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The Challenges with SEO and Google E-A-T

SEO and Google E-A-T: does it reward only the loudest voice in the room?

Last week (November 21), Ann Smarty published a Substack newsletter entitled SEO and Topical Authority, in which she assessed the trends in SEO and Google E-A-T and its potential reaction to the expected onslaught of AI-generated content in the next few years or months.

In her piece, Ann suggests that the "loudest voice in the room" will be the ones dominating the SERPS. It won't be enough to produce expert-optimized content. It won't be enough to interact on social media. No, those who dominate the SERPs will be those Google deems expert according to their nebulous and infamous "E-A-T" formula: expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness.

The Problems with SEO and Google E-A-T Formula

The problem with the E-A-T formula is that it's never been clear exactly how a computer is supposed to assess this. For example, does it deem my dual master's degrees in direct marketing and writing a proven example of content creation and marketing expertise? It should, but it probably doesn't. How about my 30 years of experience leading marketing teams in various industries? It doesn't even register that.

Instead, as Ann points out using screenshots from recent searches, search engines seem to register the ‘loudest’ voice in the rooms – the ones dominating the conversations across platforms.

You know the ones…

  • The consultant who slaps their face on every ad or social post
  • The consultant who brands themselves a guru of this or that
  • The consultant who aggressively pursues paid and unpaid advertising
  • The consultant who flies across the country to speak at conferences
  • The consultants with book contracts

Let's be clear: doing all those things is fine if they feel right to you and are congruent with your brand. And therein lies the rub. Not all of us like to be loud. Some of us, myself included, would prefer to let our thoughts shine rather than our personalities. It's not that we don't have personalities – we do. But for some of us, being the loudest voice in the room isn't our thing.

How Can You Convince Google of Your Expertise and Authority?

The question is how each of us can help Google understand our topical authority. (I use Google as an example of search because it remains the dominant player in the industry). The answer, I believe, is in personal branding.

If you are unfamiliar with personal branding, now is an excellent time to begin understanding it. It is crafting, managing, and refining your online reputation to ensure consistent recognition of your expertise.

I think that Google's algorithm relies heavily upon consistent signals over time. It's the "over time" part that people forget. In the short run, anyone can pump out consistent content on almost any topic. But it is the years of speaking, teaching, writing, and sharing information on one angle, one topic, that will eventually help your personal brand stand out.

I look forward to Ann's subsequent reflection on this topic. What are your thoughts on this? Is Google giving too much attention to vanity metrics in their E-A-T formula? Or can you, as a marketer, work with this and use it to your advantage?

 


plant and notebook on desk

Has Google's Latest Algorithm Update Impacted Site Traffic?

Has Google's latest algorithm update impacted site traffic for you? Are you seeing your once-great traffic tank or your articles with no traffic suddenly zooming up in the SERPs?

Google's Latest Algorithm Update and Its Impact on Site Traffic

I've noticed a big shift in Google's algorithm since August. I own several sites, including this one, and provide content marketing support to numerous content entrepreneurs who own multiple sites.

Across the board, we've seen some sites suddenly surge in popularity with Google; traffic has more than doubled on one of my websites, for example, during a time of the year when it normally decreases abruptly (it's a gardening website and traffic generally peaks in April in accordance with planting schedules in the USA.)

On the other hand, sites that generally had strong traffic suddenly saw their posts sink a few positions or more in the SERPs. That may not sound like much, but it can result in drastic decreases in website visitors – and, with decreased site visitors, a decrease in monetization. In other words, those sites are making less money for their owners.

Ann Smarty, in her weekly  newsletter, explained it brilliantly. I won't go into the details, but I do urge you to head over to Ann’s newsletter and read it for yourself.

Four Google Updates Since August 2023

Essentially, Google performed not one but FOUR updates since August 22, 2023:

  1. Core Update – August 22, 2023
  2. Helpful Content Update – September 2023
  3. Spam Update – Early October 2023
  4. Core Update (again!) – Mid-October 2023

 

What Is a Google Core Update?

This is a general algorithm update performed by Google to improve search results. As always, Google's goal is to improve the accuracy and relevancy of search engine results. Core Updates do not target specific websites or types of content.

