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The Top Tech SEO Strategies for 2022 and Beyond

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The Top Tech SEO Strategies for 2022 and Beyond


The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Last year was an incredible year for Core Updates, and for changes to how SEOs improve page quality for users. Moving forward, we can expect to see increased diversification of SERPs, led by developments in Google’s algorithms, and new features from tools like Google Lens. These developments will change how we manage our SEO now and in the future.

Multimedia first

Why should you consider a multimedia-first SEO strategy?

MUM is the latest in Google’s suite of super-powerful algorithms, which help them to understand information in new and different ways. It runs alongside BERT, but it’s actually much more powerful than BERT.

MUM stands for “multitask unified model”, and not only does it process natural language, but it does so in over 75 languages — and counting. It’s also able to process text and images with a similar quality, and is increasing its ability to process video and audio in the near future. This means we’re likely to see the impact of this in the SERPs, specifically what they look like, which is also likely to shape some of the targeted algorithm updates in the future.

This shift in focus is a natural evolution of a mobile-first digital experience that allows users to engage with content dynamically using a mix of inputs, outputs, and tools, often simultaneously. Google’s push towards better understanding — and towards ranking media like image and video — will require SEOs to look at multimedia content with fresh eyes.

Which short-term multimedia optimizations should you prioritize in 2022?

Visual recognition for Google Lens

Google has invested significantly in image recognition solutions for almost 10 years, but they have recently picked up the pace and scale of its integration into everyday search.

As a result, improvements to and new uses for Google Lens have been front and center at flagship events like Google I/O and SearchOn during the last 12 months, while their future plans to move into health depend significantly on honing their visual search abilities.

In 2021, they added Google Lens directly into the search widget for Pixel, Android phones, and onto Chrome’s mobile search bar. Last year’s Google Lens updates included the ability to translate text in over 100 languages via AR and carry out targeted visual searches of screenshots. Add to this list of features their upcoming rollout of a MUM-enabled ability to “Add Questions” to Lens searches, and you can see that change is afoot.

How does Google Lens impact image SEO?

Standard image optimization elements like alt-text, schema markup, file names, image titles, and file sizes will continue to be important and relevant in regards to how search engines understand your image. Building upon this, though, elements like composition will also come to the fore. This means that SEOs might need to have more strategic conversations about what images look like, as well as how they’re rendered on a site.

This is because, while AI-driven image processing tools like Google Cloud’s Vision AI and Google Lens are developing rapidly, images that have clear composition will be better understood for visual search than images that are cluttered, complex, or partially visible.

Simply put, cleaner images mean that your content is surfaced with more relevant search results and business outcomes.

SEO value of image composition

Need to illustrate the point to stakeholders? Released in 2015, Vision AI’s image recognition tech underpins many of the functions of Google Lens, and their free demo tool can be used to demonstrate how images are interpreted at a high level. Pair this with real-time Google Lens results to illustrate where you should be concentrating your image optimization efforts as MUM matures.

Google's Vision AI API testing tool.
Google’s Vision AI API testing tool.

Case in point, in the diagram below, you can see two photos of the same enamel teapot as analyzed with Google Cloud’s Vision AI API testing tool and then with Google Lens.

In the image where you can’t see the handle and spout at the same time, the Vision AI interprets the photo as a Tableware object with 76% certainty and adds Kettle as the most relevant searchable label with 74% certainty. Conversely, the image with the teapot in the profile is understood as a Teapot with 94% certainty and given a Teapot label with 89% certainty. 

How composition impacts Vision AI interpretation of images
How composition impacts Vision AI interpretation of images.

When we click through to the SERPs for kettle and teapot, we can see a clear difference in results. It is also clear that the latter is a much closer match to the actual object, thus more likely to satisfy customer needs, resulting in more click-throughs and driving better SEO for the site overall.

Left shows results for ‘Kettle’. Right shows results for ‘Teapot’
Left shows results for ‘Kettle’. Right shows results for ‘Teapot’

When we search the same images directly in Google Lens, the overall results are better: this time both are showing enamel teapots. But again, we see that the side profile photo is delivering near-exact matches to my IRL teapot. Thus, better photo composition equates to better search optimization.

Better images give more relevant in Google Lens.
Better images give more relevant in Google Lens.

In practice, this means that while there may be a desire to fill a site with stylish lifestyle or Instagram-ready images, for SEO purposes, it is important to prioritize clean, — dare I say “boring” — images, particularly for transactional pages like product listings.

While this methodology is not necessarily new, the accessibility and integration of “search what you see” tools in the daily search experience will make image composition considerations for SEO a priority moving forward.

AI is allowing Google to make comparable strides with video and audio analysis, meaning investment in the knowledge of audio quality and video aesthetics could pay SEO dividends in the future.

Security for speed

Security and speed are both established ranking factors. During the great Core Web Vitals push of 2021, many came to understand that the two elements are closely linked. On an individual account level, I’ve seen server security optimization improve page performance for multiple clients. On a larger scale, when hosting platform Wix tripled their year-over-year CWV performance, enhancements like universal HTTP/2 to improve SSL times were critical to the task.

