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12 Actions That Help Improve Your Google Keyword Rankings

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12 Actions That Help Improve Your Google Keyword Rankings


Right now, someone is doing a Google search to find a new product, service, or solution to their problem, something that your business is uniquely qualified to provide.

Will they end up on your website where they’ll see how you have exactly what they’re looking for?

If your website doesn’t show up on the first page of Google results, the answer is, unfortunately, probably not.  That’s for a few reasons.

Firstly, Google dominates the search engine market, with more than 85% of global traffic and 270 million unique visitors in the U.S. alone.

Secondly, 75% of internet users never go beyond the first page of results.

Now consider that 34.36% of all clicks go to the number one search result, and it becomes clear why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important.

But, you already knew that – it’s why you’re reading this article, after all.

You probably also realize that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

In Google’s unending quest to provide better results to searchers’ queries, its algorithm is updated thousands of times every year.

And while some of these are so minor most people will never notice them, Google occasionally rolls out an update that significantly impacts search engine results pages (SERPs).

What’s an SEO professional to do?

In the past, the answer was to jam keywords everywhere on your site, with the idea that more is better. Those days are gone.

Google’s algorithm has increased in complexity, which means it is now better able to understand the intent behind queries.

And, this means it values sites that provide better answers to those searches over those that are just packed with relevant words and phrases.

To ensure your website ranks highly, you can’t just focus on what search engines are looking for.

You also need to consider the experiences of visitors to your site. You need to take a holistic view of the value your website provides to users, then optimize your content so that it gets the results you need.

Let’s take a closer look at various ranking factors and discuss how you can more effectively use keywords to drive search traffic.

1. Measure Your Rankings

The first (and probably the most obvious) place to start is measuring your rankings.

Without a solid understanding of your baseline keyword performance, you won’t know how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved.

I’d highly suggest exporting all of this valuable keyword data and keeping it on file for future reference. If nothing else, it will show you how much better you’ve gotten at SEO.

Some of us may have learned the hard way, but you never know when things will change with any given tool – whether it’s how data is reported, what information we have access to, etc.

Export keyword data from Google Search Console and landing page traffic (organic and total) from Google Analytics.

Analyzing this data will give you a good idea of:

  • Your most valuable keywords/landing pages.
  • The most immediate opportunities for improvement.
  • Keywords/landing pages that are underperforming.

Focus on improving keywords that are ranking in positions five through 15 (where you’re teetering at the bottom of Page 1 or top of Page 2 on Google).

It’s easier to get these terms ranked at the top of the first page on Google, which will give you some quick wins to share with your client or boss.

2. Target The Right Keywords

To ensure your keyword targets are aligned with overarching business objectives and offer real value, it’s important that you understand both the search intent behind them and the difficulty of ranking.

While terms have a particular meaning to you, they could take on an entirely different meaning in Google and vice versa.

Knowing the intent, whether it’s informational/educational, transactional, or navigational, will help you understand which stage of the sales funnel users are at.

Doing a thorough SERP analysis is essential. Look at what’s currently ranking in the top search result for your core keyword targets including:

Target the right keywords.Screenshot from search for [search intent], Google, May 2022

Knowing what is required to rank for a particular keyword will help you draw conclusions about what content development efforts will be required, as well as come up with a plan for creation.

Semrush’s SEO Content Template is really great for this type of analysis.

You simply enter a keyword, and the tool will analyze what’s showing up in Google’s top results to provide recommendations for SEO-friendly content.

Semrush keyword research tool.Screenshot from Semrush, May 2022

Cross-referencing your organic keyword research with paid advertising data can also help uncover new opportunities and fill gaps.

Don’t ignore long-tail queries. While they may have lower search volume, you could be missing out on extremely targeted audiences that are ready to buy.

3. Clean Up Your Site Structure

The structure of your website plays a big role in SEO. Set a solid foundation for yours by resolving any technical issues that may diminish your organic keyword visibility.

Site pages should be both easily found and navigated by search engines and users.

If your website is difficult for users to navigate and search engines to crawl, your keyword rankings will likely be negatively impacted.

And, vice versa – if your website is intuitive for both users and Google, your rankings are bound to see positive increases.

Make sure that your site has a solid website structure, fix any broken links, and resolve any duplicate content issues.

