Itamar Blauey stresses the importance of sustainable SEO and looking into the future in 2023. Use common sense and long-term thinking to make the most of what you are capable of and demonstrate your particular expertise.
Itamar says: “Rather than focusing on conventional practices - the ones that you understand and are performing well - you should start thinking about the future.
If you’re going to be in business for the next 3-5 years, you need to really focus on what is still going to be applicable. You should work in terms of the way that Google understands, and might possibly understand, your content and SEO as a whole.”
What does sustainability mean in practice? Is it to avoid short-term tactics?
“It’s a mix of that and just using common sense. The recent Google helpful content update might as well have been called the common sense update. Essentially, Google is starting to talk, and the phrasing of recent updates suggests it’s going to be all about proving you’re an expert in what you do. If you were to write and try to rank for absolutely everything, common sense would tell you it’s very difficult to become an expert in multiple fields.
If you are embracing a jack-of-all-trades approach, it’s time to really focus on what your actual niches are and what you specialise in. Then you can double down on all of that to be able to prove you’re an expert within that niche.”
Would your advice alter depending on the capabilities of your client’s website?
“Absolutely. It’s not just about the website either - it’s about the business too. If you’re talking about sustainable SEO, the results you’ll get will ensure you’re able to rank sustainably throughout the next few years.
You need to think about the business too. Let’s say you’re working for an eCommerce store and there’s a certain amount of products you can have ready to be sold at a certain time. If you act sustainably - you scale up your SEO and bring in more traffic because you’re ranking well - do you have the sustainability to sell these products to customers? The last thing you’ll want is to have so much demand for your products or services and not be able to fulfil that supply. You might end up getting negative feedback and reviews, so you’ve got to really think in terms of the more holistic business sense if you’re going to be able to scale and rank sustainably.”
Just because something has historically driven lots of traffic and sales, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be essential in the future.
“Absolutely. It’s about understanding your niche and knowing what the industry is like within your area. If you’re anticipating certain things to be trendy in the next year or two, you’ll need to start thinking about them now.
A massive component of sustainable SEO is being in the know, or being able to predict what’s going to be big in the next few years. This is known as ‘keyword pioneering’. When you’re talking about optimising for content around things that you can predict, you’ll essentially be pioneering the sort of keywords you’re trying to optimise for, regardless of whether they don’t have any search volume in keyword research tools. You should still be able to understand when you’re leading in a field and can anticipate X will be prominent in the next few years. You should always start writing about things in advance.
Sustainable SEO is about being able to identify and predict things and really be a leader within your field. By that time, the stuff you’re writing about will become popular and you’ll already be dominating in the SERPs because you’ve got lots of content around it. You should not only identify your experience from the user’s perspective but also give Google a better understanding, in terms of how authoritative you are on the topics and areas within your industry.”
Is the capability of the client’s website also relevant, in terms of being able to publish a certain type of content or be optimised to include different markups that you would want?
“This sort of thing is done on a case-by-case basis, but you want to be able to know that you have the capabilities from the tech side to address any new content you might want to create.
Let’s say you’re trying to scale up a bunch of content to do with either the markup or any multimedia content you’re looking to include, like video. Do you have the right schema to be able to maximise the use of that? Are you hosting it locally on your website? Are you going to have to embed it from another source? These are all important considerations in terms of the capabilities from the tech side on your website. This will be especially important for you to deliver on the things that you are thinking of creating or publishing.”
Is there another resource or piece of software you can use to establish which phraseology might be best to incorporate within future content?
“The main thing is trying to be proactive as an SEO. If you’re talking to a client you should ensure you’re asking the right questions. Are you talking with sales on a regular basis? Do you have some kind of R&D team that can glean insight? You can also go to conferences within that particular industry and ask people about what they think could be the next best thing.
Other than that, it’s important to use your own mind. The better you know the industry, the more you can identify issues and implement better alternatives. You can try to create ideas that way or you can work backwards by having some kind of solution.”
Are there third-party resources to assist with determining which phrases to use and indicating the likely search volume available?
“It’s a bit tricky with third-party sources if you’re talking about certain tools. Phrases need to be established and have an established demand for tools to be able to pick them up. If you’re assuming there’s a term that’s not being used at all, you can attend industry meet-ups or conferences that could be helpful.
Apart from talking to people to get an idea, you can use your own thought processes and try to work backwards. Look at what’s currently missing and could be better, think about what the solution might be, and then work backwards and see what content you can create about that. This will help you form a cluster around the solutions to this new idea within the industry. It’s difficult to use tools for this but the best thing to do is use your brain and other people’s campaigns.”
How do you build a long-term strategy? How do you achieve this in the long term as part of an incremental approach to achieving your own targets?
“There are two types of things you can do from the content side. If you’re experiencing things changing every year, you’ll have a couple of options. The first thing you could do is try to lead every year in terms of what’s actually happening. For example, let’s imagine your niche is in marketing and you’re talking about upcoming trends. You would want to create content now (in Summer 2022) because you know that the demand for 2023 will start appearing in August 2022. You need that kind of buffer to be able to build up demand so you’re one of the first to show up when people are actually searching for it.
That’s not to say you’ll be there forever, but you will at least be able to establish some dominance and first-mover advantage. The other thing is around the concept of evergreen content. This allows you to have a wealth of expertise and knowledge in one big content piece that people can return to as a valuable resource. You won’t need to change the URL slug of that piece of content and it’ll be a great way to demonstrate your expertise.
Evergreen content is great not only from an organic search perspective but as a conversion tactic, in terms of what you’re selling or offering. The long-term approach is to think about when things may become popular and then plan several months ahead to brainstorm the content - what you’re writing, what you’re saying, and who’s writing it. You need to get all of that edited and ready, and include any optimisations you want to include.
Timelines are very important when thinking about a sustainable long-term approach. You need to be hitting deadlines if you want to maximise efficiency and effectiveness. This will depend on whether you are correct in your predictions about when certain things are new in your industry and might become popular.
The most important thing is to have a plan. That way, you will avoid missing out and not being as happy as if you had made a plan and everything was structured and executed correctly.”
Do you ever have any issues with getting clients on board when targeting effectively zero-volume keywords?
“Education is everything. It’s about being on the same wavelength as your clients in terms of why something is important. That’ll show you’ve got their best interests at heart, especially if you communicate the importance of succeeding with something over the next 3-5 years.
Clients will be really appreciative if you’re invested in their future, so it’s all about how you approach that conversation. Clear, two-way communication is a great way to get them to buy into your idea.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“The word that comes to mind is complacency. It’s hard to dictate exactly what that might look like, but if you’re an SEO and think you can keep doing what you’re doing because you’ve always done things like that, this approach is probably not going to work.
With recent Google updates - whether it’s about how Google understands language or the helpful content update - things are always changing. To this day there are still people who believe that spam commenting and posting links on different forums and blogs works.
You don’t want to be that complacent person who’s stuck in the sand in terms of what has been working well for you over the past few years. That won’t necessarily be the case tomorrow. Always think about learning and be willing to adapt in terms of how to do SEO. Otherwise, you’ll remain stuck in the past.”
Itamar Blauer is a Senior SEO Director at StudioHawk and you can find him over at studiohawk.co.uk.
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