In a world that is constantly changing, it’s nice to have up to date strategies that help you stay ahead of the pack. SEO strategies are no different, especially with a marketing channel that makes up such a large percentage of revenue for many businesses and is always changing.

I’ve been in SEO officially for 11 years, though have been around the periphery of it and building businesses and audiences online since the mid-2000s. In that time a lot has changed, but also a lot has stayed the same.

This post is divided into two sections:

  • What has not changed in SEO
  • SEO strategies that work to drive traffic in 2022

What has not changed in SEO

There are a lot of people on the internet who will try to tell you that “everything has changed” and “{thing} is dead now.”

These people have something to sell you.

Reality is that everyone has something to sell you (including me) and we should recognize that, but also that there are people who will manipulate you to sell you something.

I don’t do that.

As I said I’ve been in SEO for 11 years officially and worked on some of the largest websites on the internet to drive tens of millions of visitors. I’ve built SEO teams and constructed strategies that companies executed over the years to substantially grow their businesses.

I still do SEO for my own websites and advise people on theirs (though no longer do retained SEO consulting, but we can help you find an SEO provider), so I’ve kept up with the industry and changes as they’ve happened over the years.

So what’s changed and what’s stayed the same?

At its core, SEO hasn’t changed.

The website that best matches the user’s needs is the website that should rank highest.

While it’s true that this is an aspirational goal for the search engines, I can say with confidence that over the years I’ve been involved in SEO (since 2009), the search engines have made large strides towards making it more of a reality.

In fact, over the years SEO professionals have more and more come to believe that user experience has an effect on search rankings (and of course, performance from your SEO investment) because it leads to happier users who come back more often and are more likely to buy. If a search engine’s goal is to serve up the website that matches the user’s needs, why would they not take this data into consideration?

SEO strategies and trends for 2022

Here are the SEO strategies that are working in 2021 and will continue to work in 2022, some with perhaps an increased impact because of the increasing impact they’ve had over the last few years.

User Intent

Over the years, SEOs have always suspected that search engines take the intent of the searcher and how it aligns with a piece of content into account when determining whether or not to rank that content.

This has especially accelerated over the last few years, and some of the main SEO tools (such as Semrush) have even rolled out features that show a keyword’s intent such as navigational, commercial, and informational.

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I expect this trend to continue heavily into 2022 and beyond because it makes searchers happier to see a piece of content that meets their specific needs. It’s also better for creators and businesses because we can more easily target content created for SEO through our marketing funnels more easily by creating content that satisfies the query at the right point in the potential future customer’s buying journey.

Expertise/Authority/Trust (“EAT”)

EAT has been a buzzword in the SEO community for a few years now, and like many new potential trends I’ve been guilty of rolling my eyes at it. After all, SEO has always just been about technical SEO, content created around keywords, and backlinks!

But as search engines have continued to evolve, and if you look at their history, it’s obvious that they have for a long time wanted to find a good way to attribute content to someone and to prioritize content created by a real expert as opposed to just someone who can do some research and write a lot of words around a specific keyword or topic.

EAT is especially important in verticals known as YMYL, or “Your Money or Your Life”, where the content’s accuracy is extremely important to a person or business’s financial or physical well being.

In those spaces, in order to combat harmful (mis and dis)information, I expect to see search engines continue to lean into this concept and find better and new ways to identify if someone is really an expert in that topic or not.

For non-YMYL, Google has said that “everyday expertise” through lived experience is enough. They also say that in some cases for YMYL queries, such as a forum, lived experience is enough to qualify as being an authority on a topic.

Core Web Vitals

Here’s another trend that has been talked about for about a year now that we are seeing the search engines prioritizing more and more. 

At its essence, Core Web Vitals are measurements of site quality based on three metrics that score a user’s experience loading a webpage. These metrics score: 

  1. how quickly page content loads, 
  2. how quickly a browser loading a webpage can respond to a user’s input, and 
  3. how unstable the content is as it loads in the browser.

Users love fast loading content, which is why Google has prioritized their own AMP technology for some years now. If content loads quickly, then the user is more likely to stay around and not hop back to the search results to find one that does.

Users are also impatient, so the quicker they can begin interacting with a page to find what they are looking for the better. Thus it’s better to not lock the scrolling experience until unnecessary elements (like unnecessary JavaScript or CSS tags!) have been loaded.

And thirdly, search engines are prioritizing content that appears laid out like expected and doesn’t move around as the page loads, such as with an image that is large and needs to be sized down for a mobile screen. This also helps with page speed, though requires a bit more technical work up front to make it work seamlessly. But if it’s a ranking factor, it’s likely heavily worth the investment.

AI-written content

The promise of AI has been alluring for a long time (cue Dream of the 90s in Portlandia), but it is finally here and we are starting to see the benefits of it. 

From ad copy to first drafts around topics written to drive traffic via SEO, AI is finally at the point where we can trust it to take a decent first pass that then can be cleaned up by a real expert.

This has the potential to dramatically decrease the amount of time that is needed for first drafts of marketing content, and thus potentially dramatically increase the amount of quality content that can be produced that does a topic full justice.

As a content creator, I recommend you try out some options like Jarvis for blog content, Anyword for ad copy, and CopyMatic for multilingual content.