Conducting a thorough technical SEO audit is necessary to ensure all priority technical issues are addressed.

4. Pay Attention To User Experience Signals

User experience and brand equity are important when it comes to driving organic search visibility.

While user experience may not be a direct responsibility of a search engine marketer, it’s important that user experience and SEO work together – especially considering that Google’s algorithm has consistently taken UX into page rankings

To ensure web visitors are interacting with your website, you should use Google’s Core Web Vitals report.

This monitors the loading time of each page on your site and generates data to show you which pages are providing good experiences and which need work.

Another important UX area you need to consider is the responsiveness of your site.

Mobile web browsing first surpassed desktop in 2017 and now accounts for more than 54% of global traffic.

If your website is not responsive, you will have a higher bounce rate, which in turn will negatively affect your ranking.

Here are some other elements that present an opportunity to improve UX and SEO:

  • Keyword research: Confirm that you’re targeting keywords that have the right search intent and are aligned with the language that your target audiences use.
  • Page tagging: Ensure page tagging is engaging and encourages clicks to your website (title tags, meta descriptions, and main headings).
  • Content optimization: Keep users on the page and provide them with another logical destination or next step. This involves everything from the navigation to the copy, internal cross-linking, and calls-to-action on your site.
  • Page speed: Give users the content they are requesting quickly and seamlessly across devices. Compress images, be mobile-friendly, clean up your code, and speed up your server.

5. Optimize For Users & Search Engines

Many of us get so fixated on optimizing content for Google that we forget what the end game is – to reach a highly targeted set of humans.

While search engines and humans have different ways of reading and digesting content, there are certain commonalities that will help ensure we are creating content with both in mind.

Both robots and humans want us to be:

  • Be clear and concise.
  • Provide accurate information.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Cover-related subtopics.

This is important to keep in mind from the start of your content creation process.

As we are thinking about ways to make our content easier to read for both users and search engines, header tags are key.

Not only will proper header tags improve the overall readability of your content, but they will also ensure search engines can follow the hierarchy of what is most important on the page.

Images should also be a consideration, as providing more engaging imagery can make all the difference for users.

This also presents the opportunity to further optimize for search engines through ALT text and file naming.

6. Create Eye-Catching & Engaging Titles

Dare I say that title tags are the most important SEO element of a webpage?

Not just because it’s an SEO best practice, but also because it’s the first thing users see in search results and on social media.

The title tag is your biggest opportunity to catch the eyes of a user and encourage them to click into the page.

Determine the page that you want to rank for each keyword target, and then figure out a way for your title to stand out from all the others.

Yes, the keyword target should be included towards the beginning of the title tag, but how else can you encourage users to click?

BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million headlines and learned that:

  • Emotional headlines drive interactions.
  • Curiosity and voyeurism gain engagement.
  • List posts and the number 10 in headlines are extremely powerful.

While meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they should work closely with your title tags. Incorporate the keyword if possible, as well as a clear call-to-action for users.

The goal of your title tag and meta description should be to explain the benefit to users, provoke emotion, and trigger engagement – all while applying SEO best practices.

7. Stay On Top Of Algorithm Updates

Why should you care about Google’s most recent algorithm updates?

Because good SEO professionals stay on top of that stuff.

Among many other reasons, it helps ensure your keyword rankings are not only steady, but they’re constantly improving.

Knowing when an algorithm update first hit and when it officially ended is useful for tracking purposes, and will allow you to trace keyword and traffic fluctuations back to the root cause.

This will help you uncover potential reasoning for how/why a site was hit by an update, or certain keyword rankings and pieces of content that may have been impacted by it.

When multiple algorithm updates happen over a short stretch of time, figuring out why certain site changes have occurred and analyzing the impact of a specific update is extremely difficult.

8. Provide Answers To The Questions People Are Asking

Google seeks to provide users with the best answers to their queries.

Just look at all of the new and increased SERP features we have seen over the past few years:

Optimize for Featured Snippet results.Screenshot from search for [digital transformation], Google, May 2022

Optimizing for featured snippet results and rich snippets around your priority keyword targets is now becoming an essential part of SEO strategy.

While there is certainly a great deal of debate over the direct value that ranking in “position zero” of search results offers a business, ultimately, I pose this question:

Would you rather have your competitor rank in the Answer Box for that search query?

