SEO, Thoughts

SEO in 2022, a Year of Constant Google Updates

Reading time: 10 min

After 20 years of dominance in search results, many began to feel that Google wasn’t as quite as good as it used to be, a belief was superbly articulated in an article on the respected Search Engine Journal site. As a result, Google introduced dozens of new measures in 2022 to improve the quality of results it delivers to searchers.

So, how will these changes affect SEO strategy in 2023? What do luxury brands need to do now to feature prominently on search engine results pages?

In this article, we look back at some of the top SEO trends from 2022. We also provide advice on the best way to respond to those changes so that you continue to maximise organic traffic to your site.

We’ll cover:

  • How AI-generated content might be bad for your search engine performance
  • Why personal experience is now a factor in creating content that ranks
  • Google’s definition of “helpful content” and what it means to brands
  • Why brands need to be more careful when link building
  • Why on-page experience matters more than ever
  • Goodbye to Universal Analytics
  • The introduction of continuous scrolling to desktop search engine results pages
  • Why Google Lens needs to be part of your SEO strategy
  • What stayed the same in 2022

Skynet Versus Google

Google detests AI-generated content. That’s despite the fact that many of the changes we list below would not be possible without the use of AI-driven natural language processing (NLP).

At the tail-end of 2022, the launch of ChatGPT caused a lot of excitement. Ask it a question and it gives you an answer like you were having a human-to-human conversation. Ask it to write a 1,000-word blog on any subject and it will. It even features a rudimentary keyword research tool. Ask it which keywords you should target, and it’ll come back to you with a list.

Its API makes this science-fiction-like functionality completely scalable. You can use the API to create significant volumes of web page and blog post content in an instant. Hundreds of pages of content absolutely free.

Brands need to beware, however. Google’s search engine algorithms are remarkably good at identifying machine-created text. At time of writing, it doesn’t penalise sites for AI content but it certainly doesn’t reward it. And, in our opinion, it’s almost certain that you will pay a big penalty for using it so don’t add it to your list of SEO resources.

Verb Brands takeaway: Google’s ability to detect machine generated content greatly reduces if AI output is paraphrased through an app like Quillbot. However, no matter how natural the content reads, it lacks the personality that luxury company content needs. Stick to using humans who get what your brand is about and can describe it in a compelling, captivating and SEO-friendly way.

Quality Rater Guidelines, E.A.T. Becomes E.E.A.T. and Helpful Content

Many people outside the SEO industry assume that search engines exclusively use algorithms to assess the quality of content on a website. That’s true but much of what feeds those algorithms comes from the experience of Google’s Quality Raters. This is a worldwide army of 16,000 human users appointed by Google to help it improve results. You can see the guidelines they work to by clicking here.

There were two updates to the guidelines Quality Raters use this year, the main focus of which was better identification of low quality and potential deceptive content.

E.A.T. Becomes E.E.A.T.

These fresh Quality Rater guidelines also helped usher in a major change to a core Google ranking factor called “E.A.T.” E.A.T. is short for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

E.A.T. is what Google uses to rank websites. It’s an algorithmic assessment of the expertise of a writer on a specific subject matter as well as an assessment of your website’s authority and trustworthiness. A fundamental part of any successful organic search strategy is building up your E.A.T score.

2022 saw E.A.T. expanded to become E.E.A.T with the new “E” standing for “experience”. This is another algorithmic calculation, this time using NLP to assess the actual experience of the writer in the given subject matter. For example, someone writing about how they fixed a boiler after getting a certain error code is more informative and trustworthy than someone just listing what a boiler code means.

And this “experience” is important for helping Google assess whether content is helpful or not.

A Renewed Focus on Helpful Content

Google classifies “helpful content” as content whose primary focus is on helping visitors, not ranking highly on Google Search.

As we mentioned at the start, some believe the quality of Google’s search results is getting worse. And there’s a reason for that. SEO professionals have become better at gaming the systems. How?

For years, they’ve used keyword research tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush to determine high-volume, low competition keyword targets. There’s nothing wrong with this.

The problem comes at the next stage. Copywriters then use on page SEO apps like Surfer and Clearscope. Surfer and Clearscope examine the top 20-50 results for a particular keyword for particular ranking factors like which keywords needed to be included in their text and how many times. They even go into more granular detail like how many headlines, images and paragraphs you should include on a page.

If you’ve ever wondered why the results on page 1 of Google for many search terms all seem to be long form content making essentially the same points as each other expressed in different ways, that’s the reason. Before adopting AI and NLP, Google and other search engines assess relevance by factors like keyword and keyword frequency. And, until recently, it’s been rewarding sites whose content closely matched what it expected to see.

Its “Helpful Content” algorithm uses AI and NLP to look for more originality and authority in content. And it’s something you should train the copywriters you use without delay.

Verb Brands takeaway: While there’s nothing wrong with being inspired by the content on other websites, especially competitor websites, the content you produce, whether blogs or product descriptions, should be the best researched and most informative content available. One way to help copywriters create original content is to allow them to speak with your employees so they benefit from a deeper level of insight.

