Prepare to Evolve Your SEO for 2022
Repeat after us: Your SEO strategy will always be partially outdated—but it’s not your fault. Google, still the world’s most dominant search engine, is constantly updating its algorithm (it implemented around 4,500 changes just in 2020). A single change to that algorithm has the power to send shockwaves through the digital marketing landscape, since SEO content and a savvy keyword strategy are integral to customers finding businesses online.
Just as important as launching a SEO campaign, then, is preparing for these ongoing search refinements that Google hands down to us from on high. So let’s go over why Google tinkers with its algorithm, and how you can shape your organic SEO initiatives in 2022 to dovetail with Google’s most recent updates.
What’s With All the Updates?
Good question. Here’s our answer in two words: “Relevant information.”
Google understands that users are online primarily to find information, and it’s in Google’s best interests to sell off their data to advertisers—but Google can only do that if their users are happy with the SEO content that they’re finding. (Otherwise, they’d hop out and use the lesser likes of Bing and Baidu.)
Hence all the marketing chatter about “authoritative organic SEO,” which mostly means content that doesn’t feel spammy or keyword-stuffed. Google wants to route you to the answers you’re looking for, and it optimizes its searches to strip out clutter and make your experience seamless. So results that load quickly, run on mobile, and aren’t clogged up with intrusive interstitials all tend to float toward the top of the SERPs.
Core vs. Targeted Updates
The type of algorithm changes that we mentioned above are referred to as “core updates,” since they affect a broad swath of indexed pages. (Google tends to trot these out once every two or three months.) Targeted updates, meanwhile, often focus on an industry or a single SERP feature (such as AdWords, review stars, image results, or knowledge panels).
A contemporary example of a targeted update might be pages pertaining to COVID tests. Google appears to have thinned out commercial results for COVID-related searches and, instead, has promoted maps and data from governmental and medical authorities. That Google wields the power to alter which categories of information the world sees is unsettling, if you think about it too deeply. (Don’t think about it too deeply.) Yet it also indicates how the oceans of information online are always in flux, and Google has to retool its algorithm to keep pace with which “relevant information” is still relevant year by year, day by day, hour by hour.
SEO Updates for 2022
So how should you evolve your SEO strategy this year to align with Google’s updates? Consider a few suggestions:
- Page loading time has been a ranking factor since at least May 2020, so make sure your site’s speed is up to speed. Google doesn’t want its users letting out shrieks of impatience waiting for pages to load. Google even let webmasters know about this update—which doesn’t happen often, and may benefit mobile users the most.
- Passage content is a fancy term for snippets of long-form SEO content that answer users’ search queries. Imagine that you want to know how tall Mount Everest is (29,032 feet), but you don’t want to read someone’s memoir-length blog about scaling Everest. Google will show you the passage from that blog with the data you’re looking for. How do you tailor your SEO to cater to this update? Keep your content high-quality, add in long-tail keywords, and write for humans rather than search bots.
- “BERT” and “MUM” may sound like the British counterparts to Bert and Ernie, but they’re really AI-based tech that stand for—are you ready for this?—“Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” and “Multitask Unified Model” (respectively). Whew. What does that mean? Well, they’re digital tools designed to deliver esoteric answers when there’s no clear answer. What does that mean? Well, they’re part of Google’s pitch to become a “conversational partner” with their users.
So take Mt. Everest again. You can find out how tall it is fairly easily. But what if you want to know how the hiking experience differs on Mount Everest versus, say, Mount Kilimanjaro? With BERT and MUM—the idea goes—Google can give you an answer with the same nuance that a pro hiker might convey if you were chatting with said hiker at a bar. Again, there’s not much you can do to optimize your site for BERT and MUM, other than write quality content that chats with users in a conversational style. Speaking of which …
- Voice search is becoming more relevant each year, especially with the prevalence of home voice assistants. Typing in a Google search may even go the way of analog clocks sooner or later—people are asking questions straight into their phones, which drives the need for tech like BERT and MUM. No, Google hasn’t announced a voice search update for 2022, but we’re betting that it’s vital to design your site so that the content is readable, conversational, and filled with long-tail and question keywords.
Futureproof Your Site
The topic of how to adjust your SEO strategy to harmonize with technical changes always seems to take on a curious duality. On one hand, there’s so much jargon to wade through—AI modeling, search entities, “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.” On the other hand, this whole discussion can be distilled into a few pithy points:
- Only publish high-quality content on your site.
- Master the basics of technical SEO strategy. (Backlinks, alt tags, meta descriptions.)
- Make peace with the fact that Google’s algorithm is ever-changing, so your SEO must change along with it.
But this above all else: Be useful to your users. Anticipate why they’re coming to your site and supply them with the info they’re looking for, and they’ll be more likely to venture back again and again.