As far as we know, the featured snippet result isn’t going away anytime soon, and not ranking in it could mean lost visibility to your competitor, or even your “frenemy” Google.

9. Build Valuable Inbound Links

Start by looking for opportunities on your website to cross-link to assets from keyword-rich anchor text. This will help drive users to relevant content and build keyword associations.

Unfortunately, crafting a strong internal link strategy is only half of the battle.

The other half is generating highly authoritative and valuable inbound links from third-party websites.

This can seem overwhelming, but there are some key tactics to hone in on:

  • Create link-worthy content that is based on your keyword research and analysis of what is ranking in top search results to help generate inbound links and improve keyword rankings.
  • Monitor mentions of your brand for some quick-win opportunities to gain an inbound link from websites that are already talking about you.
  • If you want other websites to link to you, remember to link to other websites. You only get as much as you give.
  • Leverage social media to support link building. Interact with your targets beforehand to help build relationships prior to reaching out about a link building opportunity.

These are just a few tactics to get you started. However, there are certainly more advanced link building tactics to be successful in today’s extremely competitive landscape.

10. Promote Your Content Strategically

I mention this briefly above, but it’s also important to leverage non-SEO channels in an effort to drive visibility to your assets and support your link building efforts.

The more eyes that you get on your content, the more opportunity you have to:

Promote your content strategically.Screenshot by author, May 2022

While different promotional tactics may apply to different types of content, creating a checklist is always helpful.

This way, when it comes time to promote an asset, you have a list of all possible tactics.

This could include:

  • Distributing across social media channels.
  • Pushing out an email to subscribers.
  • Encouraging shares from internal team members.
  • Reaching out to those mentioned in the asset.
  • Setting up Google Alerts to monitor conversations around the topic.
  • Sharing directly with certain experts or influencers.
  • Answering related questions on Quora or other forums.
  • Advertising on social media.
  • Identifying existing internal cross-link opportunities.
  • Creating a SlideShare presentation or repurposing the asset in other forms.

11. Continuously Optimize & Improve Content

While there are numerous other factors that are important to SEO, content is still king.

Quality content counts more than anything else when Google is determining how well your site answers a query.

In fact, if you only take one thing away from this piece (and hopefully you’ll take more than that), it should be the importance of high-quality content. Emphasis on “high quality.”

Google’s Search Quality Guidelines explicitly state the importance of E-A-T, that is expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Your content should assert to both search engines and visitors that you are a reliable expert on the topics related to your keywords.

But because search engine results are constantly changing, you need to make continuous optimizations and improvements to your content.

For example, just because you’ve gained the Featured Snippet result for a particular keyword or phrase, does not mean that you will stay there.

Refreshing your content will ensure that you’re offering users the best (and most up-to-date) information and driving increased keyword visibility.

If the content is out of date, you will likely see the associated keyword rankings decline.

On the other hand, if you’re always looking for opportunities to refresh your content and provide users with the best material, you will likely see keyword ranking increases.

Content optimization should never be one-and-done, especially if you aren’t seeing the results that you want.

If an asset isn’t ranking, re-optimize it for relevance, search intent, engagement, and readability.

Your goal should be to offer users a piece of content that is better than everything else being displayed for the given query.

The concept, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” certainly applies here.

For example, if you are ranking in the first position on Google for an extremely competitive and highly searched keyword, you don’t want to risk losing that.

In that case, I would not recommend changing the title tag or anything that could have a negative impact.

However, there could be opportunities to make the asset that is ranking more conversion-friendly and encourage users to stay on your site.

12. Setup & Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Local search has become another important part of SEO.

In addition to driving business to your physical location, it also has an impact on your website’s rankings.

In many cases, Google factors the searcher’s location into SERPs.

Things like photos, reviews, and phone numbers are more likely to include answers to queries than text-only links.

The best way to get in on local searches is to create and optimize your Google Business Profile.

This free service allows you to manage how your business shows up across Google properties, including Maps, Reviews, and Local Pack Listings.

A Google Business Profile improves your visibility and gives users information about you at a glance. It also allows people to review your business on Google.

Not only do these increase your credibility and allow you to control the narrative around your business, but they are also thought to have a significant impact on rankings.

