, absenteeism, employee and customer satisfaction, productivity and safety, and culture. He has founded several technology firms, and is currently CEO at HubShout, a white label SEO reseller firm. In his 25 year career he has worked with companies such as General Electric, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Verizon, AT&T, Ford, LendingTree, American Express and ChevronTexaco. Adam has advised over 1,000 small business owners and blogs frequently.