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January 2022 SEO Trends

Friday, October 28, 2022
March 16, 2022
Lauren KeepersTyler Einberger
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13 minutes

SEO News Roundup #4

January 2022’s biggest SEO topics include: the importance of leaning into the product-led SEO mentality, why AI-powered content generation tools will help SEOs write (and more importantly) optimize effective content faster, and how using banner interstitials will help keep online businesses ahead of the curve come the February 2022 algorithm update.

SEO case study shows de-optimization method can work

Ryan Darani’s recent SEO case study highlights how taking a website from 0 monthly visits to 75,000 in one year is possible by taking an initial website audit back to the basics with technical and content SEO components. His efforts included fixing Javascript rendering issues, eliminating unnecessary (and unused scripts), adding canonicalization tags, and producing new content by addressing keyword gaps. In addition, a backlink strategy was put in place that connected the client’s site with external references that were highly targeted, relevant and E-A-T-worthy (credible; see Google’s E-A-T guidelines here) sites.

Even with doing all of this, traffic surprisingly, didn’t increase, so he started de-optimizing the website—meaning he de-spammed it (for example by eliminating the overuse of target keywords in page titles and on-page content). And voila! Traffic started increasing.

Bottom line – SEO takes time and attention. It's never a set it and forget it thing.

Product-led SEO

Loren Baker, founder of Search Engine Journal and Eli Schwartz, author of the book, Product-Led SEO, led a podcast back in October 2021 that discussed why SEOs aren’t technically marketing people. Product teams are now leaning on SEOs for identifying and closing market gaps, and a lot of the heavy lifting SEOs are doing is working hand-in-hand with technical development and engineering resources to get this done.

  • Traditional “Markety” Approach to SEO
    (This is how most people typically view SEO): identify a desired keyword to rank #1 at in a space and build content around it.
  • Product-Led Approach to SEO
    (This is how very few people view SEO): determine how a search user will find a given site and how that user will use the site when they get there.

Best practice – Start with asking yourself, “What do you want from Google?”

Bottom line – SEO lends itself to product roadmap development, market research analysis and forecasts, and consumer profile building through data-driven insights making it the bridge between product and marketing teams. In the words of Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern, “People are more educated now and they’re directing less of their questions to God and asking Google instead.”

Apple maps is important

A recent study suggests that there are 118 million U.S. adults using Google Maps and 62(ish) million U.S. adults using Apple Maps—though this data hasn’t been verified so take it with a grain of salt. While Google Maps may have a larger market share in the local search space now, Apple Maps responds to 5 billion map requests weekly.

With so many iPhone either 1. liking the Apple Map interface and simply leaning on that more than Google Maps or 2. users defaulting to Siri search for directions, ask about business hours, and inventory-related questions etc., Apple Maps are the default result to their questions—not Google Maps.

Best practice – If your business isn’t on Apple Maps, add it. Then streamline all NAP (name, address, and phone) information with Google and Bing listings to ensure search engines are getting consistent signals across all of them.

Be wary of AI content tools

This tool might help content creators save a little bit of time molding the meat of the copy on some web pages, but one thing will always remain certain, the output isn’t promised to be produced through an human or SEO lens. So have fun, but don't stop paying humans to write content yet.

Bottom line – AI is probably going to fill the web with unnecessary bloat

Top nav is for users, not search engines

Friendly reminder, the goal of any top navigation is to help people avoid using the internal search bar. That’s why it’s important to make it as intuitive as possible. From an SEO perspective, a megamenu can help decrease the amount of clicks that are needed to reach important pages. But, it can also make navigation complicated.

Bottom line – You might be tempted to add highly targeted keywords in the anchor text of your menu options, but if 1. Mobile experience suffers and 2. It feels overwhelming or chaotic for the user, avoid it.

Bottom line – A page that is linked to in the body copy is a more important link than any menu link, so focus on those.

Chrome extension, conductor offers high-level SEO information about webpages

The free Conductor Google Chrome extension makes it easier for content strategists and SEOs to access insights (sitemap, structured data, core web vitals, metadata, and on-page content) about any webpage more easily in one place without having to access a variety of other tools to do so.

Best practice – use this tool as a preliminary technical health check for a site. Momentic is also a big fan of the SEO minion extension for general purpose use.

Bottom line – tools like this a great for spot-checking URLs!

Is it still worth worrying about keyword cannibalization?

Short answer: Sometimes. Take this on a case-by-case basis.

Keyword cannibalization is splitting content between two pages when it would better be served on one page. Historically, it’s been an integral part of content gap analysis, keyword planning and topic cluster mapping in order to avoid sending duplicate content signals to Google and diminishing page authority as a result.

Today, it isn’t beneficial to go out of your way to spot check this unless there’s a decline in rankings for top traffic-driving keywords. Plus Google has reintroduced indented search results, which allows Google to group together semantically related pages to address a given search query while still displaying both pages.