Further, your profile will provide you with insights into your audience that may help you uncover new opportunities and keywords to target.

You get information on which queries are directing searchers to your website, how they are interacting with your posts and how many clicks your website link is generating.

Final Thoughts 

An SEO professional’s work is never done.

And, even if Google someday decides, “You know what? We’ve finally got this algorithm perfect.” (which they never will), your results on SERPs will constantly change as others targeting the same keywords tweak and adjust their own strategies and content.

This means you need to keep working on your website. Just remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

Just because you don’t see the results you want right away doesn’t mean you’re not on the right track.

And vice versa – don’t assume because you’re highly ranked today that you’ll stay there.

SEO takes a lot of testing. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

You may not always get the top spot, but if you put in the work and follow these SEO best practices, you should see your site climb the rankings.

And that will bring with it the traffic you want.

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Featured Image: Jirsak/Shutterstock





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Better Alternatives To ‘Click Here’

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Example of CTA


Nothing is more boring and unmotivating to a user than seeing a big “Click Here” or “Learn More” link.

As a user, they’re already researching a product or a service they want to purchase. Of course, they’re going to click links to learn more.

Going Beyond “Click Here” Or “Learn More”

So, how do we get users motivated to take the action that we want them to?

It begins by:

  • Understanding user goals and user behavior.
  • Establishing trust.
  • Creating accessible, clearly labeled directions that inspire interest.

It sounds so easy in theory, but in truth, why are our webpages only converting at an average of 2.8% in the US?

Obviously, something is missing from our webpages. If 97.2% of us don’t convert on a webpage, we’re likely confusing our users on what we want them to do to some degree.

Let’s dive into how we can accomplish this.

While You’re Here, Go There Now

The trick to optimizing calls to action is to present the action at the precise moment when your website visitor is most interested in taking the next step.

If a user is met with a call to action before any information, do you think they are going to click on it?

There has to be compelling content preceding the link, as well as an accurate description of the landing page.

If the landing page isn’t what a user expected, every time you present another opportunity to leave the page, your user may not trust that you can help them solve their problem.

The call to action is clearly labeled in the example below.

Even better, it is obvious designers understand their customers’ fears over money, ease of use, customer confidence, and the use of color.

Screenshot from TurboTax.Intuit.com, June 2022

First Date Links

When your webpage visitor is ready to take action, they must feel confident that the link invitation is worthwhile, credible, and constructive.

When you present a new product offering, nothing should prevent your visitor from immediately seeing what it is.

We may begin by being sly, especially if we want something. I call these “First Date Links.”

Example of CTA with no products or content.Screenshot by author, June 2022

The screenshot above is taken from an ecommerce website. What you see here is the entire top half of the homepage.

There is no text. There are no product images.

First-time visitors would need to know in advance what the company is selling.

With this website, first-time visitors are required to scroll down, wait for the gigantic images to load, and scan minimal text to gain a better understanding of the brand and its products.

The fun part of this “First Date Links” example is knowing that this particular brand runs this special or something similar to it every single day.

There is no incentive to “shop now” for regular customers and first-time visitors have no idea where that “shop now” button is taking them.

They’ve been presented with this link that will likely overwhelm them with choice and decision paralysis – and most likely leave the site.

Try adding specific promotions for your loyal customers, or even first-time customers, into your marketing strategy.

By creating specific promotions segmented by customer type, you’re showing that you understand what they’re searching for.

Trust, credibility, and being forthcoming with your story add spice to calls to action on websites and real-life too.

Scarecrow Links

If you have watched the original film, “The Wizard of Oz,” you will understand why I refer to these calls to action as “Scarecrow Links.”

These are calls to action that provide many choices, usually with vague labels and often to the same destination.

In the film, when Dorothy is traveling the Yellow Brick Road to find Oz, she comes upon the Scarecrow and asks for directions.

Dorothy: Now which way do we go?
Scarecrow: Pardon me. That way is a very nice way… [pointing]
Dorothy: Who said that?
[Toto barks at the Scarecrow]
Dorothy: Don’t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don’t talk!
Scarecrow: It’s pleasant down that way too! [pointing in another direction]
Dorothy: That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
Scarecrow: Of course, people do go both ways [pointing in both directions]. That’s the trouble. I can’t make up my mind. I haven’t got a brain. Only straw.