 

What Is a Google Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content updates is the big one, in my opinion, impacting many bloggers. These updates DO target specific sites or content, downgrading those Google's algorithm deems "unhelpful" to the searcher and upgrading those it deems "helpful." This latest update is impacting mostly sites that did heavy keyword phrase tailoring to improve search engine rank without regard or with secondary regard to the helpfulness of the information.

 

What Is a Google Spam Update?

The Google Spam Update downgrades thin content (i.e., does not go into depth or detail on the searched topic) or is overly promotional. It also targets websites that are created merely to sell products through search opportunities – keyword stuffed sites filled with affiliate links or sales links.

What's Going on With Google and Your Content?

Now, given that Google had rolled out so many updates in just a few short weeks, what the heck is going on?

That's what's going on. AI is EVERYWHERE in content. It's not only being used to generate spammy content (i.e., the 'thin' content marked for downgrade in a Google Spam update), it is also being used to generate books, blog posts, websites, and anything else.

Google doesn't like AI generated content (probably because it has yet to crack the code on how to monetize it for its own gain). Therefore, sites that use it, or sites that sound like they use it, maybe at risk.

Unfortunately, that means a lot of sites that did nothing wrong are seeing their content sink a bit in the rankings. My site is often written in the first person, with original images showing my husband or myself performing a gardening task; this is one reason why the traffic has suddenly surged for us. The site offers actual people doing real things, and there is no way that an AI bot generated this content. Google is rewarding this and the work we did over the past year on UI/UX and search intent, an ongoing project for that website.

Recovering From Google Updates

If your website was impacted negatively by these Google updates, a few words of wisdom from someone who has been running a content business for over 16 years. “This too shall pass.”

I have seen it all, from the content mills keyword stuffing articles in the early days to this latest update, and you know what works? QUALITY CONTENT.

SEO Writing Tactics That Work for Long-Term Results

  • Write for search intent, not keywords. What does the person searching want to know or do related to a particular keyword phrase? Make sure your content addresses it.
  • Avoid overly promotional content or spam stuff.
  • Disclose affiliate relationships, ads, and sponsored posts.
  • Offer a fresh, unique perspective. If you're copying someone else, you won't do well in the long term.
  • Revise and refresh your posts. Don’t let them get stale.
  • Use your photos if you can, especially for how-to posts.
  • Write for people first, search engines second.
  • Ensure you always use your authorial voice. Google wants expertise, authority, and trust, not just any random stuff.

What’s your opinion? How has your content fared during these updates? If Google's latest algorithm update impact site traffic for you and you want to get more traffic, contact Seven Oaks Consulting. We can help.  Share a comment or write to me at jeanne@sevenoaksconsulting.com, and let's strategize how we can fix it if your content's rank has tanked.

 

 


What Are Keywords?

What are keywords?

Keywords are specific terms your target audience searches for online. When they search for a particular word or phrase, ideally, you want your website to be the first link that appears in the search results. (Alternatively, you want your website to appear on the first page of search results.) Choosing the right ones for your web pages and blog posts is how you get ranked in search engine results.

Composition of a Keyword

A keyword can be one word. It can also be several words. When two or more words are used to make a keyword phrase, it is known as a "long-tail keyword."

Example

For example, if your company sells sewing machines, you'll want to create engaging, helpful content based on your customers' interests. Your keywords could include "quality sewing machines," "best sewing machine," and affordable sewing machine."

Benefits for SEO

Why should you be concerned about choosing the right keywords for your website content? Here are some benefits of using them correctly:

  • Find ideas for content marketing
  • Tells you what they are interested in learning more about
  • Increases organic traffic to your website
  • Helps you understand your target market
  • Bring the right customers to your website

High-traffic numbers don't mean a thing if they don't convert into sales through your site. When you use words targeted toward your customers, you attract site visitors who are already motivated to buy from you.
Focused keywords help you build expertise in your site visitors' eyes.

When internet users click on their search results and find the information they need on your website, it establishes your reputation as an expert in your niche.

 


5 Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Blog

Looking to get more traffic to your blog?

