A well-executed search engine optimization (SEO) strategy helps you spread your brand message, promote your products, and speak directly to the needs of your audience.
Over the last several years, a growing number of businesses have sought to “algorithm proof” their optimization methods. Instead of asking, “What specific changes will help me rank better?” SEOs are instead posing the question, “What are the values and long-term goals of search engines and how can I incorporate these into my strategy?”
If the idea of an “algorithm-proofed” SEO strategy sounds like a valuable asset for your organization, you’re in the right place. This post shows you exactly how to build an evergreen and sustainable approach to optimization that has a high chance of withstanding the inevitable changes that the future will bring.
What Is Algorithm Proofing?
Algorithm proofing your SEO strategy is about understanding the principles that guide Google and other search engines rather than specific technical ranking factors. Invariably, this means producing high-quality content and ensuring a positive user experience.
Technical on-page and off-page SEO is important, and often complements the creation of engaging, useful content. But the fundamentals of authoritativeness and quality should always come first, as seen with Google’s E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust) guidelines.
One recent example that illustrates the move towards content quality as the core ranking criteria is Google’s “helpful content” update, which began rolling out in late August. Among other factors, the algorithm change devalues content that regurgitates what already exists on the web, automated (AI) content creation, and excessive word counts.
1. Prioritize the Experience of Site Visitors
Prioritizing the experience of your site visitors is the most fundamental aspect of creating an evergreen SEO strategy. Your primary focus should be on optimizing for web traffic, not an analysis of search engine ranking factors.
It’s also worth noting that the phrase “user experience” is too narrow in this context. It typically refers to how a site visitor interacts with the structural elements of a site’s design (navigation, responsiveness, page speed, etc.) and not overall experience, which encompasses your content and how precisely it meets a searcher’s informational, commercial or entertainment needs.
User experience in the technical sense is important. But SEOs should take a holistic view of site experience. If you are guided by two questions—“What do my visitors want?” and “What is the best way to give it to them?”—you will naturally meet search engines’ algorithm criteria.
All the signs show that Google and other search engines are moving towards a model that prioritizes the needs of searchers, not content that fulfills an arbitrary set of technical criteria. So don’t go chasin’ algorithms. Instead, focus on sustainable tactics rooted in a deep knowledge of what your customers want.
2. Implement a Smart Technical SEO Strategy
Technical SEO isn’t to be avoided. In fact, it’s crucial to ensure your content is accessible and machine-readable. Canonical tags and hreflang attributes aren’t going anywhere. It’s simply that they don’t constitute the whole picture.
The bulk of your technical strategy should flow naturally from a nuanced understanding of your users and an awareness of what makes up a superlative customer experience. You should start with how your content is crawled on a website and move through to visitor conversions (in terms of your key digital goals).
HTML5, fast-loading pages, well-structured articles with clear headings, schema markup, HTTPS—search engines value all these things because they ultimately provide a better experience for the visitor.
It’s also worth noting that while user experience should be prioritized, optimizing for specific rank factors unrelated to user experience is still important. For example, building backlinks is still a beneficial SEO activity and demonstrates trust. Other tasks that are separate from the experience of visitors, such as the publication of a sitemap, also help search engines index your site more quickly.
3. Create Informative, Authoritative Content
The tenets of good content have remained largely the same since William Caxton first invented the printing press, and probably existed even further back.
E-A-T guidelines (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) encapsulate Google’s view of what makes up high-quality content. And this is likely mirrored by other search engines.
Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which give a useful insight into the general philosophy of Google, stipulate the following points:
The amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:
- The expertise of the creator of the MC [Main Content].
- The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
- The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
Recent algorithm updates affecting product reviews are an excellent example of how the algorithm penalizes and rewards authoritative content.
4. Optimize Content for Position Zero and Featured Snippets
Content creation processes should be based on a combination of tested SEO principles and an understanding of searcher intent. This approach provides the best possible chance of ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPs), particularly for position zero results and featured snippets.
Incorporate the following guidelines into your workflow to create highly rankable content:
- Frame headers as questions and write succinct answers that are suitable for inclusion in the SERPs as featured snippets.
