In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?

In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?

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In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?
Technology changes quickly, and lately it seems like it’s been changing faster than ever before. While artificial intelligence has been a part of that technological landscape for many years in varying forms, it’s been making headlines lately because of the release of ChatGPT and other generative AI programs. Now, it’s begun to change the landscape of SEO.

How Does AI Play a Role in Google’s SERP Rankings?

Google has used AI in its algorithm for a long time. So how is AI only recently changing the SEO landscape? The answer has to do with the newer generative AI like ChatGPT. Google has started to include responses from its own generative AI platform, Bard, at the top of search engine results pages. This takes up a lot of real estate on the SERP. Users have to scroll down to see any search results at all, even the very first result. This means that the value of that top spot isn’t what it used to be. For those ranked lower on the SERP, there’s a chance users may never scroll down that far.

Who Is Google’s Algorithm Ranking the Highest?

There are many signals that Google’s algorithm pays attention to when it comes to determining search rankings. User interaction is a major one. Google’s search algorithm looks at such signals as clicks, bounce rate, dwell time, and more; websites that not only attract users to click the link but then also remain on the site for longer tend to end up higher in the SERP rankings. In theory, this means that really good content that is the most helpful to users should rank at the top. However, it often ends up being those with the highest ad spend in practice.

How Does Media Spend Impact Google’s SERP Rankings?

Larger companies with bigger budgets for ad and media spend are going to be more visible. Users will therefore recognize these brands more readily, leading them to more frequently click on links belonging to brands they already know and trust. This means that it can be difficult for new or smaller brands to compete; Google shows users what they expect and want to see, which can mean that it shows more popular content and may not leave room for brands that can’t pay to gain that same level of popularity via advertising.

Is Google Favoring Bigger Brands in SEO?

When asked this question, Amanda Shaffer, the founder and CEO of BrainVine, responded:

“The short answer is that it’s complicated, primarily because there’s more than one type of SEO these days. However, within the current landscape and in the more traditional sense of how SEO has functioned during the last decade, the answer is mostly yes.”

 

Amanda Shaffer, Founder & CEO of BrainVine

How Can Smaller Brands Compete in the Modern SEO Landscape?

Even if smaller or newer brands may find themselves priced out of the typical SEO landscape thanks to larger brands and AI taking up the bulk of the SERP real estate, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still options. Local SEO, in which you focus on building a brand within your local area, can be a good option because bigger companies may be focusing on a larger scale. Another option is YouTube; even with generative AI added to SERPs, YouTube videos are often featured prominently at the top. Growing a YouTube channel could be a way to compete for space at the top of a search engine results page.

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How to Future-Proof Your SEO Strategy

How to Future-Proof Your SEO Strategy

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How to Future-Proof Your SEO Strategy

In the SEO world, search rankings are the most important thing. Every time Google releases a new update, changing their algorithm yet again, website owners are left scrambling to update their SEO so they don’t lose their page ranks.

But what if you didn’t have to? What if every time a Google update came out, you could just sit back, confident that your SEO is already where it needs to be? What if you could anticipate the changes Google is going to make?

Google’s Goal

From its inception, Google’s focus has been the users, not the websites, and not SEO. Early in Google’s lifespan, the Internet was filled with websites that gamed the system, using black-hat SEO tactics that prioritized search rankings at the expense of user experience. Google’s first updates, including Panda and Hummingbird, were designed to rectify this.

Google wanted to put user experience first.

A Different SEO World

Early SEO techniques generally involved getting keywords onto pages as many times as possible, getting backlinks, no matter how spammy, and participating in link farms. The Internet has come a long way since then and is much better for it. Anyone who has experienced both early Google and Google now can attest to the fact that it’s a lot easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

And Google just keeps getting smarter and smarter.

Outsmarting Google

It’s not so much a matter of outsmarting Google or seeing the future. It’s a matter of aligning your own goals with Google’s. If Google’s goal is to provide the best possible user experience, then their algorithm will continue to be updated to make that goal a reality. Any SEO technique that doesn’t put UX, or user experience, first is going to get punished in the rankings the next time there’s an update, even if the techniques being used are technically still okay.