Driving traffic to your articles can make or break your content marketing efforts. After all, what’s high-quality content without an audience? But sometimes, it can feel like a chicken-and-the-egg situation. Here are several effective strategies to help encourage clicks.

Get More Traffic to Your Blog Fast

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Optimize your articles for search engines to improve their visibility in search results. At minimum, use relevant keywords organically throughout your pieces, including in the title, headings, and body. Add internal links, meta descriptions, and outbound links for an added boost. 

  1. Share on Social Media

You can get more traffic to your blog quickly by promoting individual articles on social media.

Promote your articles on social media platforms where your target audience “lives.” Craft compelling social media posts to tease your content and include eye-catching graphics. As is best practice, use relevant hashtags and post at optimal times for the best outcomes.

  1. Use Email Marketing

Don’t forget about your email list as an untapped resource. Send out newsletters or email updates featuring your latest articles. Provide a brief summary and a clear call-to-action (CTA) that piques interest and encourages readers to click through to longer-form pieces.

  1. Repurpose Content

What’s old to you might be new to them. Convert your articles into different formats like videos, infographics, or podcasts. This allows you to cross-pollinate and cater to different learning preferences without creating content from scratch.

  1. Embrace Collaboration

Align with other content creators or businesses in your field to amplify your efforts. Co-author articles, run joint webinars, or host podcasts together. By combining energy and resources, you can significantly expand your reach.

Get More Traffic to Your Blog, Fast! Consistency Is Key

Driving traffic to your articles requires intention and consistency. Remember that building an audience takes time, so manage your expectations. Over time, as your content inspires engagement and provides value, your analytics will go in the right direction, too. With these 5 ways to get more traffic to your blog, you're off to a strong start. 

Another must read: 13 KPIs for Content Marketing




Content Clusters: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Content clusters, also called a B2B pillar content strategy, consist of related groups of content on a website. This content may be a group of articles and blog posts, or multiple types of content, such as blog posts, articles, presentations, videos, infographics and so on. No matter what type of content pieces are featured, however, they are all grouped under a main idea or topic – an umbrella, if you will, or a pillar, whichever visual works for you – and are related through a series of logical, connected keywords.

Why Develop Content Clusters?

I’m not exactly sure when the term content cluster came about, but over the past several years, it’s become apparent that using big, long form content pieces (pillar posts) with layers of related yet separate content pieces works wonders to boost a site’s organic search traffic.

How Search Engines Work – How Content Is Discovered

If you think about how search engines work, the answer to “why develop content clusters?” readily becomes apparent:

  1. Search engines send scouts, called spiders or bots, to scour the internet for new content.
  2. They follow links from page to page to find and review new materials published online.
  3. Materials are indexed according to keywords – what the bot considers the main topic of the content piece.
  4. Google and other search engines use an algorithm to rank the content according to usefulness, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (the infamous E-A-T formula).

When search engines encounter content, they look for links as they scan the web page, and then they follow those links, and so on…and that helps the content rank well. We know from experience and data tracked over many years that the more your website interlinks in a logical, helpful way to the visitor or reader, the better.

B2B Pillar Content Strategy

A B2B pillar content strategy starts with pillars, or big concepts related to the heart of your website. On my gardening website, Home Garden Joy, pillar topics include vegetable gardening, composting, and seed starting, all basic concepts for new gardeners to master. On a fashion website, pillar topics might include capsule wardrobes, choosing flattering colors, or classic pieces to add to your wardrobe.

Each website’s pillar content varies according to the theme, unique spin, or ‘tilt’ as Joe Pulizzi calls it, of your site. A B2B pillar content strategy focuses on key concepts a business might be marketing to other businesses. Each topic, or pillar, in a B2B pillar content strategy should be broad enough to cover the idea thoroughly. Keyword-rich articles, linked from the pillar topic, create an ecosystem of content pieces related to a single concept or thought.