If you’re still worried here are some options to remedy the problem:

  • Combine the pages you’re worried about into one page.
  • Create a page that acts as an intro to the other like-pages.
  • Use internal linking to your advantage and give the reader a heads up on why clicking through to the next page will offer slightly different information.
  • De-optimize to eliminate overlapping keywords and content that might be too similar.
  • For product pages, if the products are really similar, consider creating more variety in the pages through technical SEO means first (ie structured data).

Best practice – Use the SEMrush cannibalization tool and check to make sure the primary keyword for each priority URL is in fact different.

Bottom line – Keyword cannibalization is actually hard to do, and topics will always be more important than keywords.

5 tips for improving customer review visibility

Following Google’s E-A-T guidelines is more important than ever. Since customer reviews function as trust signals and are considered important ranking factors, here are some tips to to amplify them for search engines and site visitors (see them described in more detail here):

  1. Build up off-page SEO presence through social media and third-party review platforms (Review Trackers, Bazaar Voice,etc)
  2. Take advantage of the same third-party review platform to capture more referral traffic (peoples searching for “review for {{brand name or product name}}). G2, Clutch
  3. Incorporate reviews on the website for social proof of customer’s brand loyalty and trust.
  4. Leverage structured data to visually showcase star ratings within the SERPs.
  5. Allow your customers to become your copywriters. Read through reviews to identify relevant long-tail queries, then include those queries on the associated product, subcategory or service page.

Bottom line – prioritize reviews for your brand.

Yoast SEO plugin available on Shopify

What does this mean for Shopify merchants? Not a whole lot. If SMBs are willing to pay $29 per month, they’ll mostly have the same amount of access and control over optimizing page titles and meta descriptions that they do without the plugin. But, the plugin might make it easier.

What does this mean for online shopping? This ultimately tells us that eCommerce is going to continue to grow and lend itself to increasing SERP competition between small businesses and large enterprises alike.

Bottom line - If you’re a small business with a Shopify store this add-on provides an easy way of updating (and housing) metadata.

<div class="post-note">Learn practical website + SEO tips for small businesses</div>

On the horizon: February 2022 Page Experience Update rolling out for desktop

Glenn Gabe pointed out in November 2021 that with the rollout of the February 2022 page experience update, all mobile page experience factors will now apply to desktop renderings. This means that spammy and intrusive interstitials, aka annoying pop-ups, that have obstructed visitors from being able to view and engage with a page will be penalized.

> Read takes about all Google Ranking Updates here.

Best practice – Use banners instead of pop-ups. See Google’s interstitial guidelines and other helpful design directions.

Bottom line – Google rarely says “hey, you need to do this, not that”. Think about the benefits of un-intrusive interstitials similar to the benefits of a mobile friendly website – better UX usually means happier users, more sales, and easier crawling for Google.

Google adds new robots tag support for  "indexifembedded"

Google’s new robots tag will be helpful for website that that want to control iframes content. This will give website optimizers more granular control over communicating what embedded content should be indexed and what embedded content shouldn’t be indexed. This is the first step toward allowing users to provide a direct signal to Google for what to crawl when it comes to embedded content URLs.

Best practice – “The indexifembedded only works in combination with the original noindex tag when the page with noindex is embedded into another page through an iframe or a similar HTML tag, like object,” as stated by Google.

Semrush acquired Backlinko

Semrush acquiring Backlinko gives Semrush’s education portal, Semrush Academy the opportunity to, “create a tailored and comprehensive online, self-service training platform to set the standard for digital marketing education globally.” This has become the biggest inside joke in the SEO space because there have been theories from industry professionals questioning the motives behind the deal—in that Semrush’s primary goal is to collect on the link equity passed along by Backlinko’s backlinks.

While some reviewers have said that the current state of Semrush Academy fails to provide a hands-on, learn as you go approach, they still consider it one of the most valuables resources for keeping their SEO knowledge up to date with Mobidea Academy included Semrush Academy in their list of best SEO training courses for 2020.

Targeting striking distance keywords is still an effective strategy

Striking distance keywords are keywords that are already ranking in the SERP results, and with some quick hit optimizations have the largest potential for the largest increase in Click-Thru-Rate (CTR) as their visibility shifts from page 2 to page 1, or page 1, positions 5 through 10. In fact, January 2022 data pulled by Smart Insights shows that ranking #1 generally produces a CTR of 39.6%, with the 2nd position producing nearly half of percentage points less than that at 18.4%, and 3rd position producing nearly half of the percentage points of that at 10.1%, and so on and so forth.

Best practice – Simple! Use Google Search Console to pull page two keywords (in positions 11 through 20) and their associated top impression-driving pages. Optimize the content.

Bottom line – Optimizing the pages that target striking distance keywords is a low effort, high impact way to potentially gain faster visibility in the SERPs.

