The future of SEO: Search, trends, content, Google algorithm update

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The future of SEO seemed pretty clear about a year ago… until the latest Google algorithm updates started rolling out in 2021.

Throughout June and July of this year, Google has rolled out at least eight updates, the last of which have many SEOs pulling out their hair and begging for clarification.

Can’t be that bad, you say?

You can read the full post at Search Engine Roundtable, but here are some of the comments they share regarding the present state of things:
  1. “More drops this morning for me. A term we ranked top 2 for for over 4 years, we’ve now dropped to 4, to 6, to now 9.”
  2. “Today my home page traffic starts down 70% at 10am. Google definitely has a beef with my sites home page now, it won’t allow the page to ranks for any of the terms it’s was ranking well on for a decade.” “Huge drop in traffic in the first half of the day yesterday…USA, UK and Canada. 2nd half of the day returned to normal. Today a big recovery of top three ranking terms and normal USA, CA, AU traffic, but UK is down by 68%. I am noticing updates almost every Friday, with UK traffic vanishing on weekends and a big dip in “direct” traffic. Also traffic to my home page mysteriously vanishes for half a day on a regular basis. These are all types of traffic throttling, but also there are way more videos and other types of feeds now, so if you aren’t top three you basically get pushed to the end of the page or page two.”
  3. “Google seems to be hitting technically perfect sites that’s have ranked well for years for ones with *tons* of issues to put it mildly. Maybe G is thinking these great site owners must the money required for ads or have figured they have spent to many years at the top so a sudden drop will force them into ads? I find it hard to believe Google has thought these sites were amazing for years then just said, nope we got it wrong all these years/updates and pulled the plug on them on a single month/update.”

How did we get here? The Page Experience update and other things we don’t fully understand yet

In 2020, Google began discussing the Page Experience update, stressing that folks would need to focus on Core Web Vitals (CWV), along with creating great content in general.

Google defines the Page Experience Update as:

“Page experience is a set of signals that measure how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page beyond its pure information value. It includes Core Web Vitals, which is a set of metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of the page. It also includes existing Search signals: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.”

In prior algorithm updates, Google had previously down-ranked content that used nefarious methods to rank, like keyword stuffing and link schemes, so many forward-facing orgs had been investing in content strategies, nurture flows, UX, CX, and how to obtain organic search returns for years.

Great content isn’t simple – although great content looks simple.

As folks in the industry began prepping for the update, Google pushed it back until 2021. They’re now stating that the complete roll-out will be finished by the end of August this year.

Google’s search engine is an algorithm, not a person. That algorithm learns over time what folks want, and adjusts. There are trillions of keywords being chased, and just as many algorithms applied to those queries.

Understanding and learning SEO methodologies that’ll help your site rank for relevant terms isn’t a job for the faint of heart – and those who can do this are in high demand today.

Shrouded in mystery: Google updates, CWV, CLS, WTF

So what’s a person to do when staring down something that could greatly harm or help your business?

We decided to round up some of the brightest minds around SEO and content and have a live discussion about the topic:

  • Erica Davis, who leads strategic programs for SAP Customer Experience
  • Aaron Orendorff, who is the VP of Marketing for Common Thread Collective
  • Alwin Zachariah, who leads all things around global search and SEO at SAP

“Sure it’s live,” you say with some snark?

Trust me – it’s so live that as I was hosting it, my connection dropped, and I was booted from the session. (Marker 4:43)

When I returned, just a *bit* frazzled, Aaron had taken over.

After watching the session, I got goosebumps at the 7-minute mark, when Aaron said he “doesn’t pay attention to Google updates because they’re shrouded in mystery.”

Could he have been *more correct*?

If you’ve got 20 minutes to watch, it really is an incredible session on the future of SEO and approaching content for the digital era.

Fine. You don’t believe me? Fantastic takeaways from our session:

Erica is always spot on, but maybe never more so than when she described how much search impacts her life when it comes to work – and personally (rabbit holes, anyone?). She said, “it’s a blessing and a curse,’ and also noted that, like everyone in business who is doing it right:

“Search is probably the biggest part of what I’m doing.” – Erica Davis

Great sites that inspire Erica when it comes to search and creating great content:

Aaron added that he also uses the “people also ask” portion of Google, especially when creating long-form content.

Why our developers hate us: “Not an SEO doctor, but I play one on the internet”

So what’s the true north star that Aaron uses to continually deliver kick ass content? PageSpeed Insights and Core Web Vitals.

PageSpeed Insights allows you to pop in any URL to test the speed of it across multiple devices – and remember – if Google doesn’t think your page is loading quickly and offering a great experience, then you’re likely to see negative results once their Page Experience Update is complete at the end of August.

The most important things to watch when it comes to prepping your site for the future of SEO and the Page Experience Update:
  1. Page Speed
  2. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – you want that number to be as low as possible
If you’re a developer, the 9:45 mark is where you’ll find your magic/upcoming dartboard for the next time y’all get together.

Aaron and I discuss how much we use Google Search Console and start digging into details – many times then facing the disdain of our developers who have to grind their teeth as we ask, “well, could ‘we’ just…”

The hard truth: There’s no “just.” Content is a long-game, hard-played, and takes an incredible amount of work from experts across multiple functions. That’s the future of SEO, content, and business.

Another favorite moment: Aaron describes the process they use for new content, that’s “awkward as F” – reading it aloud among the team. Could anything sound more painful… or brilliant?

Aaron is always dropping wisdom on his Twitter feed, which you can follow HERE.

Page Experience Update: The future of SEO – and business – is growth hacking

Content marketing is all about getting found; there is no point in creating content that nobody can find.

“Content is the essential element to a successful content marketing strategy, but content alone cannot get you success.
Experience matters.”
– Alwin Zachariah

Content, brand, and the future of SEO will rely upon the following, according to Zachariah, who begins dropping his wisdom at the 12-minute mark:
  1. Choice of platform
  2. Site and content structure
  3. How your visitors experience the content on the site across digital landscapes and devices
  4. How your customers, prospects, and visitors experience content is key
  5. Content marketing is a team effort that’s about delivering value
  6. You need IT, UX, design, SEO, subject matter experts, writers – it takes a village
  7. Communicate in words your customers understand – content marketing is not about selling – it’s about helping

Alwin also points out that your brand experience starts on the search results page.

Again, louder for the folks in front: Your brand experience starts on the search results page. So, if you’re not getting found… you get the picture.

Finally, it wouldn’t be fitting to close this out without mentioning the deeply personal and emotional moment that Alwin brought about when talking about great content (begins around the 15-minute mark) – because it speaks to what’s required: lots and lots of heart.

“When you said ‘in the language they speak… that’s the merging together of what people call the technical side of things, but it’s not – those are the words humans are using to look and understand things…” – Aaron Orendorff

You’ve got to genuinely want to help your customers and solve their pain points. Authenticity matters.

And once you decide how you’ll help them, you’ve got to speak in a language they understand, and that matters to them.

Talk like a human. Because you’re trying to reach other humans. And, above all, be a good human.

Watch our ‘SE-Ohhh MY’ session via LinkedIn HERE or YouTube HERE

What are the data privacy issues keeping execs awake at night?
We’ve got them – and the solutions – HERE.

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Jenn Vande Zande

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