Buckle up 2023 is going to be one for the ages. Every year brings a new set of challenges for the digital marketing industry, but 2023 may bring more upheaval than normal. Multiple content-related updates in late 2022 appear to be targeted at identifying and deranking pages with low quality (potentially AI) content. Google has also made recent updates to its Search Rater Quality Guidelines – with added emphasis on communicating expertise and experience in content.
Additionally both Google and Bing are rolling out chat modules for search that have the potential to upend digital marketing, especially for small businesses. Over this year as this rolls out we will address and work to find strategies that will work inside that framework. It may be a big deal. It may be a fad, no one knows yet. It’s in part why I have been running these classes since 2007.
Google is clearly raising the bar on what constitutes a high-ranking website. Quality content, quality performance, quality navigation and linking – there’s no more cutting corners for business website owners.
That’s why we’re focusing on cleanup this week. The little things matter more than ever for digital marketing, and so we’re addressing some of the little things you can do to improve your standing on Google.
Optimize your online presence with the right platform, plugins and patches
First, if your site isn’t on WordPress, move it to the WP ecosystem. More than 40 percent of the internet is built on WordPress, so Google thoroughly understands it – and prefers it. If your site is built on any other platform – Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, etc. – then you’re at a major SEO disadvantage from the start.
Assuming your site is built on WP, there is a plenty of plugin available. Many of these are useful for optimization purposes, whether performance or search engine optimization.
A favorite of ours is Rank Math. Rank Math is an SEO plugin for WordPress that provides broad functionality. It offers deep insights, like tracking your position history for a particular keyword. It also integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics 4 and offers centralized control over many SEO functions, like configuring headers or metadata.
And if you’re wondering just how entangled Google and WordPress are – Google has an official WP plugin called Google Site Kit. With Site Kit, your Google Analytics are available through your WP backend and through a single dashboard.
Verify that your business is properly listed online
Google uses your company’s location for local SEO purposes, which can be a problem if your actual location doesn’t match Google’s own data. It’s a problem that a lot of businesses have.
If your company’s address or phone number have ever changed, there’s a good chance that your older addresses or numbers are listed somewhere on the internet. If there are many such outdated NAP citations out there, Google may place your business in a different market.
The goal is to monitor your NAP citations and correct any that are inaccurate. Our clients have a tool to make these easy – one available through Yext. With Yext’s Optimize Location tool, business owners can get a status update on all of their NAP citations scattered around the web. This includes Google itself, along with Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Bing, Yelp and a score of directory sites. If there are any NAP inaccuracies, it’s made obvious here, so website owners can correct the citation.
To do that, you’ll need access to the account associated with the citing website. Businesses are in a constant state of flux, so it’s common for brands to lose control of certain accounts as employees are turned over and changes are made. If you do lose access to a citing account, you may able to correct the citation by submitting your company’s information to a major data aggregator like Acxiom or Localeze.
Set up Google Analytics 4 so there’s no interruption in data tracking
Google is overhauling its analytics platform and releasing a new version in July. Termed Google Analytics 4 – or GA4 – the new platform will use AI to provide advanced reporting. For example, GA4 will notice when certain products are in greater demand, or predict when a customer is likely to churn. This is another example of Google’s reliance on machine learning. Over time, the platform will “learn” customer behavior based on previous actions.
That’s a major departure from the current system, which will be sunset in July. If you haven’t migrated to GA4 or integrated it into your website, now is the time. We recommend you run Google Universal Analytics until it’s discontinued, but bring on GA4 now so you can start building data for your website. If you wait until Universal is shut down, you’ll have zero recent historical data to make digital marketing decisions from. You’ll be in the dark for months regarding your site’s performance.
Get to know your online competitors, so you can produce better content than them
Before your site can grow in a productive direction, you’ll first need your bearings. In other words, how does your company compare with its competitors online? This is a critical piece of information, because if you target the right competitors, you can leapfrog them with better content. If you target the wrong competitors, you’ll either grow your business slower or not at all.
One way to do this is through Semrush. Semrush has a deep digital marketing toolkit, including a helpful organic research tool that can be used to analyze potential competitors. Using Semrush’s organic research tool, you can reference a company’s website and get a list of all the keywords they rank for and where they rank.
You can use this tool to determine which of your competitors are positioned better on Google. The ones that are just ahead of you in important keywords – those are your targets. Once you have your competitors sized up, you can visit their content pages and determine how you could make a better version of what they’ve produced.
That doesn’t mean copying and pasting. It means taking their blog topic and writing it in your own words, using your own expertise. Write longer on the subject, with additional examples and discussion that reveals your authority on the matter. This is what Google is looking for with its push for helpful content – an internet that’s constantly producing (better and better) answers to every possible query. If you take on this mission by producing content in your own niche, Google will be more likely to rank your site higher for more valuable keywords.
Business owners are in for a wild ride this year, so ensure your fundamentals are in place
There are a lot of digital marketing unknowns as we head deeper into 2023. To what extent will Google roll out additional AI functionality? Just how high is the content bar going to go this year? How will business owners prepare for the changes to come?
We’re have answers soon enough, but one thing that business owners can do now is lock down their site’s fundamentals. NAP citations, updating WordPress, integrating useful plugins and getting ready for GA4 – all of these little things add up to a more effective online presence.
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