Businesses lalocated more budget to SEO than PPC in 2021

Consumers in both the B2B and the B2C spaces respectively are becoming increasingly smarter in the ways that they conduct their own research before purchasing a product or a service. In fact, not only did Conductor’s recent organic search study confirm that over three quarters of retail shoppers are leaning on their evolving investigative skills (and Google’s evolving algorithm) before buying a product or service, the study states that customers are also clicking through at a higher rate on organic results than on paid media. This is likely due to the fact that 20% of respondents saw a significant increase in organic budget, which is seven percentage points higher than the results for paid budget

Bottom line – SEO is not dead.

People also ask boxes are increasing in size

As revealed by Indig data collected from June 2018 to June 2021, People Always Ask boxes are gaining more SERP visibility on both desktop and mobile, while featured snippet appearance has slowly (yet steadily) declined across mobile and desktop—see graph.

It’s worth noting that Google will continue to serve featured snippets in the form of definitions, lists, steps, and tables (all common for pages with FAQ-based informational articles, ingredients for recipes, weather forecast predictions, DIY how-to articles and so much more depending on the intent of the keyword) if it’s in the best interest for the user.

Best practice – conduct your own experiment and use a tool like ahrefs or Semrush to track and evaluate how many featured snippets you’ve won or lost. Use PPA box question answers as inspiration to fuel content that’s targeting the keyword for the SERPs the questions are on.

Bottom line – SERPs are always changing and new opportunities are always present.

Will removing AMP pages lend itself to increases in organic traffic?

Short answer: It’s too soon to tell.

AMPs (or Accelerated Mobile Pages that are user-first due to their ability to load instantly) were launched in February 2016 and were built in a different framework, not necessarily a different template than desktop pages (they also included the same exact content). These were Google’s way of responding to and solving historically clunky and slow mobile experiences.

AMPs have always been a controversial topic in the SEO space. Think about it. You’re creating an exact duplicate of the page to make it more mobile-responsive instead of building the original page really well and really responsive to begin with.

Barry Adams started another tidal wave of the debate around the state of AMP page use when he provided this evidence showing that turning off AMP pages resulted in a huge spike of organic traffic. The counter to this is that the site whose AMP pages were “turned off” has seen tremendous growth over the past four years and that it’s too early to tell whether or not “deleting” AMP pages can be classified just yet as a tried and true tactic for the majority of websites out there.

Best practice – if you’re building a new website, don’t build AMP pages, just make a user-centric page to begin with. If you’re considering eliminating AMPs, 301 them to their corresponding page.

Bottom line – AMP is dead. Remove 'em.

New API for Wayback Machine

Why are so many sites migrating in 2022? The benefits of building a new website remain the same and include: greater ease with developing mobile -first design, a more seamless approach (potentially even out-of-the-box) to adjusting page templates, minifying unused code to promote faster page speed, or making sure the customer data collected on your website is more secure and protected.

But when you build a new website, you have to point the old pages to the corresponding new pages without losing traffic, link equity or revenue—this is referred to in SEO world as a site migration.

One step in the site migration process includes downloading a comprehensive list of all URLs from the old domain. If you don’t have access to this data or lack paid tools like Screaming Frog, use Antoine Eripret’s free tool that pulls data from to do this.

Bottom line – Aligning old URLs with new URLs will always be part of the site migration process—free tools can help alleviate manual work.

Google favors "()" over "[]" in Page Titles

Cyrus Shepard’s recent page title rewrite study, as a followup to the August 2021 algorithm update, concluded the below:

  • For websites with page titles that contained brackets, Google rewrote 78% of titles.
  • Google completely removed the bracketed portion of text 32.9% of the time.
  • For websites with page titles that contained parentheses, Google rewrote 62% of titles.Google completely removed the parenthesis portion of text 19.7% of the time.

Bottom line – Not a big deal, but opt for parenthesis if given the chance.

In 2022, Google is rewriting more page titles with "|" than ones with "-"

Page title separators are used to:

  • Separate non-branded keywords from the company name
  • Connect primary keywords with semantically related secondary and tertiary keywords

Below are some of the most frequently used separators:

  1. the dash (-)
  2. the colon (:)
  3. the pipe (|)
  4. the slash (//) 

But is one more favorable than the others? Data collected from Cyrus Shepard’s recent page title rewrite study states that “for titles that use dashes as separators, Google rewrote and completely removed the dashes 19.7% of the time.” Whereas with sites that used pipes as separators, Google removed and/or replaced them 41.0% of the time, which by comparison is nearly double that of dash rewrites.

What does this mean? Although it isn’t clear whether or not these rewrites were taking place on sites with poorly optimized page titles to begin with, the data demonstrates that Google is rewriting page titles that might not be altogether grammatically correct (since we rarely, if ever, use pipes in writing or day-to-day communications).

Best practice – when updating page titles, just make sure whatever you use, is used consistently across all pages if possible.

Bottom line – do whatever is most readable.

Bar chart showing increase over time with Momentic logo