Cindy Krum believes that SEOs in 2023 need to be looking to optimise beyond normal blue links. The old methods of SEO have become somewhat outdated and simply trying harder and harder to get to page one is not always going to work.
Cindy says: “There are ways to get above big competitors using other sites. For instance: getting things to rank on other sites that have enough SEO value and clout in the algorithm to beat out top competitors. Things like YouTube can displace top competitors and Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin can push things down. Getting a Knowledge Graph or Local Pack can count for certain keywords and help you skip the line.
Trying the same strategies of linking, keyword optimisation, countless writing, and semantic SEO can work, but when you go up against huge competitors it’s less effective.”
Is there less traffic available now through the traditional blue links or is it because there’s more competition?
“It’s probably a combination of both. Every year the web grows dramatically. New web pages are created, old ones are archived, new people get on the web, new small companies build websites, and the web gets exponentially bigger. There’s always new competition emerging and the algorithm tends to favour certain kinds of results, including super high authority sites. This also includes fast and super-dynamic social sites that tend to feature more multi-modal content.”
Should you spend a significant amount of time optimising to rank highly in searches from Linkedin or YouTube? Should people try to obtain rankings within the traditional Google SERP via YouTube?
“Yes. This is a strategy that’s been around for a long time. It was originally referred to as Barnacle SEO by Rand Fishkin and it involves getting rankings from sites you don’t own. This can be tough in lots of scenarios because it’s harder to track and attribute. However, it does work. If you can get something to rank in the top three and get traffic to that thing, then you will see conversion to your site. It might be an extra step but it’s better than not being there at all.
Even publishing an amazing blog post might not be enough to displace whoever is ranking there. With the helpful content update, your awesome blog posts will fare better, but when you’re a small player up against super high authority sites and super competitive keywords, you have to be scrappy and take non-traditional routes.”
Is there still an opportunity to rank on blog posts for long-tail keyword phrases?
“Yes. There’s still an opportunity to rank for long-tail keywords. Google still sees new keyword combinations all the time. However, if you’re going for things that are closer to the messy middle or the head terms, that’s where you’re likely to find more of a challenge.”
What type of content should you create to match user intent and how do you determine what the user is likely to be looking for? Do you look at the SERP or do you look at YouTube results to try to match or better what already exists for a specific phrase?
“Both. You should look all around to see what’s ranking and what Google wants to rank. You should look for what’s in the result and look for dramatic changes in ranking signals. If you determine a website is a high authority site but another isn’t, what did one do differently to the other? Also, why is that working better, especially if they have high authority sites below them?
Focus on How-To, FAQ, video, written format with images, and rich results that expand Google’s new buzzword: ‘The Journey.’”
Is there a particular social platform that’s best for a particular type of business?
“It depends on where your customers are. You’ll want to fish where the fish are. If your customers are all on Reddit, participating there would be good from a marketing perspective. It may not rank, but you should look at where customers are and how you can get things from that platform to rank. If they’re not naturally ranking on some queries then move on to a different platform.
You should acknowledge that search occurs outside of Google too. If Reddit is really the place where people are (e.g. you don’t see it ranking in search results but you know your people are there) you should make sure you know what’s ranking there. We’re at a point where search results are packed with really rich engaging content. Simply posting another blog post is not enough.”
Do you recommend trying to drive people from those particular platforms back to your website? Would you answer a question on YouTube and then say at the end of a video that you can find a more informative article that people can download directly from your website?
“Yes, and you can even build on that and make the video kind of an entry to a larger, longer journey. You can say that something is just a basic overview of the topic but if you want a more detailed description you can check the link in the description.”
How do regular Google algorithm updates impact the SERP? How does that impact what you’re advising here?
“As Google gets better and better at understanding the meaning of a query and the meaning of content on a page or website, they are getting better at ranking what users really want. Often, what users really want is not the same as what SEOs want to make.
As a community, we have to do a better job of joining what users want with what we’re creating. Users do tend to want these kinds of multimodal multimedia experiences. They want images, videos, diagrams, quick tips, and things like that. TikTok has been getting lots of buzz among younger generations. It is even being used as a search or local search engine to find restaurants and things like that.
This trend is emblematic of the general desire to find quick answers, but also find the answers that are harder to game, are authentically human, and are not specifically written to convince you to buy. No one likes to feel like they’re being sold to - it’s uncomfortable. Having these multimedia aspects can put a human touch on things and make everything more authentic.”