Sometimes, calls to action are placed within webpage content at a moment when we really don’t want choices. We just want to be directed to that cool thing you just showed us.

In the example below, the top CTA is the best option because the destination is clearly defined and is the desired user task.

Example of 3 call to action buttons in a row.Screenshot by author, June 2022

If the company wants customers to learn more about curvy jeans, they can provide this information on the landing page that presents sorting options when they click to shop all the curvy jeans.

The smaller link to details would make more sense if it explained what the details are about.

Is it a size chart? Pricing?

What does that link do for us that “Learn more” doesn’t offer?

What does the user really want to do here after they have been shown images of curvy jeans?

Link Optimization Is More Than A Label

This next example is a mixture of a button, text sentence, and text sentence with a clickable icon overlaying a large header image.

If you were to watch someone using your website during a live session, you would most likely watch them mouse over the button, the text, and the text with the icon to see which one is going to go somewhere they want to go.

For this example, the “Learn more” button label provides no information about what we are going to learn.

It is the most visible CTA and the eyes of the person in the image are facing the button, which is a designer trick because studies show we look to see what the face is looking at.

How can we optimize the CTA for this page?

First, remove the “Learn More” button. We are going to give it an upgrade.

The text below the image, in tiny font size, is not linked. It asks a question, but the user must look for where to get the answer.

It also asks a question that may not be as important or interesting as the one following it. I would remove the entire “Want to get to know us better” sentence.

The more compelling story is why.

The button can be larger and placed in line with the model’s eye gaze. The button label is the invitation to “See why we do what we do” and link that to their story.

Not only does this narrow the choice to one link for one lead task, but it is easier for screen reader software to announce the link and direct visitors listening to the page.

Link optimization is more than a label.

Links with labels such as “Learn more,” “Read more,” “Shop now,” “Submit,” “Click here,” “Download,” and “Continue” are common.

However, these links are probably less likely to be clicked on than a more specific, inviting link.

Don’t be afraid to experiment to optimize calls to action by inviting the action. Don’t be afraid to tell the user what you want them to do by clicking that link.

If anything, you’re guiding them on their purchase decision journey.

Now, sometimes we may get a little too enthusiastic with our link text.

Example of CTA from ecommerce site.Screenshot by author, June 2022

Every Call To Action Is A Risk

Remember that when providing a call to action, it must be placed at the moment when you inspired your reader to leave their train of thought.

Every call to action is a risk. At the minimum, your link should:

  • Have a clear label with the exact destination.
  • Be easy to see and read.
  • Be compelling to the person.
  • Present itself at the exact moment when it is most useful.
  • Not have competition (other links) nearby.
  • Navigate to the desired task that will provide a benefit to your user.

As humans, our attention span is already short.

Each time a call to action takes them forward, they may have forgotten where they just were.

It is important to support tasks with well-organized information architecture and navigation that provides signals for a sense of place.

Calls to action are sometimes annoying interruptions.

What additional incredibly fascinating information is hiding behind “Learn more” that is so compelling that you have interrupted their thought process?

It better be worth it.

Conclusion

We have a small window of time to catch a user’s attention.

Using generic language like “Click Here” or “Learn More” won’t cut it anymore. When creating call-to-actions for a user, try to reiterate what exactly you want them to do.

Don’t insert CTA links for the sake of having them or taking up space.

Rethink your link strategy by viewing it from a user’s point of view: Is there more than one link option? Are they both needed? Are they clear enough for a user to take action?

Furthermore, your content leading to that call-to-action should be enticing enough for them to want to take action.

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Featured Image: Motortion Films/Shutterstock

In-post image #4 created by author, June 2022





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Freshness & SEO: An Underrated Concept

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Freshness & SEO: An Underrated Concept


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.

During my time in search, there are certain ranking factors that I’ve changed my perspective on. For instance, after coming to Go Fish Digital and working on internal linking initiatives, I started to realize the power of internal links over time. By implementing internal links at scale, we were able to see consistent success.

Freshness is another one of these factors. After working with a news organization and testing the learnings gained from that work on other sites, I started to see the immense power that content refreshes could produce. As a result, I think the entire SEO community has underrated this concept for quite some time. Let’s dig into why.