Putting the Users First

Chances are good that if you create your SEO strategy with user experience in mind, that strategy can last through any updates Google might put out there. Obviously, it’s a good idea to review your strategy frequently to ensure that it is still current and working, but if your own goals align with Google’s, then you’ll be ahead of the game. When the next updates roll out, you won’t have to make as many changes to your site as those who are still trying to game the system at the users’ expense.

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How Do Google Core Updates Affect SEO?

How Do Google Core Updates Affect SEO?

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Google often releases core updates to its algorithm in order to either address a problem or to improve the relevance and quality of search results for users. With Google changing how its search algorithm works so frequently, there can be some disruptions to SEO. But how, exactly, do core updates affect SEO and what can you do about it?

Do Core Updates Change SERP Rankings?

The short answer is that yes, an update can impact your rankings. It doesn’t always; in many cases, rankings may stay the same if your content still meets Google’s requirements for high quality. However, because the core update may reassess what Google considers to be top quality, rankings may decrease or even increase, depending on how your content matches up with the new qualifications.

What Does It Mean If Your Rankings Decrease After a Core Update?

Each core update just means that Google is adjusting how it ranks content in order to better match users with the best possible search results. In some cases, you may have ranked higher on a keyword that didn’t quite match your content as well and now you rank better for other, more suitable keywords. In other cases, you may need to revisit your content quality and update accordingly to meet Google’s standards.

What Can You Do If Your Rankings Drop After a Core Update?

Whether there’s something you can do or not will depend on the core update. If there’s a specific action you can take to restore your rankings to what they were before the update, Google will let you know. For example, when it switched to mobile-first indexing, optimizing for mobile devices first was something Google announced that you could do to improve your rankings. Sometimes, however, there’s nothing specific and Google will announce that along with the core update.

What Should You Do If There’s Nothing To Fix After a Core Update?

If Google has announced that there’s nothing to fix after a core update, then you should focus on improving the quality of your content and your website. This can mean focusing on EAT principles in your written content as well as improving the technical SEO on your website for things like loading speed.

Do Google Core Updates Cause Ranking Volatility?

It’s possible that a core update could cause volatility in the search rankings as the algorithm adjusts to the new criteria. Rankings may not stay static and may change multiple times during the weeks that the update is being rolled out. If in the immediate aftermath of an update, your rankings aren’t what you’d expect, don’t panic. It may take some time for the rankings to settle after the gradual rollout of the update.

Can You Anticipate a Core Update’s Ranking Changes?

There’s no real way to anticipate the changes that Google will make ahead of time. However, there are things you can do to future-proof your SEO. Focus on producing quality content that will benefit and engage your users. If users find your content genuinely useful and keep coming back to it, then your rankings may more easily recover or may not be affected at all by an update. You should also regularly revisit your technical SEO to make sure that your site is keeping up with current expectations for load speed.

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Preparing Your SEO Strategy for the Holidays

Preparing Your SEO Strategy for the Holidays

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man and woman staring at laptop

We’re nearing that time of year again. The holidays are almost upon us and if your business is to maximize this season, then it’s essential to make sure that your SEO strategy is prepared for it. SEO is typically a long game rather than showing short-term benefits, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look at your strategy in the lead-up to the holiday season.

Is Your Website Optimized for Mobile?

Google has been operating on a mobile-first approach when it comes to website optimization for many years now. Your site, therefore, is probably already optimized for mobile. But it’s a good idea to check to be sure. Most purchases are made on mobile, so it’s worth double-checking that you’re not inadvertently driving away potential customers because your site isn’t loading as quickly or looks clunky on mobile.

Do I Need To Do Holiday Keyword Research?

No matter which holiday you celebrate or how you celebrate that holiday, online search behavior changes in November and December. People are shopping for gifts, preparing to travel, hosting visiting relatives, and much more. You’ll want to know what your audience is searching for at this time of year in order to properly optimize your website, any special landing pages you create for the holidays, and your marketing efforts.

Are Last Year’s Trends Relevant for This Year?

While each year will be different, trends from previous years can help to inform you what to focus on. Look at your own site data to determine which pages were the most popular with your audience at this time in previous years. These should be your focus and can help to inform your overall strategy.

