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What Would You Say Should Be The Top SEO Focus This 2022?



What Would You Say Should Be The Top SEO Focus This 2022?

This Ask an SEO question comes from Ian from San Juan, who asks:

“What would you say should be the top SEO focus coming into 2022 for a brand that seeks to grow its wholesale product business to generate more leads and sales?”

Every year, SEO pros look for a magic bullet.

Even after 21 years, I’m still hoping to find the technique that automatically ranks a site for any query I want.

I haven’t found it yet.

And I know I never will.

But I still look.

Most SEO experts I know still look.


And we talk about the latest trends uncovered from our hours of reverse engineering efforts.

And while there are certainly “hot” techniques, I want the readers of this column to understand that the basics of SEO haven’t changed in a long time.

Rather than chase algorithm glitches that come and go as fast as your latest Google rep, I suggest getting back to the basics.

The Basics Are Still The Same

Since the advent of link-based algorithms like Google’s PageRank, the basics of search engine optimization have remained the same.

I can’t guarantee much in life – Google tells me not to offer guarantees.

But I can guarantee that if you do the following five things correctly for each query you want to rank for, you will rank for that query.

Here are what I consider the five pillars of search engine optimization:


The code of your website is the foundation of your entire marketing strategy.


The code of this site needs to be built so that search engines can easily find the great content you’ve created.

The code of your website may not make you rank – but if not done properly can keep you from ranking.


Words mean things.

The content on your website needs to be all-encompassing for your prospects.

You need to have content that works for visitors that are ready to buy, as well as those needing a little more information before making a purchase or filling out a lead form.

Your content also needs to utilize the keywords and phrases you want to rank for.

According to Google, your content needs to exude expertise, project authority, and project trust. This is commonly referred to by its culinary acronym, EAT.


Also known as link building, this is what separates a good SEO expert from a great SEO expert.


Most folks doing SEO can handle the technical side of things. Many can also create a coherent and effective content strategy.

But building links is harder.

It requires a public relations mindset armed with SEO knowledge.

Buying links is risky and I don’t recommend it.

Work to create a link strategy that builds upon itself. For a warehouse, I would initially look at my vendors and partners for links.

Then I would look to create link-worthy content that the influencers in my field would like.


Social media really doesn’t help your SEO directly, but social media is how we disseminate and amplify the great content we create.

Social media is frequently how we connect with the influencers from whom we need links.


Your communication strategy is important for SEO, even if the links from social media won’t give you a boost in Google.


Data tells you where to go.

Google Analytics itself can provide you with content ideas, UX insights, audience revelations, and more.

Spend time on your data.

Hire others to spend time on your data if you don’t know what you are seeing.

I’ve been doing SEO for 21 years, and I still frequently have another set of eyes from my team review the data to ensure I’m not missing anything.

Do these five things better than the other guy, and you will outrank him every time.

But be aware – you need to win on each query you want to rank for.


Most of us will never win that battle all the time.

And that’s one reason SEO is ongoing and not a set-it-and-forget-it tactic.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is not a new trend for 2022, but I see a lot of SEO campaigns missing the mark.

Just because the work we do as SEO professionals is sometimes technical in nature, that doesn’t mean our audience is technical.

In fact, I see far too many SEO experts thinking the audience they are targeting is just like them.

In most cases, the audience is very different from the person optimizing the site.

SEO professionals need to practice empathy in our keyword research, UX changes, content creation, and basically, everything we do.

Know your audience’s likes and dislikes.


Know their political proclivities if possible.

Know their average income, age, and gender.

Understand the best way to approach your audience.

It’s most likely different for the B2B Warehouse client than for the company selling tea or mortgage refinance.

Use the data the search engines give us, as well as your own website data, to understand your audience better.

The ROI can be significant.

In Conclusion

Stop chasing the latest silver bullet.

Double down on the basics of SEO that haven’t changed in more than 15 years.


Remember that each query is different, and you need to win on every search.

Do these things and you’ll reach your ROI goals.

More resources:

Featured Image: WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!


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How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns



How upskilling your paid advertising skills will tackle economic downturns

30-second summary:

  • Marketing budgets are often the first to be slashed in a downturn – upskilling your existing team with digital marketing techniques can provide huge efficiencies and minimize the impact of cuts
  • Creating an upskilling program does not need to be expensive or time-consuming if a well-thought-out strategy is adopted and results are constantly measured
  • Nurturing your own in-house talent pool also increases business resilience, improves marketing innovation and creativity, and reduces reliance on third-party operators
  • Choosing the right skills for your team to acquire depends both on your immediate goals and long-term business strategy – done right you can steal a march on your competitors
  • Sarah Gilchriest, Global COO of Circus Street, discusses the key skills brands need to cultivate to stay competitive during an economic downturn

We’re entering what is likely to be a pretty tough global recession. As consumer sentiment worsens, brands will increasingly look at ways they can cut costs to protect their bottom line. Unfortunately, we all know that marketing is usually one of the first budgets to be slashed.

It is seemingly much easier to stop a campaign or give an agency notice than it is to sack a developer or reduce infrastructure costs. However, more often than not, cutting marketing is a false economy that worsens the impact of a downturn by slowing a company’s growth. So, is there a way for brands to instead maximize their digital marketing output while also freezing or reducing costs?

The answer may be found in upskilling.

Training while cutting costs?