How to Begin a Content Cluster or B2B Pillar Content Strategy

Newcomers to content clusters or B2B pillar content strategies often wonder where they should begin. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions does my audience ask that my business is unique positioned to answer?
  • What key search terms do these questions relate to?
  • What is the search volume for this term?
  • Are there synonyms or related topics? If so, what is the search volume for those topics?
  • What has my competition published on this topic?
  • Have I published anything on this topic? If so, how many visits does it get?
  • Could my previously published pieces on this idea benefit from a rewrite?

The Seven Oaks Consulting Technique of Building Pillar Clusters

At Seven Oaks Consulting, our team of professional B2B content marketers uses a technique we call spider mapping to develop content clusters.

  • We put the main idea or big concept for the pillar content strategy in the middle along with its search volume, competition, and links to the top 3 content pieces into the big center circle.
  • Then, we brainstorm ideas around the big idea. These ideas go into the little surrounding circles.
  • We then conduct additional keyword research to develop out the shorter articles in the circles that looks like planets orbiting the sun.

Here’s an example from my own gardening website, Home Garden Joy. The primary idea is how to grow beets. We then spun off “beets” into multiple interlinked concepts, including recipes, to build a content cluster around growing beets.

example of content clusters

And then – voila. We have a content cluster. Writers receive their assignments, with the pillar content piece (the big idea in the middle) a long form topic and each orbiting topic developed into a supporting yet unique article.

We make sure that the pillar links out to the shorter pieces, and the shorter pieces link to the pillar. Then, we make sure that there are other links from our website into each piece.

Tools to Help Develop Content Clusters

There are a ton of SEO tools available to help you develop content clusters. I’ll share some of our favorites here.

  • SEM Rush – the big daddy of SEO tools. On the expensive side but you get a ton of great tools in one monthly package. It will help you assess keywords, compare competitive sites, and develop ideas.
  • Moz – another great SEO tool to help you find keywords and develop your strategy.
  • Keysearch – a low- priced yet feature-rich keyword search tool that also helps you pinpoint the top sites currently ranking for keywords you’re hoping to use and rank for.
  • Yoast – I absolutely love the paid Yoast plugin and it is worth every penny. We use it on all of our sites. It finds orphan content, or content that is not linked to anything else on the site and thus harder to find for search engines. It also helps us see if our content is readable and hits the right SEO buttons to rank well. Lastly, a paid Yoast subscription provides access to their library of educational materials, which is also great if you are new to SEO!
  • AnswerthePublic – this tool used to be free but is now a reasonably priced paid tool. It lets you assess keywords and develop conceptual lists around keywords.

Again, there are dozens more platforms and tools just like these out there, and every content marketer will have her favorite. I recommend starting with free or low priced tools (Google search analytics tools, Keysearch, AnswerthePublic) if you’re just starting out.

2B2 Pillar Content Strategy Part of Our Services

We provide B2B pillar content strategy creation as part of all of our content marketing packages, so if you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed, give us a call. We worked with technology and manufacturing companies to develop robust content marketing strategies to boost website traffic, brand awareness, leads, and sales.

Our content clusters include keyword research, content topics development, writing and editing for proper organic SEO, and our unique subject matter expert review (which no other content marketing agency provides!).  Please contact us for a free consultation and discussion of your content marketing goals.

 

Video: Content Clusters, Creating B2B Content Pillars


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Can You Have Too Many Internal Links?

 

There have been several debates on whether an SEO page can have too many internal links. What’s a fact, and what’s a mere suggestion? What matters when it comes to using internal links, and how should you structure your internal linking strategy to get the best results?

Yes and No. 

According to Google, excessive internal links on the same page can dilute the links' value and confuse Google on your site structure. Having ‘too many internal links’ can depend on the page's quality and relevancy of the links to the target page.

Away from SEO, an adaptation of the law of diminishing marginal utility is that too much of everything is not good, and the value of an item declines as more is added.

Firstly, tons of internal links can communicate poor website structure and confuse search engines trying to understand your website.

Ideally, internal links help search engines to better understand how a page relates to other pages on a website. With fewer internal links pointing to relevant pages, Google will understand the hierarchy of your pages and the pages that are important to you. 

If there are too many links, with all pages linking to all other pages on your website, the website ends up having no fundamental structure. You get a website with a bunch of pages pointing to each other without a well-thought-out plan or strategy. 