Does Content Need To Be Holiday-Themed?

People search for holiday-related content during the holidays. For that reason alone, it’s a good idea to have some holiday-themed content planned out. Ideally, you should have begun planning your content for the holiday season several months before it began. In particular, if you’re offering deals for Cyber Monday and Black Friday, you’ll want content ready promoting those. The holidays are a great opportunity to highlight your products and services and if you don’t have holiday content ready to promote those, you could be missing out.

Should I Use Generative AI?

via GIPHY

Generative AI has been a popular tool for a variety of different tasks. It can be an aid to writers and marketers as well as provide a first line of defense in customer service. Many websites now use generative AI chatbots to help field questions their customers have, helping those customers more quickly and reducing the number that need to wait for a phone call or an email.

When Should I Start My Holiday SEO Strategy?

The sooner you can start prepping for the holidays, the better. Ideally, you would have months to prepare, analyze data and trends, and create the content for your holiday SEO strategy. If you haven’t started yet, then it’s better late than never, however. Get started as soon as you can so you don’t miss out on the possible benefits that SEO for the holidays can bring.

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What’s New With Google’s Helpful Content Update?

What’s New With Google’s Helpful Content Update?

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woman with a laptop browsing the net

Google has released the September 2023 helpful content update. As with all search engine updates, it’s important to understand the changes being made and how these changes will affect your websites.

The helpful content update is expected to roll out over a two-week period from its initial release and will encompass revisions to Google’s helpful content system.
man with a cup

What Is the Google Helpful Content System?

The helpful content system that Google utilizes is a system that’s designed to guide users to the most relevant, appropriate, and helpful content out there. Google is working towards polishing up this system and this update is meant to bring the search engine one step closer to that goal.

The primary focus of this system is to promote content that is knowledgeable and often written or reviewed by experts in the field. This update aims to push out quality websites while the less relevant sites get lower rankings.

What Will Google’s Update Improve?

When Google announced this new update, it mentioned that there would be an “improved classifier” for helpful content systems. A classifier is a machine learning algorithm that is used to assign a class label to data input. In other words, this helpful content update will improve these labels to push out the most relevant content associated with different search keywords and phrases.

How Does the Update Affect Third-Party Content?

Google has let their opinion on third-party content be known as early as 2019. They’ve expressed that while it’s not technically against their guidelines, hosting third-party content could affect the main site’s rankings. Because of this, Google has recommended against renting out subdomains or subfolders without close supervision from the main site.

With the new update, Google states, “If you host third-party content on your main site or in your subdomains, understand that such content may be included in site-wide signals we generate, such as the helpfulness of content.” They then go on to say that if the third-party content is independent of the main site’s purpose or has little to no supervision from the main site, they recommend blocking it from being indexed by Google. Google’s official guidance to having search engine success is to provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your brand.

Where Does AI-Written Content Fit In?

Previously, Google’s wording for the update read said that their aim was to “better ensure people see original helpful content written by people, for people in search results.” This gave the impression that websites that used AI to help write their content would not be as relevant to users.

However, Google adjusted its stance and now reads that it wants to ensure people see “original helpful content created for people in search results.” This solidifies the fact that content does not need to be written solely by humans to be considered helpful, allowing AI-written content to also appear in search results. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that AI-written content will rank as highly as human-written content, which can offer expertise and experience that AI doesn’t have.

What if Your Website Is Negatively Affected by This Update?

If you’ve seen a trend in your site being negatively affected by Google’s past helpful content updates, Google suggests self-assessing your content. Google asserts that if you’re producing helpful, original, and relevant content then there is no need to do anything in preparation for this update. On the contrary, Google believes that this update will benefit those who write helpful content since this update is designed to reward those helpful websites.

Codes on a black screen

What Are Ways You Can Make Your Content Helpful?

If your analytics are being affected by this update, then it may be time to polish up your website to become more helpful for users. There are many ways you can update your strategy and content to show Google’s helpful content system that your content is relevant to users.

