niche surfer - Wave Issue 150

SEO or Bust?; August Core Update; Is Topical Authority Real?; More Landing Pages; Blocking GPTBot; Link Building Tips; and Much More!

SEO or Bust?

This past week, I caught up with an old friend and his team who were eager to dive into the deep end of SEO, topical authority/maps, E-E-A-T, and all those other buzzwords floating around our digital ocean.

You know what's funny? At the end of our talk, I told them:

SEO should not be your primary strategy right now because it doesn’t fit your goals, industry, target audience, budget, and priorities. You should be focusing on X, Y, and Z.

If I owned a full-service SEO agency, I would’ve fired myself! 😅 

It's not that they don't need SEO, it’s just not the immediate priority. They're in an industry where organic search traffic from Google and Bing won't be their bread and butter—at least not anytime soon.

They should still create important content to seed the site with, but they don’t need to put all their resources to creating hundreds of pieces of content right away.

I could have given them a complete BS answer of why they need SEO immediately and why a monthly retainer would be completely worth it, but that’s not me.

So, what's the takeaway here?

If you're not seeing the traffic numbers you'd hoped for, ask yourself:

Where does my target audience hang out? How do they learn more about the topics that matter to them?

I could craft you the world’s most epic topical map, which you use to publish Pulitzer-worthy articles. But if your audience isn't searching Google for that information, you’re pouring time and money down the drain.

The search traffic that you might get are the bots and scrapers because others are trying to emulate your site and posts.

If your target audience lives on social media - whether its’s YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, or the Platform formerly known as Twitter - that’s where you should be too.

Forget about wooing Google's algorithm. Your focus should be on cracking the code of these social media platforms.

One strategy is to identify the influencers in your space, from the small fish to big marlins, and collaborate with them.

Whether it's a one-off Reverse Blog Post (more on that below) or a deeper partnership, there are multiple routes to the same destination.

Don't make SEO your be-all and end-all.

Figure out your goals. Understand the target audience that serves your goals. That’s where you’ll find your gold at the end of the rainbow.

SEO

Google has finally announced the next algo update. The last “official” update was back in April, but based on the volatility the last few months, they’ve been continually updating (as they’ve always done). Remember, they only announce when they want to announce.

The Google Search Off the Record podcast released their latest episode called “Let’s talk ranking updates" and later in the day, they announced the August Core Update. Coincidence?

Some of the key highlights of the episode:

  • Google doesn't have a single "giant" algorithm. Instead, multiple systems influence ranking, including legacy and new systems.

  • Google has shifted its terminology from "ranking updates" to "ranking systems," aiming for clearer communication about how periodic changes affect these systems.

  • The increased frequency of communicated updates doesn't mean Google is changing its ranking systems more frequently; it means Google is being more transparent about them.

  • Sometimes updates happen without formal communication, but those that are announced are the ones Google considers notably impactful.

  • SEOs may try to reverse-engineer Google's ranking system, but the focus should be on building high-quality content.

  • Expertise in content is more about overall quality and less about specific credentials like having a doctor's byline.

Gael Breton from Authority Hacker interviews Koray Tuğberk Gübür about his topical authority approach and trying to simplify it for listeners. It was a good conversation with Gael and his link building approach vs Koray and topical authority.

It’s one of the longer podcast episodes out there at around 1.5 hours, but it’s packed with lots of interesting information.

The latest State of SEO report is out, and it's a goldmine of insights for fine-tuning your SEO strategy. With input from 3,890 SEO professionals, this report spills the trends that are shaping the digital landscape, including:

  • Competition for talent is the number one thing SEO pros expect to make the biggest shift within the industry.

  • SEO professionals seem to be moving away from raw traffic as a metric of success, focusing instead on: Click-through rate, Branded vs. non-branded traffic, and Keyword rankings – 7.3%.

  • The most common SEO budget range is $1,000-$5,000 USD, with 28.6% of responses.

  • AI's the future: 72.4% optimistic about AI impact, 68% are interested in investing in AI-powered tools.

SEO Ripples

  • Google's John Mueller says there's no hard rule that a page needs to be in the top ten search results to snag a coveted Featured Snippet spot.

  • Jim Yu from BrightEdge discusses how to optimize content for Google’s SGE. It’s still in the experimental phase, so there's room to get in early and adapt your SEO strategy. Though top-level traffic might dip, expect higher conversion rates as SGEs answer many user queries right in the search results.

  • Google quietly updated their GSC documentation to note that they are now indexing .csv files. This opens up a new way to get crawled or if a publisher doesn’t want their .csv files crawled, it may mean updating robots.txt to exclude those files.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

If you're looking to try different LLM models and have an API and Playground to play with, OpenRouter could be the one for you. No need to sign up and wait for access to all the different APIs and models. You just need the OpenRouter account.

  • AltText.ai - WP Plugin. Use AI to automatically analyze images and generate alt text for thousands of images at once. I’ve been using this for a few weeks now and has saved me soooo much time. Ends in less than 2 days.

  • Image+ - WP plugin that can enhance, optimize, and split test original pictures or AI-generated images to boost conversions. Looks like a good way to A/B test images without creating multiple versions yourself.

CONTENT

Pamela Vaughan from Hubspot breaks down why having more landing pages can significantly ramp up your conversion rates. HubSpot’s research indicates that websites with 10-15 landing pages increase conversions by 55%, and the lead index goes through the roof for those with over 40 landing pages.

