How to do SEO in 2022

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QUOTE: “Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors...” Google SEO Starter Guide, 2021

SEO (search engine optimisation) is modifications to a web page that help make a page more relevant to a query.

Assuming you “only publish high-quality 100% unique content to your site” then here is how to do SEO in 2022:

  1. include a relevant keyword phrase at least once in the page title tag
  2. keep page titles succinct and avoid adding irrelevant keywords
  3. include your target keyword phrase a couple of times in the Main Content (MC) on the page (in paragraph tags)
  4. avoid keyword stuffing main content or any specific HTML element or attribute
  5. optimise your meta description to have a clickable useful SERP snippet
  6. ensure the Main Content of the page is high-quality and written by a professional (MOST OF YOUR EFFORT GOES HERE – If your content is not being shared organically, you may have a content quality problem)
  7. ensure the keywords you want to rank for are present on your page. The quality of competition for these rankings will determine how much effort you need to put in
  8. use synonyms and common co-occurring words throughout your page copy but write naturally
  9. add value to pages with ordered lists, images, videos, and tables
  10. optimise for increased ‘user intent’ satisfaction (e.g. increased dwell times on a page or site)
  11. keep important pages on your website up-to-date
  12. remove outdated content
  13. avoid publishing and indexing content-poor pages (especially affiliate sites)
  14. disclose page modification dates in a visible format
  15. do not push the main content down a page unnecessarily with ads or obtrusive CTA for even your own business
  16. link to related content on your site with useful and very relevant anchor text
  17. avoid keyword stuffing internal anchor text
  18. ensure fast delivery of web pages on mobile and desktop
  19. provide clear disclosure of affiliate ads and non-intrusive advertising. Clear disclosure of everything, in fact, if you are focused on quality in all areas.
  20. add high-quality and relevant external links to cite sources (if the page is informational)
  21. use the target keyword phrase in internal anchor text pointing to the page (at least once)
  22. if you can, include the target keyword phrase in the short page URL (but avoid changing URLs if you can)
  23. create pages to basic meet W3C recommendations on accessible HTML (W3c) (H1, ALT text etc)

 

What are the high-quality characteristics of a web page?

QUOTE: “High quality pages exist for almost any beneficial purpose…. What makes a High quality page? A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2019

The following are examples of what Google calls ‘high-quality characteristics’ of a page and should be remembered:

  • A satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality” main content (MC)
  • Copyright notifications up to date
  • Functional page design
  • Page author has Topical Authority
  • High-Quality Main Content
  • Positive Reputation or expertise of website or author (Google yourself)
  • Very helpful SUPPLEMENTARY content “which improves the user experience.
  • Trustworthy
  • Google wants to reward ‘expertise’ and ‘everyday expertise’ or experience so you need to make this clear (perhaps using an Author Box or some other widget)
  • Accurate information
  • Ads can be at the top of your page as long as it does not distract from the main content on the page
  • Highly satisfying website contact information
  • Customised and very helpful 404 error pages
  • Awards
  • Evidence of expertise
  • Attention to detail

If Google can detect investment in time and labour on your site – there are indications that they will reward you for this (or at least – you won’t be affected when others are, meaning you rise in Google SERPs when others fall).

 

What characteristics do the highest quality pages exhibit?

QUOTE: “The quality of the MC is one of the most important criteria in Page Quality rating, and informs the E-A-T of the page. For all types of webpages, creating high quality MC takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. For news articles and information pages, high quality MC must be factually accurate for the topic and must be supported by expert consensus where such consensus exists.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2019

You obviously want the highest quality ‘score’ possible but looking at the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that is a lot of work to achieve.

Google wants to rate you on the effort you put into your website, and how satisfying a visit is to your pages.

  • QUOTE: Very high or highest quality MC, with demonstrated expertise, talent, and/or skill.
  • QUOTE: “Very high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (page and website) on the topic of the page.”
  • QUOTE: “Very good reputation (website or author) on the topic of the page.”

At least for competitive niches were Google intend to police this quality recommendation, Google wants to reward high-quality pages and “the Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high-quality” main content.

If your main content is very poor, with “grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors“, or not helpful or trustworthy – ANYTHING that can be interpreted as a bad user experience – you can expect to get a low rating.