Reviewing news sites

This all started when we began to work with a large news publisher who was having trouble getting in Google’s Top Stories for highly competitive keywords. They were consistently finding that their content wasn’t able to get inclusion in this feature, and wanted to know why.

Inclusion in “Top stories”

We began to perform a lot of research around news outlets that seemed quite adept at getting included in Top Stories. This immediately turned our attention to CNN, the site that is by far the most skilled in acquiring coveted Top Stories positions.

By diving into their strategies, one consistent trend we noticed was that they would always create a brand new URL the day they wanted to be included in the Top Stories carousel:

As an example, here you can see that they create a unique URL for their rolling coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Since they know that Google will show Top Stories results daily for queries around this, they create brand new URLs every single day:

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-16-22/index.html

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-21-22/index.html

    • cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-05-23-22/index.html

This flies in the face of traditional SEO advice that indicates web owners need to keep consistent URLs in order to ensure equity isn’t diluted and keywords aren’t cannibalized. But to be eligible for Top Stories, Google needs a “fresh” URL to be indexed in order for the content to qualify.

After we started implementing the strategy of creating unique URLs every day, we saw much more consistent inclusion for this news outlet in Top Stories for their primary keywords.

However, the next question we wanted to address was not just how to get included in this feature, but also how to maintain strong ranking positions once there.

Ranking in “Top stories”

The next element that we looked at was how frequently competitors were updating their stories once in the Top Stories carousel, and were surprised at how frequently top news outlets refresh their content.

We found that competitors were aggressively updating their timestamps. For one query, when reviewing three articles over a four-hour period, we found the average time between updates for major outlets:

  1. USA Today: Every 8 Minutes

  2. New York Times: Every 27 minutes

  3. CNN: Every 28 minutes

For this particular query, USA Today was literally updating their page every 8 minutes and maintaining the #1 ranking position for Top Stories. Clearly, they were putting a lot of effort into the freshness of their content.

But what about the rest of us?

Of course, it’s obvious how this would apply to news sites. There is certainly no other vertical where the concept of “freshness” is going to carry more weight to the algorithm. However, this got us thinking about how valuable this concept would be to the broader web. Are other sites doing this, and would it be possible to see SEO success by updating content more frequently?

Evergreen content

Fortunately, we were able to perform even more research in this area. Our news client also had many non-news specific sections of their site. These sections contain more “evergreen” articles where more traditional SEO norms and rules should apply. One section of their site contains more “reviews” type of content, where they find the best products for a given category.

When reviewing articles for these topics, we also noticed patterns around freshness. In general, high ranking articles in competitive product areas (electronics, bedding, appliances) would aggressively update their timestamps on a monthly (sometimes weekly) cadence.

For example, as of the date of this writing (May 25th, 2022), I can see that all of the top three articles for “best mattress” have been updated within the last 7 days.

Looking at the term “best robot vacuum”, it looks like all of the articles have been updated in the last month (as of May 2022):

Even though these articles are more “evergreen” and not tied to the news cycle, it’s obvious that these sites are placing a high emphasis on freshness with frequent article updates. This indicated to us that there might be more benefits to freshness than just news story results.

Performing a test

We decided to start testing the concept of freshness on our own blog to see what the impact of these updates could be. We had an article on automotive SEO that used to perform quite well for “automotive seo” queries. However, in recent years, this page lost a lot of organic traffic:

The article still contained evergreen information, but it hadn’t been updated since 2016:

It was the perfect candidate for our test. To perform this test, we made only three changes to the article:

  1. Updated the content to ensure it was all current. This changed less than 5% of the text.

  2. Added “2022” to the title tag.

  3. Updated the timestamp.

Immediately, we saw rankings improve for the keyword “automotive seo”. We moved from ranking on the third page to the first page the day after we updated the content:

To verify these results, we tested this concept on another page. For this next article, we only updated the timestamp and title tag with no changes to the on-page content. While we normally wouldn’t recommend doing this, this was the only way we could isolate whether “freshness” was the driving change, and not the content adjustments.

However, after making these two updates, we could clearly see an immediate improvement to the traffic of the second page:

These two experiments combined with other tests we’ve performed are showing us that Google places value on the recency of content. This value extends beyond just articles tied to the news cycle.

Why does Google care?