Show Your Expertise

Google has been saying that it’s helpful to have your content written OR reviewed by an expert. This can mean hiring individuals who are specialized in that area to write and/or edit the content for your website. It should be obvious in the way the content is written that the individual has a certain expertise or enthusiasm for the content. The way that experts write about their special topics is noticeably different than how amateurs write about a topic.

Refresh Content if You’re Going To Republish

A common mistake made by content creators is re-uploading content from years ago to make their website feel more “fresh”. However, Google is familiar with this strategy and it is not beneficial for you. If you plan on re-uploading blogs or webpages, be sure that you’re also refreshing that content so it stays relevant. If you aren’t substantially changing the content and are just putting an updated date on an outdated piece of content, you might be hurting your website more than helping it.

Only Remove Irrelevant Older Content

While it’s important to clean up your website for relevancy’s sake, it’s important that you aren’t removing or adding content just to make your website “look fresh.” Google has gone on record to say that this doesn’t necessarily help to increase your search rankings. Instead, you should focus on analyzing your existing content and making sure that it’s relevant to your audience and suits your site’s purpose and mission. You can remove older content if it no longer works for your site.

What Should We Expect From Google?

This September 2023 helpful content update is making changes to how content is provided to its users. Earlier this year in May, Google said that a helpful content system update would be released to improve how it ranks results in searches with a greater focus on content with unique expertise and experience. While minor improvements can be seen in this update, Google says, “This work is still continuing and is not part of this particular update. We’ll share more about our work in this area in the future.” This is a promise from Google that better optimization to push out more helpful content with unique expertise and experience will be seen in the future.

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How To Use ChatGPT for SEO

How To Use ChatGPT for SEO

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How To Use ChatGPT for SEO

While it’s not a good idea to completely replace human workers with ChatGPT, such AI technology can be an incredibly useful tool in a variety of industries, from writing to SEO. When it comes to SEO, it’s important for a human expert to look over anything AI-produced for accuracy, but a tool like ChatGPT can make certain tasks faster and easier when used properly.

Can You Use ChatGPT for Keyword Research?

ChatGPT can help make the keyword research process a lot faster. All you have to do is ask the AI for a list of keywords for a blog or web page about a certain topic. It’s not necessarily the best tool for selecting keywords because it doesn’t provide data about the search volume for each keyword. However, it can be an excellent place to begin your research and can give you some good ideas for long-tail keywords, LSI keywords, and more. If you’ve already decided on your primary keywords, for example, you can ask ChatGPT to suggest similar keywords that you can use in the content or long-tail queries that can be used as headers.

researching on laptop

Can You Use ChatGPT for Content Brainstorming?

ChatGPT may be better at helping with a content strategy. You can ask the AI for suggestions regarding topics and titles for your content. You’ll still need to apply your own expertise regarding what would resonate with your audience, but you use the tool to expand your ideas list much faster than you might think of them on your own.

Can You Use ChatGPT for Content Writing?

The short answer is that yes, you can ask ChatGPT to produce sentences, paragraphs, and even pages of written content. The problem is that ChatGPT isn’t actually writing; it’s producing what it predicts ought to come next based on a dataset that it was trained on. AI can’t be original in the same way that humans are. ChatGPT also won’t understand a human’s experience and therefore its content may seem a bit surface-level or thin to your readers.

To help with your content, try using ChatGPT to create an outline. This could help you to better organize your thoughts when writing and produce the content more quickly yourself. Alternatively, you could ask ChatGPT to write content for you, but be aware that a human writer will need to thoroughly go over it to improve it and to ensure that everything is accurate.

typing

How Can ChatGPT Help With Writing?

ChatGPT may not be a writer, but it can help with the drafting process and with editing. You can ask ChatGPT to check over your written content for grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors. You can also ask it to check for tone and make suggestions to make your content more personable, for example, or more professional, depending on what you need.

Can You Use ChatGPT for SEO Optimization?

You can also use ChatGPT in your SEO optimization process. Try asking the AI for meta description samples or title tags. As with everything else, it’s important to take what ChatGPT provides as a suggestion rather than using it as-is. Its meta descriptions might be too long, for example. Or the tags it produces may not be relevant to your topic. However, it can help to provide a starting point.

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