- Use keywords to guide the structure of your article, but avoid “stuffing.” Research new keywords—most topics are evolving entities—and incorporate new sections into existing content.
- Create content that mirrors modern reading habits. Implement a clear headline structure to enable scanning, use short paragraphs, make abundant use of bullet points and lists, and avoid obfuscation and ambiguous language.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that the principles of E-A-T apply at every stage of content creation and work in concert with structural considerations.
5. Build an Effective Tech Stack
All-in-one platforms have largely replaced SEO point solutions. This is mainly due to the fact that putting together a comprehensive picture of SEO performance that incorporates more than half a dozen data sources is a time-consuming and unwieldy task, even for the best marketer in the world.
The BrightEdge app provides an example of how integrated platforms generate insights into the nature of content performance in an efficient and integrated way. BrightEdge tools are used (among other things) to identify areas for improving page experience (Content IQ), find opportunities to satisfy unmet needs (Market Insights and Opportunity Forecasting), and use data to determine which content is successful (Data Cube).
6. Create Different Types of Content
A multimedia approach is usually best for site visitors. A varied content mix appeals to a variety of audience segments and accounts for different ways of learning.
Certain individuals like bullet points, others respond better to infographics and charts, and some swear by video. All content choices should, of course, be informed by research into what mediums resonate best with your users.
Variations of written content like case studies, white papers, infographics, and so on also have applications beyond search optimization. Often they can be utilized across departments for the purposes of sales, marketing, and customer onboarding.
Finally, publishing well-crafted videos will likely increase exposure in search engines by allowing you to rank for terms with strong visual intent.
7. Adopt a Data-Driven SEO and Content Strategy
Ah, good old data. The term “data-driven” has become a well-worn cliche over the last several years. It’s one of the buzziest marketing buzzwords out there. And it’s often misunderstood in an SEO context.
Data lets you see which content performs well, identify the reasons for its popularity, and apply insights to future strategies.
Data also enables you to build detailed profiles, understand personas, clarify intent, and cultivate empathy with searchers’ needs. Qualitative data, in the form of feedback (sentiment analysis), is also important and can often be processed with automated tools.
Comprehensive SEO platforms like BrightEdge will typically provide analytics tools. For example, Market Signal generates data observations about under-performing content along with guidance about how it can be improved. In addition, Page Reporting is a tracking platform for establishing page-level metrics like conversion and social media shares.
8. Follow Ranking Algorithms and Adjust Your Strategy Accordingly
Algorithm changes provide insights into which aspects of your SEO strategy are not functioning as well as they might.
The most recent major update rolled out in July and applied to product reviews. This update provided an opportunity for SEOs to work with guidelines outlined in Google Search Central to identify problematic areas in their content strategy.
Pay close attention to your SEO performance after both minor and major (core) algorithm changes and audit your site based on ranking fluctuations. This is one of the most effective ways to make positive modifications, especially when undertaken in conjunction with industry analysis from other web admins.
Keep in mind that Google publishes information about core and other significant updates.
9. Drive a Democratized, Department-Spanning SEO Strategy
SEO is increasingly moving beyond the walls—virtual and physical—of the SEO department.
High-quality content and user experience require the input of various departments, including marketing, web development, data management, and more.
As such, it is essential to foster cross-department collaboration within your organization. This ensures that everyone is moving together in concert to achieve your website goals.
Travel back a decade and the search engine landscape was wildly different from the present day. It was possible to rank for high-volume terms with keyword-stuffed pages and a handful of links from a forum.
However, search engines have always aimed to provide searchers with the content they need. This hasn’t changed since Archie, the world’s first search engine, was released in 1990. The methods have evolved. But the aim has always remained the same.
Algorithms are constantly moving closer to the underlying principles—informative content and excellent customer experience—that they first sought to manifest. And understanding and implementing these principles is the best way to bullet-proof your SEO strategy.
- Google Algorithm Updates: A Running Timeline of Major Changes
- Mobile SEO: Why It’s Important and How to Optimize Your Site in 2022
- How to Optimize for Featured Snippets and Position Zero
- Optimizing for Search Amid the Data Revolution