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How To Stay Up-to-Date In The SEO Industry

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How To Stay Up-to-Date In The SEO Industry

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky field. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, Google goes and changes the algorithm and what used to work doesn’t work so well anymore. or there’s a new element to add to your SEO bag.

Though you may want to write this off as a “cost of doing business” in SEO, these constant changes are actually for a good reason: Google is always trying to develop a better understanding of how people use the internet.

Changes to search algorithms are made with the goal of providing better, more relevant information to users.

And while this is great for users, it also means SEO professionals must constantly stay up-to-date on the latest changes and best practices. And that can be a major time commitment by itself.

But never fear, we’re here to help.

Tips For Staying On Top Of SEO Trends

Whether you’re an experienced SEO professional or are just getting started in your career, here are some ways you can stay in the know about what’s happening in the industry.

Subscribe To Leading SEO Blogs And Email Newsletters

It’s no secret that Google is the top dog in the search engine field.

As of February 2022, it accounts for a whopping 92% of search engine market share – which is what you would probably expect for a company whose name has become a verb meaning “to look up.”

And because Google is such a giant in the field, any SEO pro worth his or her salt should make sure to check the Google Search Central Blog on a regular basis.

Run by the search engine giant itself; it’s where you can find official updates to the Google Search Core algorithm, announcements about new search features, and articles on SEO best practices.

While Google’s blog is the gospel search engine optimization is performed by, there are several other valuable resources on the internet written by digital marketing experts.

We’d be remiss, of course, if we didn’t list ourselves first. Search Engine Journal exists for the sole purpose of keeping busy SEO people in the loop.

And while we humbly consider ourselves a top resource, other blogs and email newsletters you should be reading include Kevin Indig’s, Moz, SEO Fomo and Yoast.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of 38 other resources you may find helpful.

Join Communities And Forums

SEO is a community and professionals love to share their knowledge. It was my participation in two or three communities that led to the launch of SEJ almost 19 years ago.

Gathering as much knowledge as you can ensures your strategies are effective and gives you the page rankings you want.

One of the best ways to do this is to read and participate in forums on the topic.

One of the most popular communities for SEO (and just about everything else) is on Reddit. Users can create posts, ask questions and share articles.

Content on this social platform is “upvoted” or “downvoted,” depending on the community’s opinion of it. This encourages quality posts to rise to the top, while poor-quality ones quickly disappear.

The SEO subreddit can be used for everything from job searching to troubleshooting, serving as a strategic sounding board to tracking new developments in the field.

For people with specific questions, Quora is an excellent resource.

Designed as a place to share knowledge, it allows users to ask questions, which are in turn answered by the community.

Update Your News Feed And Follow Thought Leaders On Social Media

Love it or hate it, there’s no question social media has changed the world.

And while the downside is it allows your, um, quirky uncle to share his thoughts on the connection between sasquatch, aliens, and the JFK assassination, it also allows you to connect with people like never before.

And if you’re not using this professionally, you’re missing a huge opportunity.

Twitter, LinkedIn, and yes, even Facebook, give you unparalleled access to professionals who have built their careers by sharing their experience.

With a few clicks, you can start receiving the SEO thoughts of people like Danny Sullivan and John Mueller. In addition to Danny & John, here are 202 SEO Experts who we feel that you should be following on Twitter and other social channels.

By updating your newsfeed to include these people, you’ll not only benefit from the immense level of knowledge they share, but you’ll ensure you stay in the know about any developments within the SEO world.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of top SEO experts you should be following here.

Listen To Podcasts

Do you have a lot of other commitments, and don’t always have hours to dedicate to perusing the internet to stay on top of the latest best practices?

Once again, modern technology to the rescue.

Podcasts are a great way to get trustworthy tips directly from notable industry experts.

And you can consume them anywhere from the train during your morning commute to the treadmill during your workout.

Not sure what podcasts you should be listening to? Don’t worry, we’ve put together a handy list of 17 of the best SEO podcasts in the business.

And no list would ever be complete without mentioning our very own Search Engine Journal Show, where we talk all things SEO, PPC, social media, content marketing, and digital marketing with the top industry experts and authorities.

Watch YouTube Videos And SEO Webinars

Are you old enough to remember what life was like before the internet?

If so, you probably remember the frustration that came with figuring things out on your own, rather than pulling up your phone and watching a quick tutorial video.

Luckily the bad old days are behind us, and we now have access to an unprecedented amount of information, including helpful videos on platforms like YouTube and webinars hosted by experts.

Many leaders in the field of SEO have YouTube channels where they regularly upload content.

These usually short videos are an excellent way to pick up quick tips and find solutions to problems you’re facing.

Channels worth following include The SEO Video Show, Ahrefs, Matt Diggity (more of a casual, Mr. Beast feel) and, of course, Search Engine Journal.

If you have a little more time to dedicate to your SEO education, webinars are a great way to expand your knowledge.

For top-quality SEO learning, there are three main contributors: Semrush, BrightEdge and, you guessed it, Search Engine Journal.

Usually available on-demand if you miss the live presentation, these are an effective way to stay up to date with what’s happening in the field.

Attend Conferences And Build Your Network

The most valuable resource for any organization is its people. That’s why there’s an entire division called “human resources.”

But, you don’t have to work in the same office, organization, or even country to benefit from the knowledge of other SEO professionals.

To ensure your continued success in the field of search engine optimization, it’s important to expand your network.

By getting acquainted with other people in the industry, you can mimic their successful strategies, learn from their failures, and stay on top of what’s trending – and one of the best places to do this is at SEO conferences.

In a pre-pandemic world, there was no better way to put your finger on the pulse of the world of search engine rankings and connect with industry leaders than on the floor of a summit or at the evening cocktail hour. And it was a great way to make new friends too.

Though Covid-19 put a temporary limit on in-person gatherings, they’re starting to pick up again, which means attendees are once again able to expand their networks and gain a deeper understanding of how top SEO professionals are getting results.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, hopefully, we’ve impressed upon you the importance of staying up to date on the constantly shifting world of search engine optimization and given you some resources you can use to do so.

But even if you’re someone who loves your job, you undoubtedly have other commitments in your life.

And staying abreast of the latest best practices can feel like a full-time job in itself.

You simply don’t have time to spend all day, every day tracking the latest trends and best practices. And even if you could, that wouldn’t give you the bandwidth to implement these new strategies.

But that’s why we created this piece: to show you the many ways you can learn and follow what’s happening in SEO.

Maybe it’s part of your morning routine, where after checking your email, you spend some time reading the latest articles.

Maybe you routinely listen to our podcast while stuck in traffic. Or maybe you prefer lunch-and-learns, where you watch webinars while you’re taking your lunch break.

There’s a wealth of SEO information out there from a lot of experts who can help you take your rankings to the next level.

It’s up to you how you’ll use their information, tips, and tricks to make the most out of them.

More Resources:


Featured Image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock




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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine, Yep.com, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.

SiteAuthority

As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site:http://ahrefs.com E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.

Sandbox

I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.

Clicks

Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.

Authors

We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.



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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.

Sidenote.

This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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