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How To Find SEO and Keyword Ranking Success on Google in 2022

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How To Find SEO and Keyword Ranking Success on Google in 2022


Heading into the new year, I’m usually full of cautionary notes about SEO, keywords, rankings, and organic traffic, all tied to search engines like Google.

These days, I’m optimistic because technological advances could be a real win for companies that keep up with SEO best practices.

The work will be more time-consuming than difficult. You (and your team) will need to focus on multiple types of content, from blog posts to podcasts. Yes, you need to work on page load speed and secure featured snippets. But expect your content – website pages, videos, images, and audio – to work for you to a greater degree as long as you’re creating it to meet strategic goals.

Google seems relentless in unearthing the best results for searchers. Enter the Google Multitask Unified Model (MUM) update, an AI-based algorithm designed to streamline searching.

MUM compares complex queries to give people what they want the first time they search. For content marketers, MUM will increase the odds that your content (not necessarily a text-heavy page) will be selected for a search result.

Keep these quick tips and reminders at the ready as you make your SEO plans for 2022. (As always, make sure to test any changes with your own data.)

The MUM update from @Google aims to give searchers what they want on the first try. That’s good news for search-optimized #ContentMarketing, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIcontent. Click To Tweet

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Understand searcher intent

With MUM, Google advanced its ability to understand what someone wants from a search query. You should do the same. It’s easy to attract the wrong kinds of visitors and prospects to your content. That often leads to low click-through rates, few conversions – and complaints about low-quality leads from sales (and marketing) colleagues.

Think about creating content with an understanding of your ideal searcher’s intent. Is it informational, transactional, or navigational content?

You’ll probably need to create content for all three types, with most visitors arriving in research mode.

Of course, you can’t anticipate every content scenario. For example, a search for “heat exchanger” could lead to a visit from someone ready to place a sizeable industrial order. But sometimes, the searcher is someone who has a question about a heat exchanger in their home. It happens. But your goal is to minimize worthless, time-consuming leads from the “wrong” kind of visitor.

In many cases, keyword phrases are a dead giveaway about the types of websites someone hopes to visit.

Enjoy traffic you never expected

In 2022 and beyond, you may find your content ranks for keyword phrases you’re not targeting. In some cases, the words won’t even be in your content. You may get some top rankings and learn some phrases to focus on in future content.

In some search results, you may rank for keyword phrases that aren’t even in your content, says @mikeonlinecoach.

CMI, for example, ranks well for 3 Stunning Visual Storytelling Examples. The word “web” doesn’t appear on the page, but the article ranks No. 11 for “visual storytelling for the web.” I expect that kind of ranking to occur more often as Google refines its algorithm.

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Spreadsheet showing Content Marketing Institute article ranking No. 11 for search term "visual storytelling for the web."

Click to enlarge

Make your passages count – Google can look at them all

Sometimes a passage in your content will be the driving force for a search engine result since Google can now index passages as well as pages. Here’s how I described this indexing capability in an article last year:

Picture a website page with 15 paragraphs. Before this change, the 14th paragraph likely had little value in the eyes of Google. After all, it’s a small part of the content and is near the bottom of the page. Maybe, at most, it helped define the overall point of the content on the page. And yet, that paragraph may be the answer to an often-searched question … Now Google says it can pinpoint that useful passage, which drives the page up in the rankings.

Neil Patel goes into depth about passage indexing for anyone who’d like to read more about it.


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Be the authority

If you’re the established expert for a topic, you have a better chance of ranking well.

Don’t expect to rank well for every page on your website – competition may be fierce from phrase to phrase.

But you may get rewarded if Google detects overall themes over multiple pages. You can also build authority by seeking and attracting backlinks from relevant and high-quality websites.

Page titles and headers still matter

You can ill afford to make content that you never change, though scores of websites do exactly that. Why not at least revise something like a content header?

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When you’re close to ranking well (maybe No. 15), why not rework some words to attempt a higher ranking?

When your #Content is close to ranking well, tweak your #SEO. Try reworking the headline or other words to attempt a higher ranking, says @mikeonlinecoach via @CMIcontent. Click To Tweet

The words in page titles still matter. I watch them closely because Google increasingly seems to display content headers with search results instead of the page titles. However, that doesn’t mean Google ignores page titles as a ranking factor.

I used straightforward page titles to land top rankings for a wholesale company, as shown in the table below. You can see that site pages have all improved their rankings in each of the past three years.

Google prefers to use longer content headlines instead of my page title phrases (which are often just two words). I’ve adjusted these simple page titles several times to get the appropriate visibility for the client. With those top rankings, I don’t see a need to make them longer.

If you don’t try different scenarios, you won’t know what works best. More than one person has said no one would click on a two-word, general SEO page title. But they do.

Would more people click if it were catchy or a play on words? Maybe. Load up that page title with extra words and see whether your ranking drops.

Here’s how I would approach testing page titles – I’ll use data about Pillsbury.com to demonstrate. Pillsbury has some decent page rankings – and quite a few that miss the mark. They rank No. 6 for “pumpkin pie recipe,” for example, a search phrase that attracts 3 million searches a year.

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I suspect modifications to the page title alone would help that page rank higher (and grab a bigger slice of the search volume for the term). Here’s what I’d try:

Current:
<title>Easiest-Ever Pumpkin Pie Recipe – Pillsbury.com</title>

Option A:
<title>Pumpkin Pie Recipe Easiest-Ever – Pillsbury.com</title>

Option B:
<title>Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe (Best, Easiest Ever)</title>

I removed “Pillsbury.com” in option B. Why not test a page title without the company name? Even if you omit it, Google often adds it to search results anyway. As long as Google looks to page titles to help determine rankings, try several scenarios on key pages.

