Trends

February and March 2022 SEO Trends

March 17, 2022
Read time:
16 minutes
Momentic "M" mark

February and March 2022’s biggest SEO topics include: knowing why it’s critical that the Google’s page experience desktop rollout is complete, understanding how to optimize a website for Google vs Bing, and how Google & Bing have joined forces to support Ukraine with the pause of paid ads targeting Russian audience segments.

Here’s Why You’re Getting More Messages in GSC

Google officially released GCS messages in 2019. Messages have been historically categorized by report type:
➡️ Coverage – what’s being indexed and what’s not being indexed
➡️ Enhancements – what type of structured data has been added to pages to improve rich results and therefore CTR from the SERPs
➡️ Performance – how visible your site is

With the recent message update, you’ll have access to 100 percent of message history even if you were granted access to the site after the 2019 update.

Best practice – when scanning GSC messages, prioritize Error notifications, whether that’s for structured data, indexation or crawlability. Monitor Warning notifications—these typically don’t have a negative impact on your site, but if the increase is exponential, it’s something to look out for.

Bottom line – Check GSC messages on a weekly basis. To stay organized, add a rule to your inbox that looks for error notifications, not necessarily warnings.

Google & AI Continues to Grow

Google understands human language like a person, and is really good at correcting human errors on the fly (for example spelling or grammar mistakes). Google is more intuitive now, and doesn’t operate under a single AI-powered algorithm. Here’s what a breakdown of some of those systems look like:

① AI System #1 – RankBrain: First launched in 2015 and was the first deep learning machine that could relate words to concepts, and then provide a specific ordering through the SERPs based on what is most likely relevant to your search.
② AI System #2 – Neural Matching: First launched in 2018 and helps Google understand how queries relate to pages.

③ AI System #3 – BERT: First launched in 2019 and helps Google understand the meaning behind word syntax (combinations of words).

④ AI System #4 – MUM: First launched in May 2021 and helps Google understand language and generate language.

Bottom line – AI is still new to Google, but has exponentially furthered its ability to rank and improve the quality of search results for its users (read more about this, here).

Google Chrome’s New Journeys Feature Allows You to Search Your Search History

Chrome’s new Journeys feature comes strictly a UX play on Google’s behalf to help Google searchers better group pages based on their own search history by either topic or intent. Our attention spans have gotten shorter, so this type of a Chrome addition is lending more search power to the user. Now they can take control of search even more intelligently than they did before.

Bottom line – It will be curious to see if, down the road, GSC offers a new type of metric that helps SEOs understand the user even more deeply in accordance with these intent-based patterns.

Optimizing for Bing is Different than Optimizing for Google

Did you know that Bing comprises 9.97% of the desktop search engine market share in the U.S.? There are some key differences to account for when optimizing between Bing and Google according to Bing Webmaster Guidelines:

Google
✅ Create a comprehensive library of pages with topics and semantically related keywords.
✅ Don’t invest time into using meta keyword tags (Google ignores these)
✅ When backlinking, link to pages with authoritative domains and high-quality, helpful content. Google penalizes for use of buying links.
✅ Consider what social signals are being sent as it relates to page rank (Google has claimed that the algorithm doesn’t place value on this, but there has been widespread speculation about it).
✅ Make sure text-based content is high quality (Google values this).

Bing
✔️ Use exactly match terms you’re targeting for, BUT be sure not to over optimize.
✔️ Don’t rule out the possibility of using meta keyword tags (Bing values these to some extent).
✔️ Internal links with descriptive anchor text are just as important as authoritative backlinks.
✔️ Buying links are acceptable unless they are replaced by new links each month or are turned off because the products are no longer available.
✔️ Invest in what social signals are being sent from different pages—Bing directly takes this into account in relation to “Page Rank.”
✔️ Make sure the content is a mix of multimedia (Bing values this).

Bottom line – when in doubt, stick to Google’s guidelines.

