Google processes 5.6 billion searches a day. Most consumers look to Google when they start shopping online, but fewer than 10% of websites receive any traffic from searches. That means your position in Google’s search rankings can have a make-or-break impact on your business.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the art and science of making a website appear higher in search results. The fundamentals change from year to year as Google makes tweaks to its algorithms. Google does its best to prioritize high quality, informative, and relevant content. But they also factor in information such as page speed, images and video, and the user’s location.
Google is rolling out several new changes to search in 2022. Some important ones include:
- Improved page experience tracking
- Decreased effectiveness of link spamming
- Prioritizing relevant content
- Cracking down on keyword spamming
- Factoring in images and videos
- Giving preference to local results
- The Multitask Unified Model
- Emphasizing E-A-T
Let’s take a look at what each of these changes means, and how you can use them to your advantage in web development.
Improved Page Experience Tracking
While the content of a web page is what matters most for ranking, the actual experience of using the page matters as well. No one wants to visit a slow, unsafe website with way too many ads. Google now pays a lot of attention to page experience. This includes factors such as:
- mobile usability
- HTTPS usage
- security issues
- ad issues
The point of this update is to give preference to pages that people can comfortably read, regardless of content. Although content is of course still important, you must also make sure that your website as a whole is safe and streamlined. Be sure to optimize page speed as best you can.
Google offers the ability to examine your own page’s experience report with their Search Console. No guessing! You can use this tool to find out exactly how your pages are performing, and how you can tweak them to create a better experience.
Decreased Effectiveness of Link Spamming
Open just about any blog post on the internet, and you see almost as many blue words as black. The number of hyperlinks on a typical blog post has been expanding over the past few years, and not always for good reasons.
In theory, links help direct readers to useful information. But they are often distracting. Many sites spam unhelpful, self-referential links in an attempt to improve their rankings.
Google is cracking down on this practice. In a recent blog post, they reported on their efforts to crack down on link spam. Their recommendation? Follow best practices, and qualify outbound links. A link to an affiliate site for marketing purposes, for example, should be annotated with rel=“sponsored”.
Prioritizing Relevant Content
With millions of websites sometimes vying for the top spot for one keyword, Google needs to filter out what’s really relevant and what isn’t. This has always been a problem, and in 2022, Google is continuing to find solutions. Pages that have misleading titles or irrelevant content will lose points in the search algorithm.
To make sure that your content stays relevant, just don’t try to cheat. Refrain from spamming your website with irrelevant information, unnecessary keywords, and clickbait titles without substantive content. Instead, put out high quality, focused content. Think about what human beings would like to read, instead of what you think Google’s algorithms might prefer.
Crackdown on Keyword Spamming
Keyword spamming has been a sleazy approach to SEO for decades. Twenty years ago this might have meant a wall of useless text. Today, keyword spammers are more clever, and Google has to keep up.
Mentioning the same word over and over again, without reason, can get your content flagged as spam. It is smarter to use a broader vocabulary in describing your topic. Google’s aim is to identify high quality content that is relevant to the search query. To that end, they will select content based on synonyms and similar meanings. To rank for a keyword, it may not always even be necessary to use it, so long as you are still talking about the same topic.
What should you do? Just write normally. When targeting a keyword, use it as many times as feels natural. Don’t bend grammar rules just to fit in your keyword another time. And use synonyms to avoid repetitive language.
Images and Videos as Factors in Ranking
High quality content is often multimedia. It can contain images and videos as well as text. While text will play the dominant role in the search algorithm, Google can now take info from other mediums to help rank.
To make the best use of your videos and pictures, make sure that they are high quality and relevant. You can even make sure that their title metadata signifies their relevance to the page.
Google Will Give Preference to Local Information
People will often prefer to shop local if they can. Even Amazon Prime’s 2-day delivery can’t beat a quick trip to a nearby store. For this reason, Google is giving preference to search results that pertain to the searcher’s location.
You can only optimize this factor so much. If you are located somewhere, that means you aren’t located anywhere else. The best thing you can do is to make sure that Google does know your location, so that you will get a boost in local rankings. To do this, make sure you have updated contact info with your address on your website.
The Multitask Unified Model
MUM’s the word.
Last year, Google unveiled MUM: the Multitask Unified Model. MUM is a neural-network AI that tries to better understand what you are querying. MUM understands information across both text and image, and in future releases is planned to also understand video.
MUM is a more advanced version of a previous Google technology, BERT. BERT was also made to better understand what people search, but MUM is supposed to be 1,000 times more powerful.
One thing MUM can do is find and translate information across 75 different languages. This helps Google to tap into more information to answer your questions.
MUM serves to simplify the search engine experience by processing more complex queries. Instead of simply searching for keywords, MUM tries to look for an informed answer to your question.
Users previously had to do multiple searches to get the right information. For example, suppose you have hiked Mt. Fuji in Japan, and want to know if you can hike Mt. Everest. Mum can look at your search query and realize that you are taking about two different mountains, and how your experience on each of them might differ. It can then look for information related to training, gear, and legal requirements.
Some specific features of MUM include:
- Using Google Lens and images for visual search
- Translating results from multiple language sources
- Suggesting subtopics for search queries
- A “Things to Know” section that provides key info about your search
- Options to refine or broaden the search without changing it
- Misspelt word recognition
- Understanding the important moments in videos
There will likely be many ways to benefit from MUM. However, since the technology is so new, it may require a bit of experimentation. Since MUM helps handle complex and niche queries, this means you may benefit from targeting more complex and niche topics. Consider posting content on any and all questions a potential customer might have. And since MUM can interpret images, adding high quality, relevant images to your content may also give you a boost.
An Emphasis on E-A-T
Hungry? E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Emphasizing E-A-T is Google’s answer to the modern misinformation crisis. Put simply, linking to expert verified, trustworthy information helps you. Linking to fake news and bogus information will hurt you. This is especially important in consequential fields like medicine or finance. If you run a comedy or cooking blog, on the other hand, there might not be as much need for E-A-T.
To get more E-A-T, consider linking to the following kinds of sources:
- Academic journals
- Government publications
- Industry websites
- Verified LinkedIn pages
When in doubt, ask yourself: would I cite this link in an academic essay?
Making the most of Google’s updates for Web Development
The fundamentals of good SEO have not changed: make good content, and put it on your website. Focus on pleasing people, not computers. However, Google’s new updates do give you some room for scoring some extra points here and there. They also give you the opportunity to lose a few points, if you try to cheat.
To optimize for Google’s search algorithm in 2022, consider doing the following:
- Checking out your page experience score in the Search Console
- Increasing mobile usability, loading speed, and security.
- Including high quality, relevant, images and video.
- Qualifying outbound links with the proper markers.
- Including your business or organization address on your website.
- Linking to sources that display Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Conversely, to avoid losing ground, avoid doing these actions:
- Spamming your website with irrelevant links.
- Using the same keyword again and again.
- Linking to sources of dubious credibility.
In any case, SEO is as much art as science. Results take several months at minimum, and by then Google may have added new changes to its search feature. That’s why it is so important to keep on top of the latest trends in SEO.