The 5 Steps in Creating Future-Proof (and Update-Proof) SEO Success
A funny thing happens after every single Google update these days. It rolls out in 4 stages that you can set your watch to:
- Google announces an update to their search algorithm
- Marketers and webmasters ask, “Ok, how do we optimize for this?”
- Google says some version of, “You can’t.”
- The Twitterverse explodes with rage
Basically, Google says this:
And then this happens:
A lot of marketers are afraid that a big Google update is going to pull the plug on their SEO results and rankings. And, sure enough, as soon as an update goes live, Google is flooded with messages and Tweets that say, “You just cost us XX% of our traffic” or “We just lost XX% of our revenue.”
… In most cases, the language is a whole lot more colourful.
I’ve been lucky. Google’s updates have never torpedoed my clients’ rankings or traffic. I am of the mind that Google has a reason for every update they make. It’s usually in the name of a better experience for the searcher. And we’ve built our SEO strategies around that.
We live in an age where the Google algorithm has never been smarter. It’s much smarter than us, actually. We have to earn rankings and traffic these days. You can’t enter L1+L2+B+A on a controller to secretly unlock more web traffic.
You have to do your keyword homework, create quality content, earn organic links and optimize everything properly. No update is going to pull the rug out from under your results if those are the pillars of your SEO work. In fact, the odds are good that you will be rewarded.
As an SEO consultant, I focus on earning my clients sustainable rankings and traffic. That’s an un-sexy goal, but it’s the truth.
Here’s how we do it.
1. Keyword Research
Listen, everyone has access to the same keyword research tools these days. The SEO wins go to the people who know how to look deeper into SEMRush or ahrefs (my personal go-to) and find the hidden opportunities.
If you don’t have the budget to pay for a subscription to SEMRush or ahrefs, hire a professional SEO consultant that does. And ask them exactly how they intend on using it.
It’s not about who has the most expensive SEO tools. It’s about who has the smartest, the most experienced, and the most resourceful SEO nerds looking at that keyword data. It’s also about what the other SEO nerds on their team can do with that data.
2. On-Page Optimization
After executing in-depth keyword research to build the keyword strategy, we then leverage those insights to enhance the site with your standard on-page optimization.
This is the stuff that has worked for years. We’re inserting your keywords into:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Header tags
- Image tags
We find it helpful to theme each page relative to the keywords we’ve identified. That makes the page easier to lay out and to write. If the page has an overarching theme, making sure that that keyword (and the related keywords) appear in the copy should come pretty organically after that. There’s no need to force things.
Now, we like to go a step further by adding at least 500-750 words of keyword-rich content, structured in an FAQ style to your homepage. Next, we will do the same for all your core service/location/product pages.
You are going to notice an instant increase; especially for those longer tailed keywords.
Long-form copy has been proven to perform better. However, that doesn’t mean you should just start writing for the sake of writing and “stuffing” words in for the sake of hitting a word count. Readers hate that, and Google notices when readers hate you. People will bounce from your page because it’s hard to read.
We’ve discovered that dropdown FAQs are an effective way of getting enough keywords and content on a page without affecting usability or conversion rate optimization (CRO), while ensuring the copy has value.
This method is even more impactful in the world of mobile, and mobile is more important than ever now that we’re living in a mobile-first indexing world.
It’s a tightrope act of getting enough SEO content on the page, while still ensuring a simple UX and fast load speeds.
3. Get Real Writers to Write Your Content
We don’t recruit SEO writers, we recruit GOOD writers. We believe it’s easier to train an amazing writer on how to do SEO than it is to try to teach an SEO writer to be amazing.
While much of the SEO industry is trying to find the best content ordering system, we are firm believers in having in-house writers and a roster of proven writers.
For years, marketing companies got away with using content ordering systems. This most often resulted in some very meh-at-best content.
Many would pay a blogger less than they pay a kid to shovel their driveway, and still expect a mistake-free and well-structured blog that would rank… Actually, a lot of marketers would only care about that last part.
You need to take the writing seriously.
You need a writer who can do more than just hit your word count and your keyword density numbers. You need a writer who can use storytelling and a logical flow to create those long-form landing pages, without stuffing words in.
Work with someone who takes the time to get to know your brand and your target market. Find someone who can craft compelling headlines and enticing lead sentences. Hire someone who can make you look smarter, funnier and more interesting than your competition.
Good writing is a competitive advantage.
Most of the recent major Google updates (The BERT update and The Bedlam Update, for example) have been major steps forward in Google’s algorithm giving value to content that was written with human users in mind, while giving less value to content written with search engines in mind.