See what’s missing

Pillsbury also makes the classic mistake of not looking closely enough at its data. A search of thousands of keyword phrases shows “recipe” is important to searchers. Isn’t it odd that the recipe section doesn’t say “recipe” in a prominent place?

In this screenshot, I show how Pillsbury could add the word “recipe” to its pumpkin-pie (recipe) page:

You can do the same thing with your website. Look for what’s missing in your design.

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Quality content isn’t a sure bet with SEO

In the SEO world, quality surfaces in countless conversations. Everyone is a fan of quality, including Google, which offers search quality rater guidelines.

But remember one thing: Quality doesn’t ensure SEO success. Just ask Malwarebytes, which was honored by Content Marketing World in 2020 for Best Blog Post: Parental Monitoring Apps: How Do They Differ from Stalkerware?

The Content Marketing Awards program isn’t an SEO competition. Judges looked at relevance, quality, and performance based on goals and pass-along potential.

However, Malwarebytes could optimize the page to perform better in search. The piece doesn’t rank in the top 10 search results for any of these relevant non-branded phrases (data from Semrush):

Click to enlarge

The more SEO challenges change, the more they stay the same

In 2022, just like in many previous years, your content marketing faces many SEO challenges. The ever-changing search engine results page (SERPs) will keep pushing down traditional results. Images, videos, Quick Answers, People Also Ask, and more SERP features appear at any time.

Zero-click searches also threaten organic traffic. It’s almost like the “10 blue links” formula doesn’t exist anymore. Of course, it still does – just with some interruptions.

Despite the SERP changes and constant updates to Google’s algorithm, natural traffic continues to be a significant source of website visits. Build your authority with revised and new content. Don’t take your eyes off SEO – you can refine your efforts on pages multiple times a year.

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What steps do you typically take to make the most of your SEO efforts? Take a fresh at your overall strategy, tactics, and KPIs this month and throughout the year.

To stay up to date on the latest in SEO, content marketing, and related trends in 2022, subscribe to CMI’s free weekday or weekly email.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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MARKETING

5 Elements of Content That Will Build Brand Recall

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5 Elements of Content That Will Build Brand Recall

Gone are the days of traditional sales and marketing strategies. In today’s media landscape, driving sales and engagement through content has proven to be a highly successful and cost-effective strategy

Hence, most modern businesses have a content marketing arm that achieves the following by simply creating and distributing content:

  • Address customers’ paint points and gain their trust
  • Improve product accessibility via SEO
  • Increase opportunities for conversion
  • Generate leads
  • Build brand awareness and recall

Unfortunately, competition to reach the right audience has increasingly intensified. And that’s just the beginning of it.

The end goal is to consistently make sales, attain a loyal customer base, and build brand recall. So, how exactly do you achieve that? What kind of content will eventually enable your audience to easily recognize your products and services?

We uncover the five major elements of content that will build brand recall.

#1: Accessibility

Before gunning for brand recall, ensure that your audience can easily find information about your products and services. It’s virtually impossible to be recognized if you aren’t even visible or searchable.

Thus, this is where strategies such as onsite/offsite search engine optimization (SEO), simplifying user experience, improving scalability, expanding channels, and developing customer feedback platforms come into play.

That said, SEO strategies are usually the content marketers’ main focus. Investing in content SEO not only improves your brand’s visibility, but it also drives more conversions to your website. You do so by identifying your customers’ top search terms, optimizing your website’s content, and addressing high volume search queries.

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#2: Relatability

You must identify and understand your target audience before creating any piece of content – whether onsite or offsite. This is when it’s time to utilize data you have on your customers, which can be accessible via tools such as Google Analytics or AHREFs. These tools should give you insights on common search queries, keywords, website traffic, conversion, engagement, and such.

Customer feedback and surveys are also essential in understanding what your customers need. Your content should be able to address their pain points while providing them with information and services on what they’re looking for.

Once your audience find themselves relating to your content, it won’t be long until they purchase your product.

#3: Engagement

Reaching your audience is one thing, but customer engagement is a whole different beast. It’s easy to lose your customers’ attention in a crowded and noisy online economy.

As mentioned, understanding your customers’ needs and pain points is vital to your content strategy. Your content must be something they find useful enough for them to engage with. In short, there must be something in it for them.

There are many ways to skin this cat. You could engage your audience via content onsite with a great customer experience channel before and after they purchase. Another opportunity for engagement is developing social media content that encourages them to participate in your marketing campaign.

In conclusion, your content must be customer-centric before anything else.

#4: Value & Relevance

So, you’ve identified your target audience and learned to understand them, but how exactly do you convince them to choose your product over others? How do you stand out amongst your competitors?

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It’s equally important to understand your own products and services. You must identify your main value proposition, and how this is relevant to your customers. Having a stellar product is a waste if your target market doesn’t know its full value.

Thus, content marketers should communicate a product’s relevance and unique selling point. It’s their job to inform the target audience on how they can benefit from the product.  

#5: Consistency

There’s no bigger obstacle to brand recall than inconsistency. This applies to all types of content – articles, infographics, video ads, images, and social media posts.

For customers to remember you, your message, design, and overall branding should always be uniform and consistent. A disconnect between these elements is confusing and thus makes it difficult for your audience to recognize your brand.

Therefore, a marketing team must streamline uniform messages, value propositions, templates, and editorial and design guidelines before reaching out to the desired audience. In the world of marketing, familiarity breeds brand recall.

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