In the coming year, we will see Google prioritize security in its products and search services. Chrome promises the rollout of increased security and privacy tools, with updates that will include security features for <iframes> and cross-site navigation that add more checks as users transfer between links and use certain features.

This could give sites with top-tier security a competitive advantage for speed, page experience, and conversions in the coming year. And as the desktop page experience ranking update arrives in February 2022, the impact may be seen across many more domains.

Add to this trend the enthusiastic adoption of high-speed HTTP/3 by big tech players like Facebook and Google, and you can see that legacy tech will struggle to keep pace with user and bot expectations.

The use of HTTP/3, the latest HTTP protocol, has seen a fivefold increase across the web in the last year and is now live on about 25% of domains. Though this protocol is active on Cloudflare and many other top cloud providers, it is not yet standard. If you want to make the most of the benefits here, you may need to manually enable the update for your main server and/or CDN. And if you’re considering a new CDN or server partner in the coming year, this should be a deciding factor.

SEO specialisms for Google channel diversity

Google continues to reduce friction as users move between their dedicated channels and apps. In the process, they’re creating a more dynamic and niche SERP that requires SEO specialism to gain traction.

Click-throughs for some SERP results go to Google managed channels and apps
Click-throughs for some SERP results go to Google managed channels and apps.

From a user experience, this makes for rich mobile-friendly SERPs, which take users directly into high-performance apps like Google Maps and dedicated channels like Google Travel. Furthermore, it affords Google the opportunity to access and combine the information users need in a highly contextualized manner. Since Google-managed properties give them control over many informational feeds at once, enhancing and connecting existing channels will be essential to their aims to serve ever more nuanced search results.

While this has long been the preserve of transactional verticals like shopping and hotels, Google’s commitment to multi-modality means this is likely to become more prevalent amongst queries at the top of the funnel as well. This means SEO efforts must also be made to optimize profiles and performance within each of the most relevant channels in order to maximize visibility in the SERPs. Due to the rate of change for each channel, SEO generalism is increasingly less likely to build a critical mass for impact. Instead, coordinated teams for SEO specialisms are likely to see the most gains.

If we look at Local Inventory Ads (LIA) for instance, we can see optimizations for multiple channels converge to make a complex, high-value search feature. Introduced last year, this free and paid Google Shopping feature allows users to find products in stock at shops near their location. Google uses data and content from websites, Google Business Profiles, Maps, and Merchant Center to surface this information when users need it. Ongoing optimization for LIA requires expertise in each of these channels, running in tandem with a collection of SEO skill sets.

Google Local Inventory ads.

All of this is to say that assembling a well-rounded SEO team will be essential to top performance as multimodal search evolves. Consider nurturing in-house channel champions and/or engaging external product experts via an agency or freelance support, and coordinate to achieve business goals in search.

Borderless international SEO

In the coming year, three factors will become significant drivers for international SEO: the rise of borderless e-commerce, the maturity of AI translation tools, and the rollout of MUM.

Borderless e-commerce

Digital acceleration has changed our digital experience significantly.

The relevance of a business’s physical location, currency, and time zone is shifting, and the barriers to entry for brands to go global are being significantly reduced. Brick-and-mortar businesses still have a significant impact on local SEO and local pack SERPs, but customers are increasingly more willing (and more often, expecting) to buy from retailers outside their country. Research shows that tentative markets, where around 40% of consumers were willing to purchase from overseas sellers in 2016, had shifted to 55% willingness in 2021.

Shopify launched Shopify Markets at the start of Q4 2021, full of confidence in this global retail trend and its potential for sellers, meaning that competition here is likely to heat up in the coming months.

As SEOs, our task is to meet customers where they are, and this change in customer expectations brings opportunities for business growth. To get started here, consider tried-and-tested international SEO tactics alongside low-cost, low-friction market entry channels like free Google Merchant Listings.

If your international growth includes selling on top international marketplaces like Amazon, Wish, AliExpress, or eBay, consider optimizing your landing pages and on-site e-commerce E-A-T to build trust with new customers. Finally, think mobile-first for shoppers in Asia and other emerging markets.

In summary

All in all, I’m optimistic. As MUM matures we should see more varied content types emerge from around the web. Improvements to speed and security are a win for everyone. More layered SERP features help to demonstrate the importance of SEO. And building a borderless customer base helps to make brands more resilient in a changeable marketplace. Some of the changes we are likely to see are substantial, but they should move SEO in a positive direction.



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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

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5 Simple Things You Can Do To Improve the Content Experience for Readers

Who doesn’t like to have a good experience consuming content?

I know I do. And isn’t that what we – as both a consumer of content and a marketer of content – all want?

What if you create such a good experience that your audience doesn’t even realize it’s an “experience?” Here’s a helpful mish-mash of easy-to-do things to make that possible.

1. Write with an inclusive heart

There’s nothing worse than being in a conversation with someone who constantly talks about themselves. Check your text to see how often you write the words – I, me, we, and us. Now, count how often the word “you” is used. If the first-person uses are disproportionate to the second-person uses, edit to delete many first-person references and add more “you” to the text.