Is there a best place to research what your users are actually looking for? Is it best to have a real live conversation with your users?
“Ideally, conversations with users are great - not only for this but lots of things. You should talk to your customers to learn what their journey has been like. For example: where they started, who they’ve spoken to, what was persuasive, what was annoying, and how they made their final decision. You can incorporate this insight into SEO rather than this practice of simply representing clever people doing clever things to outrank quickly.
You still have to be clever but you also have to be doing what real companies do. That means creating a good product, supporting the product, having good customer service, etc. You can then think about those things in an SEO context and evolve your collective understanding of what it is to be an SEO.
It’s not just about being clever, but also being a good marketer and connecting with users’ deeper goals so you can get them to the right answers as quickly as possible. It’s more esoteric and less tactical to simply target keywords on the page and use H1 and H2 tags. It’s still important to do those things but it’s better to do this from a more evolved place.”
Does that mean that keywords aren’t as important as they used to be?
“In general, keywords are still important, but there is something new happening in search engines.
Let’s say a particular search term can be phrased in a few different ways. If Google has decided that these terms are synonyms - or that they understand the bulk of the query but not some parts of it - they can respond with some kind of canonical Knowledge Graph response and satisfy the users.
For example, if you did a long-tail query like ‘what is the name of The Cranberries’ drummer’ (a band that doesn’t have a drummer), what would Google rank for that query? They’d rank the Cranberries’ Knowledge Graph assuming that you’ll look into the band members and see the band doesn’t have a drummer. You’d answer your own question. Google couldn’t answer it, but they threw a Knowledge Graph on you and that was good enough for users.
In some cases, all Google has to do is get in the ballpark. They would push every website down and still think that the Knowledge Graph is a better answer than your long blog post about why the Cranberries don’t have a drummer.”
Are big companies better off having multiple websites focusing on distinct niches or should you be driving as much authority to the same domain as possible?
“The latter option is better because resources are almost always part of the decision. It’s easier and cheaper to build and maintain one site than it is to build and maintain multiple sites.
If resources are part of the equation and are unlimited, you might lean towards having multiple sites. A multi-site strategy assumes that you can build up those other ones to be super niche specialist sites with really great content. Limited resources can mean you only have so many writers and only so many great pieces of content.
This is not just a question for SEO, but a business question. Looking at the bigger picture is really important.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Spending too much time in analytics believing exactly what tools say about rankings. Avoid looking at a tool and saying, ‘Oh, we’re position three for this keyword and want to be position two’. Also, avoid not targeting a keyword just because it doesn’t get enough search volume.
Deep reliance on tools to push you towards decisions or actions needs to be tempered with real searches. Every tool has its own limitations. If it’s giving you a ranking for a country, that ranking might be true as an average or for a particular location, but it won’t necessarily be true in other countries. It might not be representative. Even if you have that number you don’t really know what it means unless you’re looking at what’s above that ranking.
You can look at whether there is a featured snippet or Knowledge Graph, but also at how far down the page an item is, or whether it’s engaging and interactive. If all you have is a blue link without an image, some star rankings or rich results, you’ll be going up against all of these Google things that are more enticing than a simple blue link. It’s not just about knowing a number but knowing that number in a larger context. You can then think to yourself, is that going to be enough? If you were searching for that company and this content had no association with it, would you click?
Look at real results and appreciate that Google is mobile-first. We know they’re crawling with a mobile crawler and we know more people are searching on mobile rather than desktop in many industries, yet most of the tools still focus on ranking data for desktop. It’s therefore important to ask the right questions. Are your users searching on mobile and how much of the data you’re looking at in analytics is on mobile? If you’re only looking at desktop rankings you might be impacted by the fact that data is mashed together. Using this will not result in a successful campaign or, ultimately, SEO effort.
If it’s a Knowledge Graph for you, you’ll want to know whether it’s there on mobile or not, or whether it’s there on desktop and mobile or not. If it’s for your competitor or for a general topic, you’ll want to know that too. You’ll need a realistic idea of what you’re up against. For instance, if you see a drop in clicks, can you maintain position? If you were to lose your desktop Knowledge Graph and the website you’re tracking maintained position but lost clicks, what happened there? It could either be that the Knowledge Graph came in or the Knowledge Graph went out. When the Knowledge Graph came in and the website lost clicks, did that matter? Not necessarily. However, the benefits of ranking in mobile do trickle across to desktop.”
Cindy Krum is the Founder and CEO of MobileMoxie and you can find her over at mobilemoxie.com.
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