This does more harm than good.

Another reason is that excessive internal links dilutes the value of every link on the page. The more unnecessary links are added, the more the link value is diluted.

With fewer outgoing internal links, search engines understand the importance of the target pages. However, too many links leave search engines guessing which target pages are the priority. It distributes the total value across the numerous target pages.

There are many thoughts on how many links are considered too many on a page. 

For a long time, 'too many links' was defined as 'more than 100 links.' How did this number come up? Is it a mere suggestion or a strict rule?

The origin is traced back to Matt Cutts's post in March 2009, where he quoted Google guidelines, 'keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).'

Back then, Google used to index only about 100kb of a page. Considering how many links a page might reasonably have and still be under 100kb, it seemed right then to recommend 100 links or less. This is because pages with more links stand a chance of being so long and heavy that Google would truncate the page and wouldn't index the entire page.

Google has developed massively and can process way more than 100kb.

So, is 'not more than 100 links' a suggestion or a strict Google rule?

It's only a suggestion to help people avoid link stuffing and has never been a penalty situation. There are successful pages out there with over 100 links. If your page has quality, Google will be interested in its internal links and target pages.

Once again, 'quality content over everything.'

To answer the question, no exact number of links is considered excessive. 'Too many links' is relative and can be determined by the links' relevancy and page quality, amongst other factors.

The rule of thumb among SEOs and website owners is to add internal links only when necessary. Priority should be on link relevancy, user experience, and content quality. 

Two to Three Internal Links

Databox statistics reveal that 51% of SEO experts agree that a blog post should have two to three internal links. Another 36% preferred four to five, while 10% said the number of links doesn't matter.

If a link doesn't meet these requirements, adding the link might not be a good idea. 

Don't Add Too Many Links

Adding unnecessary links to a page tends toward link stuffing which is terrible for SEO. Link stuffing might have worked back when search engines were basic. Search engine algorithms are intelligent now, and stuffing your page with unnecessary links can give your website a lower ranking or completely blacklist your site. 

How to Do Internal Linking Right 

To avoid wondering if excessive links will affect your site or not, you should develop an internal linking strategy that matches your website structure. That way, you're helping search engines understand your site map better while giving value to value pages where necessary.

For instance, you can internally link your pages in a way authority flows from the homepage down to the product/service pages. 

Homepage => Category => Sub Category => Service/Product Page.

You can also channel value from your blog pages to a pillar blog page, guide, course, service page, etc., or vice versa. For example, you can have all blog posts relating to Service A internally linking to the service page.

The goal should always be to align your linking strategy with your website structure and communicate a flow of information with contextual internal links.

Expert Tips

If you must use internal links, optimize them. Here are expert tips on the best ways to execute such a strategy on your pages.

  • Create text links using contextual anchor texts.
  • Anchor texts must not exactly match the primary keyword of the target page.
  • Do not link entire paragraphs. A word, phrase, or, at most, a sentence is the best for user experience.
  • Avoid using generic phrases like 'click here.' They add zero value.
  • Avoid adding all your links in the first or last paragraph. Distribute them evenly across the page.
  • Avoid having orphan content on your website.
  • Align your linking strategy with your website structure.
  • Your quest to add a link shouldn't supersede your quest to produce quality content.
  • Make your internal links DoFollow.
  • Link to high converting/value pages
  • Ultimately, don't overdo it.

Balance Is the Key

Having too many internal links is relative. Instead of forcing in as many links as possible, focus on giving your readers an excellent user experience by creating quality content with relevant internal links to value pages. That way, even when the internal links seem too many, it'll be negligible.

Seven Oaks Consulting can help. Our talented content writers understand the rudiments of search engine optimization and produce quality SEO content with the right amount of internal and external links to yield results. Reach out to discover how our services can take your business to the next level.


How to Build a Robust Internal Linking Strategy

A well-defined internal linking strategy is critical for SEO. It helps search engines understand your website's structure, improves your ranking, and makes it easier for users to navigate between relevant pages on your site. Learn the fundamentals of building a solid internal linking strategy for search engines and your visitors.