You Have Indirect Control Over Google Business Profile Review Quality.

Good reviews secure long-term customers and secure new ones too. Review snippets that are selected from your Business Profile reviews are selected by an algorithm that shows the keywords most mentioned (these are the keywords that show up the most consistently, appear in bold, and are not necessarily the keywords that the user initially searches for).

Although you are first and foremost at the mercy of the reviewer, there are a few things you can do to improve relevant keyword richness in your reviews. Here , here are some general guidelines to follow:

① Read and respond to your businesses GPB reviews by Opening the Profile Listing > Reviews.
② Be mindful of Google My Business App retiring at some point in 2022.
③ Send postcards or emails to customers and request that they review a specific feature of a product for example.
④ Setup a paid Google ad campaign that influences search behavior around product or service categories and subcategories.

Bottom line – get high-quality reviews.

Remember, SEO is an Investment

Is SEO worth it? SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It operates as a hybrid complex space that depends on a variety of resources, teams and outputs. Companies typically:

➡️ Under-invest in a dedicated product team to support technical audits.
➡️ Under-invest in content to support keyword breadth & depth expansion.

Here are key differences to remember about organic search and paid search when they’re executed successfully:

🎯 Paid search when scaled – expands the external team’s bandwidth and resource headcount.
🎯 Organic search when scaled – expands the internal team’s bandwidth and resource headcount.

In addition to this, it’s difficult to approximate ROI of SEO. Here’s why:

SEO shares resources with other teams. This is why so much emphasis is put on measuring the ratio between branded organic search traffic and non-branded organic search traffic (where non-branded keyword performance is a direct KPI to gauge impact of SEO efforts).

Bottom line – There are many resources involved in achieving organic search success, namely: an SEO strategy (and analytics) lead, front-end developer, back-end developer, content producer, and often times a product expert.

GSC Crawl Stats Report is Missing a Chunk of Data From February

If you’re still working through February 2022 organic performance data or referencing it as you monitor March 2022 performance, be aware that some websites are missing a segment of crawl stats data between Tuesday, February 8th 2022 and Wednesday, February 9th 2022. The data lost is dependent on the timezone the GSC user lives in — reference more on the change here.

Best practice – access this GSC report by going to Settings > Crawl Stats Open Report.

GSC Performance Report Data Logging Issues From February

If you’re still working through February 2022 organic performance data or referencing it as you monitor March 2022 performance, be aware that some websites are missing a segment of performance data between Tuesday, February 1st 2022 and Thursday, February 3rd 2022. This impacted data collected for Google Search, Google Discover, and Google News (likely reflected in impressions and clicks if reflected).

Best practice – this was already annotated on February 1st in Google Search Console.

Bottom line – this didn’t impact page rankings, user behavior, or SERP results (read more here). Visibility could appear down for impression-driving keywords—if there was a decrease, take it with a grain of salt.

SEO Tools & Software Alone Won’t Garner Long-Term Organic Search Success

SEO tools and tech don’t necessarily provide a holistic organic search strategy. Data without wisdom (and experience) is useless. Even with AI-powered copy generators, content brief generators, keyword data collection and tracking software (Semrush + Whitespark), and historical page performance and visibility data (GSC + GA), understanding effort vs impact and how to prioritize tasks based on that framework takes precedence over anything else.

Here are some SEO task prioritization guidelines:

① Indexing, Crawling, Rendering: can the website be easily discovered and crawled by search engine bots/crawlers?
② If local exists, streamline NAP and location page content that touch Google Business Profiles and Bing listings.
③ Metadata: are the most important pages being optimized to their own relevant primary keyword?
④ Content on the website, including structured data: is on-page content structured with heading tags and ultimately helpful for the user and easily identifiable in the SERPs?
⑤ Site Structure & Internal Linking→ is it easy for Google to understand the relationship between pages based on internal linking structure?
⑥ UX → is the website fast? Is the website mobile friendly? Do different types of pages help users navigate through the purchasing funnel with ease? Are the right pages set up to amplify conversion?