Page speed

Page speed, or website load speed, has been long talked about as a ranking factor and important for SEO over the years. We talked a bit about this above in the Core Web Vitals section, but the reality is that page/site speed is more than just Core Web Vitals so this trend needs its own section.

Source

While you want to make sure that all of your pages load as quickly as possible, saying that doesn’t help you prioritize your pages. As you know as an SEO, websites are built with page templates in mind (at least when they’re built well), so there are some strings you can pull to improve your most important pages the fastest.

First, use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to measure multiple pages on your site such as your homepage, main services or category pages, product page (if ecommerce), and blog posts.

Then, prioritize the slowest ones to speed up. Your lowest hanging fruit will usually be optimizing your images to fit the layout correctly (on both desktop and mobile!), reducing the number of files required to load on a page (on WordPress, usually by minimizing plugins used), and using a caching plugin like WProcket on WordPress or similar on others.

Page speed is not an easy thing to improve, by the way. There is usually low hanging fruit which will dramatically increase your performance, but after that every incremental improvement will be hard fought.

Ideally, benchmark yourself against competitors and then aim to be faster than them.

Updated content

Did you know that there are over 7 million blog posts published per day (source)? In case it’s not obvious, that is a lot of content.

While some of it will undoubtedly be good, it’s hard to believe that a lot of it is worthy of being published or unique in some way.

If you’ve been investing in content over time for your site, you’ll undoubtedly have seen that content performance tends to decay over time. This is because search engines prioritize fresh content, and as more and more content is published your existing content gets pushed further and further down in your site architecture which makes it harder for both search engines and users to find, which naturally leads to its traffic and performance declining.

The best way to overcome this is update and possibly even republish content. We have multiple pieces on Credo that we update every year (this one will become one of them!) and have republished many with a new published date simply to move it back higher in the site architecture. Every time we do it, we see an increase in traffic to and conversions from that piece of content.

Content distribution

Link building is one of the three core pillars of SEO (alongside technical SEO and content), but over the last few years SEOs have absolutely seen a diminishing return on links built. It’s no longer possible to just rank on links alone.

Content distribution is a concept popularized by our friend Ross Simmonds, who runs Foundation Inc. The idea behind content distribution is that it’s easy to create content (and a lot is created every day on the internet), but much of it doesn’t get the visibility it deserves simply because the creator doesn’t actually distribute, or market, the content effectively! They’ve nailed the content side, but not the marketing part.

Content distribution can overlap with link building, but we shouldn’t just stop there. Content has the ability to be repurposed and used as a resource for content published in other places, but it can also be used to augment things like Quora Answers, Reddit discussions, and more. Of course, this must be done in a community-driven way, which is why so many SEOs have failed to do this effectively, but when done well it’s a powerful marketing tool that also drives search visibility.

Personalized search (Google Discover)

Personalized search is not new per se, but Google Discover was introduced in 2018 as a formal way to give searchers on Android (or the Google app on iPhone) a personalized feed of content that they might be interested in.

According to Google, “Discover actively tunes itself to a user’s interests and displays content that aligns with those interests. The content in Discover is automatically refreshed as new content is published, however Discover is designed to show all types of helpful content from across the web, not just newly published content.”

I fully expect Discover to continue to roll out further, as searchers are used to feed-style content and if Google can surface more relevant and interesting content to them in an easy way, they’ll continue to use it.

There are some ways to optimize for it too, so if you’re investing in high quality content around a specific topic focus it may be worth your time to make sure your content is discoverable (pun intended!)

Video

In my opinion (as a 12 year SEO veteran), video has always been a ranking factor and is increasingly so for a few reasons.

First, the internet has gone video. Instagram, TikTok, etc etc. Video is EVERYWHERE because users love it. Therefore, since users love it and search engines want to provide content that they want, search engines will prioritize pages that include video on them.

Second, video has a much higher barrier to entry than simple text or even graphic content. While video equipment is relatively cheap and easy (a good 4k webcam is just a hundred or so dollars, and you can easily record high quality video on an iPhone), the barrier to entry is simply a person’s willingness to get in front of the camera. Few are willing to do it, so those who are get outsized rewards.

A few ways to leverage video include:

  1. Embedding it on your website on pages that matter
  2. Using it to rank in addition to a page on your website, if uploaded to YouTube
  3. Repurpose it to social media to drive attention and referral traffic.

High value links

Let’s face it – links are still the currency of SEO. They’re still effective in large part simply because high value links are still extremely hard to get, and have become increasingly so as SEO has (finally) become mainstream and moved out of the backwaters of the internet.

High value links are high value because they are hard to get, and getting them requires doing something of immense value. Since the search engines want to return the best results, they want to rank the sites that are providing the most value!

That said, link building is extremely hard to do well and takes time to really work, which means an investment mindset is needed when engaging in it.

In fact, according to PrimoStats and Aira, “Over half (51%) of digital marketing professionals felt that an impact from link building could be seen within 1-3 months.”

This means that half of those investing in link building don’t feel an impact from link building within the first quarter of investing in it. Which means that you need to invest in it over time to really see the results from that investment.

The average website’s backlink profile looks something like this:

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As you can tell it’s most common to have links in the 20-50 Domain Authority range. It is harder to get the very authoritative (80+ Domain Authority) links simply because there are fewer of them to go around and those sites are harder to earn the trust of.

But as the search engines continue pushing on trust, both from authoritative and topic-relevant sources, they become more and more important every year.