QUOTE: “The quality of the MC is an important consideration for PQ rating. We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill. Pages with low quality MC do not achieve their purpose well…. Important: The Low rating should be used if the page has Low quality MC. ” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, 2019

Note – not ALL “content-light” pages are automatically classed low-quality.

If you can satisfy the user with a page “thin” on text content – you are ok (but probably susceptible to someone building a better page than your, more easily, I’d say).

Google expects more from big brands than they do from a smaller store (but that does not mean you shouldn’t be aiming to meet ALL these high-quality guidelines above).

Note too, that if you violate Google Webmaster recommendations for performance in their indexes of the web – you automatically get a low-quality rating.

If your page has a sloppy design, low-quality main content and too many distracting ads your rankings are very probably going to take a nose-dive.

If a Search Quality Evaluator is subject to a sneaky redirect they are instructed to rate your site low.

 

The quality you need to rank in Google always rises

QUOTE: “Put useful content on your page and keep it up to date.” Google Webmaster Guidelines, 2020

It’s important to note your website quality is often judged on the quality of competing pages for this keyword phrase. This is still a horse race. A lot of this is all RELATIVE to what YOUR COMPETITION is doing.

Whether it’s algorithmic or manual – based on technical, architectural, reputation or content – Google can decide and will decide if your site meets its quality requirements to rank on page one.

The likelihood of you ranking stable at number one is almost non-existent in any competitive niche where you have more than a few players aiming to rank number one.

Not en-masse, not unless you are bending the rules.

 

Google core ranking updates

QUOTE: “We have 3 updates a day in average. I think it’s pretty safe to assume there was one recently…” Gary Illyes, Google 2017

Google has many algorithm updates during the year which re-order rankings.

Often these focus on demoting ‘low-quality’ SEO techniques.

Usually, Google has 3 or 4 big updates in a year that focus on various things, but they also make changes daily.

QUOTE: “Yes, we do make small changes each day to search. It’s a continual process of improvement. Our core updates only happen 2-4 times per year.Danny Sullivan, Google 2020

Note also Google often releases multiple updates and changes to its own GUI (Graphic User Interface – the actual SERPs) at the same time to keep the webmaster guessing as to what is going on.

Google’s SERPS continually change and evolve and so must SEO (search engine optimisation):

QUOTE: “One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren’t bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.” Danny Sullivan, Google 2020

As an SEO, we must identify the reasons Google doesn’t ‘rate’ a particular page higher than competing pages.

The answer is either on the page, on the site or in backlinks pointing to the page.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have too few quality inbound links?
  • Do you have too many low-quality backlinks?
  • Does your page lack descriptive keyword-rich text?
  • Are you keyword stuffing your text?
  • Do you link out to unrelated sites?
  • Do you have too many advertisements above the fold?
  • Do you have affiliate links on every page of your site and text found on other websites?
  • Do you have broken links and missing images on the page?
  • Does your page meet quality guidelines, legal and advertising standards?
  • Does ads interrupt the enjoyment of your main content?
  • Is your page copy lacking quality?

Whatever the SEO problems are, you must identify them and fix them.

Get on the wrong side of Google and your site might well be selected for MANUAL review – so optimise your site as if, one day, you will get that website review from a Google Web Spam reviewer.

 

Avoid SEO myths 

QUOTE: “Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that are claimed to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method….” Wikipedia, 2020

Beware folk trying to bamboozle you with the science of SEO.

This isn’t a science when Google controls the ‘laws’ and changes them at will.

QUOTE: “They follow the forms you gather data you do so and so and so forth but they don’t get any laws they don’t haven’t found out anything they haven’t got anywhere yet maybe someday they will but it’s not very well developed but what happens is an even more mundane level we get experts on everything that sound like this sort of scientific expert they they’re not scientist is a typewriter and they make up something.”  Richard Feynman, Physicist 1981

Just remember most of what you read about how Google works from a third party is OPINION and just like in every other sphere of knowledge, ‘facts’ can change with a greater understanding over time or with a different perspective.

QUOTE: “Myths to be careful about..: 1. The NLP used by Google is not Neuro-linguistic Processing. 2. Semantic Search at Google is not powered by Latent Semantic Indexing 3. You cannot optimise pages for Hummingbird, RankBrain, or BERT.” Bill Slawski, 2019

Read next Hobo’s list of SEO best practices. or  How to get Google to index your website quickly.