Best practice – SEO full site audits are good, but they’re useless unless the identified issues that come out of the audit are fixed.

Bottom line – sometimes the most important thing is the thing that can get done (depending on available resources and capacity).

Smart Pages, Microsoft’s Free Site Builder, is Now Free for US-Based SMBs to Use

Microsoft recognized a need for SMBs (perhaps in a nearly post-COVID environment) in that too many were operating with a single local listing (GBP or Bing) or simply a social media page. Their solution is participating in the long-time cause that other computer giants have dabbled in, through their efforts to make building websites easy-to-use and free with Smart Pages.

Smart Pages biggest competitors are Wix, Squarespace, Mailchimp & Weebly other well known CMS’s that dominate the free website building service space. Wix continues to invest in SEO and be one of the best (if not the best) listed out of the above list due to their ability to edit URLs, file structure for images and header changes without depending on over-use of Javascript (that could otherwise slow down site speed and Core Web Vitals performance). Although, Shopify does have a partnership with Google, expect more in the coming years.

Bottom lineSmart Pages is still in its infancy. Try it, but be wary.

Google Page Experience: Desktop Rollout is Complete

Google finalized the roll out of its page experience update to desktop search results. Differences in desktop search rankings that occur on or after March 3rd can be attributed to this update.

Bottom line – Websites that don’t use intrusive interstitials (pop-ups) will be rewarded. Websites that do use intrusive interstitials, will not be rewarded.

Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Update

Since 2018, Google has rolled out 3 broad core algorithm updates per year in an effort to improve search results. These updates should never be considered a penalty to websites who don’t reap the benefits from it, but rather a reminder that content quality matters over content quantity, and that E-A-T will continue to play a larger role in content strategy, UX tactics and greater SEO conversations depending on the nature of the site.

Bottom lineexpect the next broad core update in the near future (the most recent update was Nov 2021).

Google Brand SERPs: Why you Must Dominate People Also Ask

It’s important to own as much People Also Ask real estate as possible, especially for branded SERPs. The PAA section in Google search results is an ideal spot for visitors who use are searching for {{brand}} or {{brand}} + {{service/product}} or {{brand}} + {{non-branded query}}—searchers are using navigational intent with the use of a branded modifier, which means that if they see a PAA result populate above the fold, it will help drive their decision to click through to your website. The information that lives in PAA (if the content that drives the PAA result is written informationally and is helpful to the user) will therefore help move users into the next stage of the funnel.

Bottom line – develop and include content that’s written in a Q&A format on pages where it’s relevant. The biggest areas of opportunity will be in SERPs that don’t have a robust PAA section already.

IndexNow: Bing’s Solution for SMB & Enterprise-Level Websites to Get Indexed Faster

What is IndexNow? IndexNow was first announced by Bing in October and December 2021 and has been marketed as a means for faster real-time indexing. Currently, Bing & Yandex employ it. Google is in the process of testing its protocols even though they have challenged its efficiency and sustainability. One of the biggest qualms SEOs have with the great debate over IndexNow is that XML sitemaps accomplish what IndexNow’s go-to-market objective is.

Plus, recent news just came out that SEOPress, a WordPress plugin, added IndexNow support.

Best practice – if you’re relying on sitemaps alone to get your content indexed (and therefore be discovered by search engines), you’re not approaching SEO right.

Bottom line – there appears to be an arms race between Bing and Google that challenges each of the search engines to see who can provide faster indexing for newly created pages or pages with recently updated content.

Additional Internal Linking Is Still Necessary Outside of Just Regular Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumb navigation is internal navigation and is by nature a UX tactic, not necessarily an SEO tactic because it helps guide users to and from pages on your website. To allow Google to crawl your site more efficiently, focus on internal linking. Every site needs breadcrumbs, but internal linking helps guide Google to the most important pages for both the user and the business. The primary objective with internal linking is to point to your site’s most important content and ensure that search engines can crawl and rank for it.

