If I’ve learned anything over the eight years since I started running my first site, it’s that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) never stops changing. As soon as you think you’ve figured out what Google wants, the world’s biggest search engine improves its algorithms, changes its criteria, or releases some update that upends all we’ve been focusing on.
Getting used to the TK (opposite of immutable?) nature of SEO is just part of the business, and means we always need to be learning and adjusting our strategies. Over the past few years, I’ve been focusing on specific areas and listening to professional SEOs to try and stay on the cutting edge. Below you’ll find some of the tactics and areas of my SEO strategy in 2022, and how I suggest addressing each one for your site.
This post was inspired by a talk I gave at both TBEX North America 2022 and TravelCon 2022.
You know about E-A-T, right? I mean, I’ve certainly mentioned it a lot, and it’s a big focus on my blogs and the way I structure my SEO strategy.
In any case, let’s cover the basics: E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google has been very clear for many years that this is one of the most important qualitative factors in SEO.
According to Google, here’s what each of those components mean:
- Expertise: “The expertise of the creator of the Main Content (MC).”
- Authoritativeness: “The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.”
- Trustworthiness: “The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
So E-A-T is all about proving that you and your content are truly good enough to both your readers and Google. There are lots of ways to demonstrate E-A-T, and my point here is that you should be doing each and every one of those things in each piece of content you write. While E-A-T might be new to you, it’s not new to SEO, and in 2022 and beyond, E-A-T is a default; even if you’re not focusing on it, your competitors are – so you should too, to at least balance the field or – ideally – give yourself an advantage.
2. Technical Content Organization
Not to be confused with technical SEO, focusing on the technical organization of your content is an important part of ensuring that Google can easily understand the structure of your content and site. There are two important strategies you can use in 2022 to ensure Google can easily find your content, index your content, and hopefully rank your content highly.
First, let’s talk about your overall content organization. When it comes to planning content, I recommend thinking about a hub-and-spoke strategy. That is, you want to generate at least one big article about each new topic or category you cover – but also create plenty of related content that can link to it and which it can link to.
Speaking of linking, the other important technical content task you should be doing for every piece of content you write is internal linking. As you write content, it should be easy to add internal links from the new piece of content to existing content you’ve written, and once you publish the content, you should go to other articles you’ve written and add links from them to the new post.
(The exception here would be if this is the first post about a new topic or category on your site, in which case you should have plenty of articles in your queue that will eventually be linked to and from this one.)
The goal here is twofold:
- Google needs links to navigate your content, so you want a good internal linking strategy between hub-and-spoke content and you don’t want “orphan” content that has no links to/from it.
- Readers like to see links to related content – this is, in some ways, more evidence of E-A-T, which we’ve already discussed is part of your SEO strategy now.
3. High Authority Backlinks
Early in the days of SEO, backlinks were the primary currency of the internet. More importantly, the quality of those links wasn’t particularly important – you could earn low-quality backlinks from spam sites or Private Blog Networks and they helped your rankings as much as high-quality backlinks.
That’s not the case anymore: Google has gotten really good at determining which links are worth “counting” in their assessment of sites – and at disregarding low-quality backlinks. This means that our effort at site owners needs to be more focused on getting high-quality backlinks from sites with good E-A-T (sometimes called “high authority sites”).
Here are some ways to get high authority backlinks:
- Look into deploying a PR strategy
- Use HARO and a 5% response rate is great
- Connect with freelance writers in your network to help them pitch/write better stories
As you can tell though, these are not easy or cheap options – as Marie Haynes says, “if you’re building links that are easy to build, Google is likely just ignoring it” – so building backlinks requires a lot more effort, but can be hugely worth it when it pays off in signaling Google about your site’s quality.
4. Page Experience
If you’ve been running your site for more than a year, you’ve undoubtely heard of Page Experience – though it was initially called Core Web Vitals when Google announced it a few years ago.
While the initial Page Experience/Core Web Vitals update rolled out in June 2021, Page Experience has become somewhat less important as Google initially made it out to be. (In fact, in the weeks leading up to its initial update, Google stepped back from their previously dramatic language and noted that Page Experience metrics were only a minor ranking factor.)
That said, Page Experience is still important, and something you should keep an eye on in addition to your content quality and E-A-T. Keep an eye on your metrics using the PageSpeed Insights tool, but don’t obsess about it. For guidance on Page Experience, I recommend focusing on moving any red scores to yellow as these will be more important than shifting yellow scores to green.
5. User Intent
While E-A-T has been a growing focus in SEO over the past 5+ year and is now a default, User Intent is the new concept you should focus on for the next 5+ years of SEO.
So what does User Intent mean? It’s all about understanding what users actually mean and want when they enter a query into Google, and Google has gotten much better at understanding that – and when a website meets the needs of that intent. To measure this, they score sites along a scale of “Needs Met.”
Here’s what Google says officially regarding whether or not you accomplish “Needs Met” for User Intent:
- Fully Meets: All or almost all users would be immediately and fully satisfied by the result and would not need to view other results to satisfy their need.
- Highly Meets: Very helpful for many or most mobile users. Some users may wish to see additional results.
- Moderately Meets: Helpful for many users OR very helpful for some users. Some or many users may wish to see additional results.
- Slightly Meets: Helpful for fewer users. There is a connection between the query and the result, but not a strong or satisfying connection. Many or most users would wish to see additional results.
There’s also a level called “Fails to Meet” however I don’t think we want to even discuss that one since you won’t be ranking well if you don’t meet the needs of users with the intent that end up on your page!
In any case, it’s important to try and understand the User Intent of any keyword you’re targeting so you can meet the needs of that user intent. Here are some tips for doing this:
- Study the SERP before you start writing – If you learn to read the results page and what Google is showing, it will give you a lot of insight into User Intent and how to meet needs.
- Give the reader the answer earlier than you want to, through something like a blurb, table, or TL;DR, then tempt them to keep reading the rest of the post.
- Use Headers & TOCs to help the reader get needs met faster – This is another way to help readers “find the answer” (i.e. get their needs met) quickly.
6. SERP Features
Finally, you should also be paying attention to any SERP features that you discover while doing your keyword research and studying User Intent. You’ve probably seen many SERP features as a Google user, but as a site owner it’s important to understand different features and the opportunities they present for us:
- Featured Snippets – When you see these, you should pay close attention to both the format and content within them, and then make sure you post provides an even better answer to try and win the snippet.
- Knowledge Graphs – These are big and bulky and very hard to rank in as a site owner, so it’s important to note when you see these as they suggest that the post is more definitional/informational.
- People Also Ask – This SERP feature shows up in almost every result now, and gives you ideas for sections to include in your content and/or additional content you can write to create better a hub-and-spoke strategy and demonstrate your E-A-T.
One other important aspect of SERP features is that when you see a lot of them on a single results page, you’re also getting insight into how competitive Google thinks a keyword is – when they try to keep people on Google, you’re not just competing for ranking positions, you’re competing with the Big G itself! (I generally don’t target these keywords since competing with fellow sites is hard enough!)
There you have it – these are the main SEO tactics I’m focusing on this year. Have any questions about these parts of your SEO strategy in 2022, or want to add any to the list? Let me know in the comments!