E-A-T considerations

Thinking about this more holistically, Google utilizing the concept of freshness makes sense from their E-A-T initiatives. The whole concept of E-A-T is that Google wants to rank content that it can trust (written by experts, citing facts) above other search results. Google has a borderline public responsibility to ensure that the content it serves is accurate, so it’s in the search giant’s best interest to surface content that it thinks it can trust.

So how does freshness play into this? Well, if Google thinks content is outdated, how is it supposed to trust that the information is accurate? If the search engine sees that your article hasn’t been updated in five years while competitors have more recent content, that might be a signal that their content is more trustworthy than yours.

For example, for the term “best camera phones”, would you want to read an article last updated two years ago? For that matter, would you even want an article last updated six months ago?

As we can see, Google is only ranking pages that have been updated within the last one or two months. That’s because the technology changes so rapidly in this space that, unless you’re updating your articles every couple of months or so, you’re dramatically behind the curve.

Marketplace threats

The concept of freshness also makes sense from a competitive perspective. One of the biggest weaknesses of an indexation engine is that it’s inherently hard to serve real-time results. To find when content changes, a search engine needs time to recrawl and reindex content. When combined with the demands of crawling the web at scale, this becomes extremely difficult.

On the other hand, social media sites like Twitter don’t have this issue and are made to serve real-time content. The platform isn’t tasked with indexing results, and engagement metrics can help quickly surface content that’s gaining traction. As a result, Twitter does a much better job of surfacing trending content.

Thinking about the web from a platform based perspective, it makes sense that most users would choose Twitter over Google when looking for real-time information. This causes a big threat to Google, as it’s a reason for users to migrate off the ecosystem, thus presenting fewer opportunities to serve ads.

Recently in Top Stories, you now see a lot more “Live Blog Posts”. These articles utilize LiveBlogPosting structured data, which signals to Google that the content is getting updated in real-time. While looking for real-time URLs across the entire web is daunting, using this structured data type can help them better narrow in on content they need to be crawling and indexing more frequently.

Google seems to be aggressively pushing these live blogs in Top Stories as they often see strong visibility in Top Stories results:

This might be a strategic move to encourage publishers to create real-time content. The goal here could be increased adoption of content that’s updated in real-time with the end result of showcasing to users that they can get this type of content on Google, not just Twitter.

Utilizing these concepts moving forward

I think as an industry, sometimes there’s room for us to be more creative when thinking about our on-page optimizations. When looking at how to improve pages that have lost traffic and positions over time, we could take freshness into consideration. When looking at pages that have lost prominence over time, we might want to consider checking if that content is also outdated. Through testing and experimentation, you could see if updating the freshness of your content has noticeable positive impacts on ranking improvements.



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Google Search Console Insights For GA4 Properties Now Available

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Google Search Console Insights For GA4 Properties Now Available


In an update rolling out today, Google addresses a limitation of Google Analytics 4 (GA4) properties by making them compatible with Search Console Insights.

Combining data from Search Console and Google Analytics, Search Console Insights provides a thorough overview of how people discover your content across the web.

Since its launch in June 2021, Search Console Insights has only been compatible with Universal Analytics (UA) properties. If all you have are GA4 properties, your Insights section in Search Console would have been pretty bare.

It was a matter of time before GA4 support was added, however, as Google is sunsetting UA properties next year.

Using Search Console Insights

There are different ways to access Search Console Insights. You can get to it via:

  • A link at the top of the Overview page
  • From the navigation menu of Google’s mobile app
  • Search Google for a query that your site ranks for

Search Console Insights is accessible without Google Analytics, though linking the two together will provide you with more significant amounts of data.

Analyzing Data In Search Console Insights

Google designed GSC Insights to offer a snapshot of content performance within recent weeks. It only shows GA data for the last 28 days, which is sometimes compared to the prior 28-day period.

With that being the case, it’s helpful to check GSC Insights regularly as the data is frequently updated.

If you have a GA4 property and don’t see any data in the Insights section after today’s update, here are a few reasons why:

Your GSC property is not associated with a GA property.
You do not have sufficient permissions on GA.
You have the wrong GA view selected in GSC.

For more information, see: Google Search Console Insights: 7 Questions Answered.


Source: Google Search Central on Twitter

Featured Image: Screenshot from developers.google.com/search/blog, July 2022. 





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