Best practice – take the time to identify and chart out what primary, secondary (or even tertiary conversions) matter on different groups of page types to do this.

Bottom line – not every page is going to convert, nor should it. CTAs don’t need to go to the primary action/goal on every page (see best practice recommendation above).

SEO for Startups: Start with Local, Then Technical

Here’s a quick crash course to making SEO work for your small business right off the bat:

➡️ Step 1: Set up local listings (if they apply) with Google Business Profile and Bing for Business listings. This is a quick and easy win. Make sure all NAP (Name Address and Phone) information is the exact same across listings and on the website (if you don’t have location pages, build them).
➡️ Step 2: Run a technical SEO audit. Make sure what needs to be crawled and indexed is being crawled and indexed
➡️ Step 3: Create and implement content for high priority pages first (keyword mapping and topic cluster development needed here).
➡️ Step 4: Ensure target conversion pages employ UX best practices. Prioritize pages that will be responsible for the primary conversion you’ve established as a primary goal and measure of success.
➡️ Step 5: Leave backlinks for last. Look into building citations in local directories if relevant to your business type.

SEO for Membership Sites: Free vs Premium Content

Every marketer’s big question is, “What happens if your content isn’t visible to google because it lives behind a paywall?” Providing SEO services for websites that require paid subscriptions to access content can be challenging at first, but is pretty easy to understand based on the below:

Here are the cons:
➖ fewer people see the content
➖ you have to get creative with what incentivizing copy you use in tandem with your CTAs to get visitors to move past the paywall and into .

Here are the pros:
✅ Higher lead quality.
✅ Grounds to build email nurture list for opportunity generation (for converting lead to opps).
✅ Improved ability to segment audiences on a more micro level.
✅ Perception of content authority is greater. Content will likely be seen as more valuable and trustworthy to readers.

There are three different types of paywall models:

① Freemium (soft paywall) – hybrid mix of articles that can be accessed both in front of and behind the paywall (gated AND ungated content)
② Metered (soft paywall) – visitors can read limited amount of articles per month before being asked to make a payment to subscribe (think the New York Times)
③ Hard paywall – all content is gated. This content is crawled (caching) and indexed (if done right). Examples include, a course, a news source, or editorial.

The best option depends solely on the purpose of and intent behind your content.

Best practice – make sure you have a strong content marketing practice in place before executing gated content.

Bottom line – 1. SEO is even more significant for gated content conversations. 2. Sometimes paywall content is the best search for a specific query.

Spelling & Grammar Indirectly Impacts Ranking Factor

Spelling and grammar as a ranking factor depends on the search engine that serves the content where the spelling or grammar-related errors live.

Here are the most recent claims by the two biggest search engines, Google & Bing:

➡️ Google’s John Mueller claimed in 2021 that bad spelling and grammar impacts content quality but not necessarily ranking (indirect correlation).
➡️ Bing’s Duane Forrester claimed in 2014 that bad spelling and grammar directly impacts ranking factor.

Best practice – scan content for obvious errors, this is what crawlers will do no matter what search engine they’re on. Periodic SEO conversations suggest content should be at a 5th or 6th grade reading level at the very minimum. This however, depends entirely on the content of the website. Some sites (ie healthcare and law firms) that require a magnification of E-A-T topics and subjects.

Bottom line – Spelling and grammar aren’t a direct ranking factor for Google search engines, but quality content earns a good reputation, and with that trust so it’s best to employ it.

Google & Bing Take Action to Support Ukraine

Ads on Google and Bing have been paused and have been temporarily suspended from targeting Russian-based users—they’ve been temporarily suspended, while Yandanx still remains an option for Russian marketers to take advantage of (this is the second largest search engine in Russia). Snap, Twitter, and Facebook have paused all Russia campaigns as well in support of Ukraine.