You want to let your audience know they are included in the conversation. I like this tip shared in Take Binary Bias Out of Your Content Conversations by Content Marketing World speaker Ruth Carter: Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns.

Go through your text and replace exclusionary terms such as he/him and she/her with they/them pronouns, says @rbcarter via @Brandlovellc @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

2. Make your content shine brighter with an AI assist

Content published online should look different than the research papers and essays you wrote in school. While you should adhere to grammar rules and follow a style guide as best as possible, you also should prioritize readability. That requires scannable and easily digestible text – headings, bulleted text, short sentences, brief paragraphs, etc.

Use a text-polishing aid such as Hemingway Editor (free and paid versions) to cut the dead weight from your writing. Here’s how its color-coded review system works and the improvements to make:

  • Yellow – lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors
    • Fix: Shorten or split sentences.
  • Red – dense and complicated text
    • Fix: Remove hurdles and keep your readers on a simpler path.
  • Pink – lengthy words that could be shortened
    • Fix: Scroll the mouse over the problematic word to identify potential substitutes.
  • Blue – adverbs and weakening phrases
    • Fix: Delete them or find a better way to convey the thought.
  • Green – passive voice
    • Fix: Rewrite for active voice.

Grammarly’s paid version works well, too. The premium version includes an AI-powered writing assistant, readability reports, a plagiarism checker, citation suggestions, and more than 400 additional grammar checks.

In the image below, Grammarly suggests a way to rephrase the sentence from:

“It is not good enough any longer to simply produce content “like a media company would”.

To:

“It is no longer good enough to produce content “as a media company would”.

Much cleaner, right?

3. Ask questions

See what I did with the intro (and here)? I posed questions to try to engage with you. When someone asks a question – even in writing – the person hearing (or reading) it is likely to pause for a split second to consider their answer. The reader’s role changes from a passive participant to an active one. Using this technique also can encourage your readers to interact with the author, maybe in the form of an answer in the comments.

4. Include links

Many content marketers include internal and external links in their text for their SEO value. But you also should add links to help your readers. Consider including links to help a reader who wants to learn more about the topic. You can do this in a couple of ways:

  • You can link the descriptive text in the article to content relevant to those words (as I did in this bullet point)
  • You can list the headlines of related articles as a standalone feature (see the gray box labeled Handpicked Related Content at the end of this article).

Add links to guide readers to more information on a topic – not just for SEO purposes says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. #WritingTips Click To Tweet

You also can include on-page links or bookmarks in the beginning (a table of contents, of sorts) in longer pieces to help the reader more quickly access the content they seek to help you learn more about a topic. This helps the reader and keeps visitors on your website longer.

5. Don’t forget the ‘invisible’ text

Alt text is often an afterthought – if you think about it all. Yet, it’s essential to have a great content experience for people who use text-to-speech readers. Though it doesn’t take too much time, I find that customizing the image description content instead of relying on the default technology works better for audience understanding.

First, ask if a listener would miss something if they didn’t have the image explained. If they wouldn’t, the image is decorative and probably doesn’t need alt text. You publish it for aesthetic reasons, such as to break up a text-heavy page. Or it may repeat information already appearing in the text (like I did in the Hemingway and Grammarly examples above).

If the listener would miss out if the image weren’t explained well, it is informative and requires alt text. General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text. That’s a short sentence or two to convey the image’s message. Don’t forget to include punctuation.

General guidelines indicate up to 125 characters (including spaces) work best for alt text, says @Brandlovellc via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For both decorative and informative images, include the photo credits, permissions, and copyright information, in the caption section.

For example, if I were writing an article about Best Dogs for Families, I would include an image of a mini Bernedoodle as an example because they make great family pets. Let’s use this image of my adorable puppy, Henri, and I’ll show you both a good and bad example of alt text.

An almost useless alt-text version: “An image showing a dog.”

Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.

It wastes valuable characters with the phrase “an image showing.”

Use the available characters for a more descriptive alt text: “Author’s tri-colored (brown, white, black, grey wavy hair), merle mini Bernedoodle, Henri, lying on green grass.”

It’s more descriptive, and I only used 112 characters, including spaces.

Want to learn more? Alexa Heinrich, an award-winning social media strategist, has a helpful article on writing effective image descriptions called The Art of Alt Text. @A11yAwareness on Twitter is also a great resource for accessibility tips.

Improve your content and better the experience

Do any of these suggestions feel too hard to execute? I hope not. They don’t need a bigger budget to execute. They don’t need a lengthy approval process to implement. And they don’t demand much more time in production.

They just need you to remember to execute them the next time you write (and the time after that, and the time after that, and the … well, you get the idea.)

If you have an easy-to-implement tip to improve the content experience, please leave it in the comments. I may include it in a future update.

All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.

If you have an idea for an original article you’d like to share with the CMI audience, you could get it published on the site. First, read our blogging guidelines and write or adjust your draft accordingly. Then submit the post for consideration following the process outlined in the guidelines.

In appreciation for guest contributors’ work, we’re offering free registration to one paid event or free enrollment in Content Marketing University to anyone who gets two new posts accepted and published on the CMI site in 2023.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

(more…)

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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