Now, your first reaction may be that training programs are expensive luxuries that make little sense if your goal is to cut costs. There are a few things to unpack here –

  1. Size and scope of training matter. You can make an outsized impact by training one or two individuals who then share their knowledge with their wider team. The right strategy (which I’ll discuss further below) can lead to a highly targeted program that gives the most critical skills to those who will be best placed to use them immediately.
  2. Next, there are a lot of freely available supporting resources that can significantly reduce costs and help to embed learning.
  3. Finally, let’s put costs in perspective. The ROI on a well-executed training scheme pays for itself and the initial outlay pales in comparison to most other business functions. Put simply, you get a lot of bang for your buck. 

Why paid advertising skills?

Paid advertising makes a lot of sense to focus on for a number of reasons. Generally, compared to other marketing fields, paid advertising is characterized by the sheer diversity of skills and techniques needed to fully execute a campaign. It is incredibly fast-moving and often requires you to leverage a number of different tech platforms. Consequently, many brands outsource this functionality to a network of agencies and freelancers. Those that don’t usually rely on one or two individual ‘power users’ or worse, skills are haphazardly spread among a range of departments leading to bottlenecks and single points of failure.

As such, digital advertising is usually the prime area where efficiencies, greater innovation, and marketing effectiveness can occur via upskilling. It is where your business can do much more for less. 

Identifying the right skills

Getting the right skill mix is where the rubber meets the road. A mixture of creativity, data analysis, platform knowledge, development techniques, and marketing expertise are all needed. To get started the best approach is to fully understand what capability your team has in-house. The crucial element is to remember that a lot of ability might be hidden because it is not used on a day-to-day basis. You would be surprised at how quickly a business ‘forgets’ about the previous experiences of team members after they have been hired.


Auditing team skills should expand beyond the marketing department

You don’t know what gems are lurking in other areas of your business until you start to look. This is also the perfect opportunity to identify both the potential of your employees to acquire new skills and also their individual aspirations. It is much easier to upskill someone who has a professional and personal investment in learning that particular expertise. The audit itself does not need to be complex – a simple matrix that enables people to categorize their proficiency and outline the areas where they would like to develop will suffice.

When you know what you have to work with, then it’ll become much easier to define the best way forward. Deciding the best skill mix comes down to first working out how to fulfill your most immediate needs. For example, taking a costly service in-house, plugging a weakness – where a team member’s departure would severely hamper your ability to function, or obvious gaps in ability that prevent you from undertaking certain digital advertising activities.

Build on the compatibility between your employee’s aspirations and your commercial objectives

This is then overlaid by areas where your marketing output can most obviously be improved and your future aspirations in line with your commercial objectives. For example, if in the future you want to more heavily target users on particular social media platforms or ‘exotic’ platforms like IoT devices and digital boards. Perhaps you can see the financial benefits of adopting headless CMS tech and would like to put in place the skills needed to make that transition after the recession. Maybe you want your team to have the insight to tell you whether the Metaverse has any potential for your business.

This may sound complex but once you get started the hierarchy of skills you need more often than not becomes very obvious. Remember, one of upskilling’s great strengths is its flexibility – if your needs change or you feel you have chosen the wrong skills – it’s very easy to change track.

Getting started in a cost-efficient way

How you train your team is very much up to individual preferences – everyone learns in different ways. Speaking to your employees and specialists will enable you to build a tailored teaching structure. It can be a combination of in-house learning, online tutorials, accredited programs, or book learning. You do not have to go all in on a full program straight away. Piloting can remove a lot of the risk. Start small – one team or a handful of individuals from across your company – and continually assess the impact.

A mistake to avoid

A common mistake businesses make is they wait too long to get their team to use their new knowledge. This can hold up the process and damage ROI. The best way to embed new skills is to apply them. Ensure that your team has an opportunity to practice their newfound expertise on real initiatives. Then keep a close eye on your business metrics – including team and customer feedback – to determine the impact. Unlike many other departments, digital marketing can have very clear outputs. This will let you know quite quickly if it is working. From there, you can decide on how to roll out your training scheme. 

Marketing doesn’t end with the marketers

As I’ve mentioned, diversifying the skillset of your team builds resilience and promotes more innovation. The reason is simple, if you only have marketing skills in your marketing department, you are naturally limiting the number of people who can provide useful insights that fuel innovation. You reduce oversight and feedback loops, and your marketing output will suffer from a lack of outside perspectives. 

By making your teams multidisciplinary and cross-functional you can spread useful skills throughout your business. Customer service teams can learn the fundamentals of digital marketing, marketers know how to do the basic dev and data work to enable their day-to-day, and your data teams can think like marketers if they need to.


Preparing for the worst doesn’t mean losing capabilities

If the worst does happen and you do need to make cuts to your team, having key skills shared across your business means that the damage to core functions will be limited.

To finish – I should highlight that much of what I’ve discussed applies equally to business owners as it does to individual freelancers. A downturn can be a daunting prospect if you are a sole trader. Upskilling can be one of the best ways to increase your value to clients now and future-proof your business.

If you have seen business drop off, the time you now have available could be best dedicated to more training. This may sound obvious, but a mistake many people make in their careers is failing to adapt to how demand for skills can quickly change or technology can come along that makes them obsolete. Adding more skill strings to you and your company’s bow is never a bad thing.

Sarah Gilchriest is the Global COO of Circus Street.

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