Bottom line – International marketers will see a decrease in paid performance that typically target Russian segments, and Russian marketers who typically target Russian segments will experience the same thing.

John Mueller’s SEO Roundtable: Backlinks Should Never Be Your First Priority

Want to know how you can tell if an SEO is green? If building backlinks is the first tactic they recommend to increase your organic search. This was discussed in a Reddit exchange between Google’s John Mueller and an SEO where the SEO was hyperfocused on the lack of results behind backlink building.

John Mueller’s candid response spoke to how search engines have become smarter in their abilities to spot low quality, low effort SEO tactics (like hacking together links). Backlinks are a near-sided way of approaching SEO, while promoting technical site health and developing high quality content that helps visitors is a long-term play.

Valuable Directories to Boost Local SEO

The local search algorithm is an algorithm within its own, while the vast majority of listings are considered spammy (there are still good reasons to take advantage of “spammy” listings in specific instances—learn more about that here) the below listings confirmed by Search Engine Journal remain evergreen listings that websites across all industries should build citations in.

https://botw.org/
https://aboutus.com/
https://www.spoke.com/
https://www.blogarama.com/
https://www.google.com/business/
https://www.bingplaces.com/
https://www.facebook.com/business/pages
https://biz.yelp.com/claim
http://business.foursquare.com/
https://www.yellowpages.com/
https://www.chamberofcommerce.com/
https://www.hotfrog.com/
https://www.superpages.com/
https://www.merchantcircle.com/
https://www.bbb.org/
https://www.b2byellowpages.com/
https://nextdoor.com/
https://www.elocal.com/
https://www.dexknows.com/
https://www.alignable.com/
https://www.local.com/

Best practice – Free crawl on Moz Local. 1. Check to see if your NAP is consistent and 2. Any other valid directories and 3. What needs to be fixed.

Bottom line – Building citations is essential for building and sending consistent local signals (namely, Name, Address, and Phone) to search engines.

Tips for Jumpstarting (or Continuing) a Career in SEO

See top tips and tricks to getting ahead in your SEO career below (read this article to explore the concept further from Search Engine Journal’s perspective):

① Look at indeed.com, and identify the skills different companies are looking for.
🔎Agency advice → some in-house SEO teams (or singular positions) won’t have a clear vision for the day-to-day requirements and overarching objectives of the role. Look at agencies first to get a feel for necessary skills and responsibilities.

② Stay current with SEO trends, market shifts and insights.
🔎Agency advice → stay in the SEO step by reading Search Engine Journal, Momentic’s blog (shameless plug) and get active with the SEO community on Twitter (before you start following a bunch of SEOs on LinkedIn). Start with Cyrus Shepard and Aleyda Solis, and build your community from there.

③ Prepare for interview questions that revolve around technical skills and education.
🔎Agency advice →every SEO interview will have its own flow, but the top three questions Momentic likes to ask seasoned candidates:

➡️What type of impact does your skill set bring to the agency?
➡️What’s your blind spot when it comes to SEO?
➡️What’s your biggest success on an SEO project?
➡️Rank in order of importance the tasks that came out of a preliminary SEO audit.

④ Get proactive with learning how to objectively communicate in professional settings.
🔎Agency advice → This lends itself to better client management. See tips for writing like an Amazonian here.

Bottom line – Remember, the knowledge you gain after beginning your SEO career compounds. If you end up loving it, stick with it, and it will lend itself to a solid salary once you enter years three through five.

10 Strategic Questions to Ask Clients for High Quality Content Development

Clients are the experts of their product or service and are arguably the best resource to lean on when fishing for new content concepts or identifying gaps in content strategy (outside of competitive, keyword and SERP research). Here are questions you can pose to your client or their product and support teams:

❔ Where is the business heading?
❔What makes you get out of the bed in the morning? Why do you do what you do?
❔Who will I be writing for?
❔Can I talk to the sales, support and product teams to determine a customer profile?
❔What are your customer’s pain points?
❔Can you provide access to testimonials, support calls, or product reviews?
❔Who are your top three competitors and why?
❔What are the content goals you wish to achieve?
❔What concepts should be avoided during the publishing process?
❔Are there any specific formatting/posting rules you would like your content to follow?
❔Do you have a brand style guide to position the copy voice, tone, and the way the business wants to talk about themselves.