You want an artist, not a factory worker. Our team is an eclectic mix of masters holders and award winners. We have people who have run magazines and poets who go on actual book tours. It’s not your typical team of “SEO writers.”
Focusing on quality makes everything else in SEO so much easier. For example, bloggers and site owners know they can trust our content. And leveraging existing relationships with these contacts is invaluable in link building. We’re not building links, we’re building relationships. The manual outreach is easy at that point.
4. Create Linkable Content and Earn Links
Next, we focus on your off-page optimization. This includes auditing and optimizing the things that are pointing back to your domain. This includes things like your online reviews, your directory listings, your media mentions, and your guest blogs.
The links pointing back to your domain are incredibly important, and Google has stated that backlinks are one of the top 3 most important ranking signals.
We start a full-scale link building campaign, starting with guest blog posting. I personally love this idea that guest blogging is dead. That means more opportunities for us!
Guest blogging didn’t die. Spammy guest blogging died, with its no-value content and copy and paste outreach. That is dead, and good riddance.
Some marketers go with a content factory to produce their guest posts and try to get those blogs posted via automation. They do it because this is much easier/cheaper than hiring real writers and doing the work involved in manual outreach. And a few years ago, they may have gotten away with it.
However, those tactics haven’t really had any value since the Panda and the Penguin updates. Google is looking closely at your link profile now. Irrelevant links on garbage sites don’t just hold no value, they could actually hold you back!
If you’re approaching publishers and bloggers with clearly-automated messaging, and offering up unrelated/ shitty content, they’re going to send your offer to their spam folder. Now, that opportunity and that contact are gone forever.
Do the hard work of creating quality content. And set out to build relationships instead of links. This will make your life so much easier over the long run. You will earn better links and spend far less time pitching them.
5. Funnel the Link Juice to the Right Places
Once we earn the links, we’re hyper-strategic in how we funnel the link juice from noncommercial pages (guest posts) back through to the client’s most important core pages.
We’re not just blasting the home page with exact match anchors. Google notices that for all of the wrong reasons. It’s too aggressive.
The Google algorithm has never made more sense than it does today. Traffic goes to those who optimize their pages properly, while earning organic links back to those pages.
Those key content pages should have tons of exact match internal links, which then effectively funnel the link juice from non-commercial pages (like your blog posts) to your top targeted commercial pages (home page, service/location/product).
Google eats up that content and those links. Now, you will:
- End up ranking the blog post for tons of new keywords
- Give your top targeted keywords a boost from the internal links
There is Life Beyond Your Home Page
Too many marketers will send the traffic from any-damn-thing to the home page. Which is fine, but there is an opportunity to do so much more.
If you’re earning high-quality links via legitimate guest posts or media mentions, sending that traffic to more strategic and targeted pages will lead to bigger SEO wins for your whole site.
For example, if you’re a plastic surgeon who gets quoted in a lifestyle article talking about Botox, try to send that link to the Botox service page on your site.
If you’re working with a link building agency, they should not just be building links back to your site on a catch-as-catch-can or Willy Nilly basis. They should have a plan in place that defines:
- The exact verbiage of the anchor text
- The page you want to link to
This plan needs to work in perfect harmony with your on-page optimization plan and the keywords you’re targeting on each page.
Sending links to targeted landing pages also helps your CRO. Using the plastic surgeon example, if you send readers to your Botox page, boom, they’re where they need to be and they can reach out to you in a few clicks. But, if they go to the home page, they have to click around to find your Botox page, and they could drop off.
But the relationship between links and CRO is a blog for another day…
The only way to get sustainable traffic via SEO is doing the actual SEO work.
You do the unsexy things that earn higher rankings and send traffic to your site. However, you get to rest easy knowing that the next Google algo update isn’t going to wipe away your results.
Doing the unsexy SEO work will future-proof and algo-update-proof your traffic.
Any time Google makes an announcement, it typically earns a big response in SEO agencies. For some of the agencies that take short cuts, that response is panic. It’s red alert time. They know they stand a very good chance of having the rug pulled out from under their SEO results.
I’m proud to say that there is no such panic within the walls of our agency. It’s nerd alert time. We nerd-out on the data. Our office and our Slack channels are alive with conversations about what this update means, and what it will mean for the foreseeable future.
But there’s never any panic. We know we’ve future-proofed our results by doing the hard work that Google’s algo is rewarding and will continue to reward. So, we’re good.
If a recent Google algo update hurt your results or your traffic, I would love to talk to you about it. I’m sure we can get them back where they should be, and keep them there. You can reach me any time at 647-448-4449. Or you can click ‘Connect With Paul’ at the top of this page.