Moz's latest Whiteboard Friday by Rejoice Ojiaku reveals how to map keywords to the buyer's journey and user intent. She provides a framework for SEOs and digital marketers to understand and align their keyword strategies with the various stages of the buyer's journey:

  • Awareness Stage: Use keyword modifiers like 'what,' 'how,' 'where,' and 'who.' The intent here is mostly informational.

  • Consideration Stage: Keywords may include modifiers like 'best,' 'affordable,' and 'review.' The intent shifts to being commercial.

  • Decision Stage: Look for transactional keyword modifiers like 'buy now,' 'book now,' and 'deals.'

Andy Chadwick from Keyword Insights covers how to tackle keyword cannibalization through keyword clustering. The methodology includes six main steps: selecting your website, gathering URLs, filtering them, preparing the data, uploading to Keyword Insights, and then pivot table analysis.

By the end, you'll be able to identify which content pieces are competing with each other and should ideally be merged into a single, powerful page.

AI

OpenAI announces you can now fine-tune GPT-3.5 Turbo to customize models for your specific use cases. Early trials demonstrate that fine-tuned GPT-3.5 Turbo can even surpass the capabilities of base GPT-4 for certain specialized tasks.

OriginalityAI’s recent study found that 9.2% of the top 1000 sites had chosen to block GPTBot within the first 14 days of its launch. 15% of the top 100 sites are blocking GPTBot.

The study reveals some of the sites that blocked GPTBot: Reuters.com, Amazon.com, Quora.com, NYTimes.com, Shutterstock.com, Wikihow.com, and CNN.com.

I shared it a couple weeks ago, but if you want to see how to block GPTBot yourself, check out OpenAI’s documentation.

The initial X thread from Julie W. Design has spawned more tutorials like this one and this other one on X.

AI Ripples

LINK BUILDING

Matthew Woodward shares his checklist to link-building success. Build top-notch backlinks, elevate your website's ranking, and drive more organic traffic. Here are five key takeaways:

  1. Start Strong with Preparation: Like planning a trip, successful link-building begins with preparation.

  2. Target Smartly: Not every page needs links.

  3. Quality Over Quantity: Don't fall into the link farm trap.

  4. Craft Stellar Content: Create unique, high-value content that aligns with the target site's audience and guidelines.

  5. Final Checks Matter: After your content is live, perform quick checks.

EDUCATION

Si Quan Ong offers up a variety of tested strategies for any budding blogger. The guide covers everything from choosing a profitable niche you're passionate about to technical aspects like setting up Google Analytics.

He talks about knowing your target audience and crafting content they actually want to read. The guide also delves into SEO hacks, like targeting keywords people are searching for and keeping an eye on competitors' successful topics. Here are tips that you don’t regularly find:

  1. Narrative Voice Experimentation: Most blog tips suggest maintaining a consistent voice or style, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't experiment.

  2. Content "Sequeling": Instead of looking at each blog post as a one-off, think about how it can be part of a larger story or series.

  3. Thematic Linking: Group a series of articles around a central theme, and create a 'hub' page for that theme.

  4. The "Reverse Guest Post" Strategy: Invite industry experts to write guest posts for your blog. Get quality content for free, and you'll likely tap into the guest writer’s audience when they share the post, potentially boosting your own blog’s visibility.

  5. Live Blogging Events or Webinars: If there's a big event, conference, or webinar in your niche, consider live-blogging it.

The top five included Ahrefs' own certification course (free but in beta), Google SEO Fundamentals by UC Davis, SEO Certification by HubSpot, All-Around SEO Training by Yoast, and SEO Foundations on LinkedIn.

They also say that most SEO certifications aren’t very valuable in the eyes of employers. Yep, 86% of hiring managers said SEO certifications don't matter much to them.

My Take: If you want a structured way to learn SEO concepts, the free options are a good way to get started. I always find that taking structured courses going through concepts A-to-Z will offer you more than a DIY way when you’re not sure what you’re missing.

CASE STUDY

Glen Allsopp dives deep into the strategies of digital giants ruling the search landscape in Q1. From SEO shifts influenced by AI to new players making waves, here's a fraction of what’s covered:

  • Time.com's Two New Domains: Time.com unveils two fresh website sections: TIME Stamped for personal finance and product reviews. Impressive rankings and swift growth observed.

  • Valnet Acquires How-To Geek: Valnet adds How-To Geek to its arsenal, racking up 1M+ daily visitors and revamping the site.

  • AI-Powered Site Soars: Restore Photos, an AI-enhancement website, garners a whopping 260K monthly visits primarily from Google. Smart SEO strategy pays off!

  • ExpertReviews.co.uk's Traffic Triumph: Despite the challenges of 2022, ExpertReviews.co.uk thrives with a 42% traffic boost.

  • BrandAlley's Strategic Redirects: BrandAlley takes over multiple domains from companies in administration, redirecting them to consolidate their eCommerce presence.

  • WSJ's Affiliate Review Section: The Wall Street Journal's Buy Side section gains traction as its SEO strategy propels it forward.

NEWS

Big news for those using TikTok as a channel to drive traffic to their external e-commerce platforms like Shopify.

Starting September 12, TikTok is putting the kibosh on links to external retailing platforms. This is a big move, mirroring its Chinese counterpart, Douyin, which made a similar decision back in 2020. The objective? To ramp up in-platform shopping.

Say goodbye to sending TikTok users straight to your Shopify or other external stores unless you opt to set up shop right on TikTok's own e-commerce platform, TikTok Shop.

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