Best practice – Collecting the above questions plus more and putting them into an impartial questionnaire and sending it to different teams can be a great way to inform the beginnings of a content strategy.

A List of the Most Underrated SEO Skills

Adriana Stein started a Twitter chain that highlights the below skills as essential to a successful SEO career:

➡️Curiosity
➡️Intuition
➡️Life long studentship
➡️Creativity
➡️Empathy
➡️Research-oriented
➡️Ability to test hypotheses and take action in the gray

Bottom line – if there are two skills that matter the most—it’s curiosity and intuition.

Use the New Auto-Generated Summaries in Google Docs to Summarize Competitive Analysis

As first called out in Kevin Indig’s tweet, auto-generated content summaries in Google Docs is now enabled through machine learning technology. The biggest benefit to SEO? For any competitive research or long-form written analysis, Google Docs will be able to provide a brief overview of main points that summarize the document in full in order to prioritize critical information.

Best practice – try recycling this language in email that speaks to the long-form written analysis in a high-level manner. It will serve as a good jumping off point, but you’ll likely need to lengthen in a bit to cover all of your bases.

Unearthing Myths About Title Tags: 4 Takeaways to Know Now

Cyrus Shepard’s recent tweet discusses this in depth. See highlights below:

🔎The 600 pixel limit is a desktop guideline that’s worth following. If your target audience spends most of their time discovering your website on mobile, follow these terms more loosely. On Mobile Google actually displays max pixelage anywhere from 600 to 1,000 pixels depending on how rich the SERP is or what the result will best serve the user.

🔎Long title tags receive no penalization, nor are they unfavored. Google will index keywords in title tags that exceed the recommended standard 60 character limit. Make sure the title tag is clear and refrains from being ambiguous and you’ll be all set.

🔎Google will likely rewrite title tags that are under 50 characters on mobile. Stay in the 51 to 55 character range to avoid rewrites.

🔎There is a correlation established between small-to-medium page titles and optimal organic search performance. Though there has been plenty of SEO studies conducted around this topic, the type of correlation is still undetermined (direct vs indirect).

Bottom line – for more insight into the research that supports these claims, read Cyrus’s science-backed blog article here.

Recommended SEO Tools Stacks for a Variety of Budgets & Needs

A recent tweet by Tyler Einberger, COO at Momentic, discusses a few unofficial (but highly recommended and vetted) software packages businesses should use depending on their specific needs. See that recapped below:

For Client / Team Communication Tools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .($24)
✅Project management ➡️Asana ($14)
✅Daily communication ➡️Slack ($8)
✅Visual webpage markup ➡️Markup IO ($0)

Tools for Quicker Workflows. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ($148 – $163)
✅Content Briefs ➡️Content Harmony ($99)
✅Video / Notes Transcription ➡️ Otter AI ($13)
✅Content Helpers ➡️ Jasper AI ($50) & Copy AI ($35)

Visualization Tools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .($13)
✅Reporting ➡️ Google Data Studio ($0)
✅Data Studio APIs ➡️ Semrush, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Gsheets($0)
✅Sitemaps (not XML 🙂) ➡️ Gloo Maps ($0)
✅Images & Icons ➡️ Canva ($13)

Research/ Strategy Tools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .($136 – $267)
✅Crawling ➡️ Screaming Frog ($17)
✅Screaming Frog APIs ➡️ ahrefs, Google Analytics, Google Search Console ($0)
✅Content research ➡️ Semrush ($230), ahrefs ($99)
✅SERP Analysis ➡️ thruuu SEO ($20)
✅Others ➡️ Google Trends, Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics ($0)

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