Internal links point from one page to another on the same domain. When you link from one page to another within your site, you are creating internal links. 

 

Internal linking is a powerful SEO strategy. It helps search engines understand the structure of your website and pass authority between pages. The more internal links there are pointing to a page, the more likely it will rank well in search results.

Benefits of Having an Internal Linking Strategy

An internal linking strategy is crucial for:

 

  • Helping search engines understand your site's structure
  • Improving organic search traffic
  • Increasing user engagement

Help Search Engines Understand Your Site's Structure

Linking pages together is one of the best ways to help search engines understand your site's structure. It establishes the relationships between your pages:

  • What they are about
  • Who they are targeting
  • How they fit into your website

To rank well, you want search engines to comprehend the topic of your pages. Let's say you have a blog article about the best burgers in San Francisco. If you link to a page that discusses burgers in general, Google knows that the two relate. In turn, it provides visitors with better search results.

Boost Your Website's SEO & Ranking

An internal linking strategy is vital for search engine optimization. Strong internal links tell search engines which pages are most relevant to people's queries. In turn, Google ranks those pages higher in their search engine results pages (SERPs).

 

Furthermore, an internal linking strategy is beneficial for anyone aiming to be a well-known authority in their niche. It is a great way to bring exposure to other pages and informative articles on your website. Internal linking passes authority, which in turn boosts your rankings. Since internal links help search engines understand your site's structure, it improves their ability to crawl and index it.

Make It Easy for Visitors to Navigate Your Site

A strong internal linking strategy helps users navigate between relevant content on your site without leaving the current page. It also removes the need to click through many pages to get where they need to be. This makes it easier for them to find what they are looking for without getting distracted.

 

Let's say you have an article about how to use Adobe Photoshop. There are several sections within that article including an intro, a lengthy step-by-step guide, and a conclusion. It can be helpful to have a link at the bottom of each section directing viewers back to the beginning of that section. This helps users navigate your article without having to scroll around.

 

If you have other blog posts related to Adobe Photoshop, find an opportunity to link to them. Think about what kind of information people may be looking for. For example, photographers use Photoshop to edit photos. So, an existing article about photography tips may be a seamless tie-in to the current piece.

Best Practices for Internal Linking

 

Internal links, the 'bread and butter' of SEO, are a powerful way to guide users through your website. But you want to make sure to use them correctly. When building an internal linking strategy, consider these three things:

 

  • The number and placement of your internal links (where will they point?)
  • The relevance of your internal links (do they fit well within the context around them?)
  • The number of keywords in the anchor text

Create Ample Content

Before you start building your internal linking strategy, you need enough content. Make sure that there are several valuable pages on your website for people to find.

Many businesses use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to find out the number of pages they have on their website. Use their "Pages" report to see all the pages within any given URL. It displays how many indexed URLs there are within that domain and subdomain level.

Not familiar with these tools yet? Don't worry. Both offer free trials! The best way to become familiar with them is to explore their features. There are also plenty of YouTube videos showing handy tips and tricks to help you learn the ropes.

Types of Links to Use

There are two types of internal links you can use to support your strategy: navigational and contextual internal links.

Navigational Internal Links

Navigational internal links are the most common. They live in the header and footer of your website and make it easy for users to navigate through the pages. Navigational internal links help people quickly find the information they are looking for.

Contextual Internal Links

Contextual internal links are popular in blog articles on a website. When you write new blog posts and link to older relevant ones, you are incorporating contextual internal

links. These links encourage users to explore related reading material without leaving their place.

A Proper Internal Linking Strategy Boosts Organic Rankings and Traffic

Internal links are the foundation of your site's architecture. They help search engines understand your site's structure, pass authority and improve rankings, and make site navigation a breeze for users. But creating a robust internal linking strategy can be overwhelming and time-consuming. In fact, according to a benchmark study, 41% of SEO experts say that link building is the hardest part of search optimization.

Seven Oaks Consulting is a unique content marketing agency that can help. We have a team of talented writers that produce quality SEO articles. The more content you have, the more internal links you can build! Visit our website to discover how our services can bring your business to the next level.