Be Careful With Link Building

There were two updates (October and December) whose purpose was to remove the beneficial ranking effects previously enjoyed by brands from “spammy” backlinks. Google is now much better at being able to detect which sites buy and sell links, a practice which is against Google regulations.

Strictly speaking, you should insist on a “no follow” or “sponsored” attribute placement within the linking tag on third party sites that link back to yours. The problem with that however is that it robs the backlink of any sort of SEO value.

Verb Brands takeaway: Luxury brands attract more backlinks because of their prestige. Those backlinks can be spammy though so make sure you disavow any suspect links as soon as you find them. And don’t ask third-party websites for “no follow” or “sponsored” attribute placement – just be very careful that you work with the right sites. For guidance on which sites to work with, speak to your Verb Brands representative.

Increased Focus on Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals, an important ranking factor rolled out in 2020, is a metric denoting the quality of the on-page experience for your website visitors, especially for users of mobile devices.

It considers factors like cumulative layout shift. This describes how much images and text move around the page while loading. If there’s a lot of movement, often caused by the coding and caching on a site, Google doesn’t like it.

Although not yet enacted, Google announced potential additions to Core Web Vitals in 2022. They seem to be paying particular attention to the “First Input Delay” metric. This measures how long it is before your visitor can do something on the site before it works, like click on a link or cycle through an image carousel.

You can use Google Search Console to check for your current Core Web Vitals performance. It also gives you tips on how to improve your site to achieve a better score. Other apps are available that do this too.

Verb Brands takeaway: In the SEO world, the importance of Core Web Vitals is somewhat underplayed by many because the vast majority of sites are still not particularly compliant with these standards. This is a mistake – get in there first and don’t let other sites beat yours for performance. Given two equally authoritative sites, the one with better Core Web Vitals will win.

Sunsetting of Universal Analytics

Google announced that on July 1, 2023, it will sunset Universal Analytics, no longer processing any new data.

We strongly encourage all clients to download data from UA so that, when you switch over to the replacement GA4 system, you’ll be able to keep track of performance over the longest possible period.

Verb Brands takeaway: You should not delay switching over to the replacement GA4 system. Doing so now will give you the opportunity to run both in parallel and make any adjustments necessary to ensure consistency of data as you migrate fully to GA4.

The Introduction of Continuous Scrolling on Desktops

In December, Google announced the introduction of continuous scrolling to desktops although the actual roll-out date is not known yet. If you use Google on mobile, you’ll already experience continuous scrolling when searching.

In essence, you’ll get 6 pages on results on one page. Once you reach 10, 20 and so on and scroll down, another 10 results will load. This means no more paid ads underneath the organic search results. Instead, they appear on page load and when each new set of results loads.

We’re interested to see the effect that this will have on organic clickthroughs. Will users be inclined to click on results they’d never traditionally see because they were on page 2? Or will they amend their search term if they don’t find what they want before the page starts loading up further results?

Verb Brands takeaway: In recent SEO tips we’ve been sharing with clients on this very subject, we don’t believe that this change will benefit companies whose results are currently on page 2 or lower. We strongly recommend a continued focus on creating high quality SEO content and building authoritative backlinks to make sure you finish as high as possible.

Google Lens Hits 8BN Searches

People can now use images to find what they want on search engines as well as text. The best-known example of this is the Google Lens feature which surpassed 8bn searches in April 2022.

Google Lens allows users to take a picture of a particular object using their mobile phone cameras. Google’s AI then attempts to identify the image. Google then shows images which it thinks are exact or close matches. Users can then click on a particular image to go through to the site the image appears on.

Verb Brands takeaway: Make sure that you include descriptive “alt tags” for each image on your site. Better still, make structured data and schema markup integral parts of your site structure so that you give Google the best opportunity of making accurate Lens matches.

What Hasn’t Changed

Although 2022 has seen much change, the fundamentals haven’t.

Think local as well as national

If your brand has retail outlets or stockists, concentrate on local search and local SEO just as much as national SEO. By thinking like a local business, you can drive footfall to your premises.

Internal linking

Never forget the important of internal linking. You can use internal links to tell Google which pages you want them to feature for the keywords of greatest importance to your business.

External linking

External links are essential in improving ranking but, as we mentioned earlier, be careful who you get links from. Consider investing in digital PR to build your brand and build backlinks from authoritative sources.

Snippets, valuable Google real estate

Look out for featured snippet opportunities, possible the most sought after of all SERP features. Featured snippets (sometimes called rich snippets) are call-out boxes at the top of organic search results that give searchers information summaries. They get great clickthrough rates and are beneficial for overall site SEO, not just the one page the snippet links to.

Think about search intent

When you create content, think about what the person who finds that content wants to know. Look at the existing search results for that keyword and choose the keywords with the most valuable user intent first – when someone wants to make a purchase or leave an enquiry. Create content marketing that tells visitors something useful they didn’t know before. And make sure your content quality is always consistent with your brand.

Design for mobile first

If an SEO consultant wants you to marvel at the design they’ve created for your desktop, thank that person nicely but emphasises that performance on a mobile device is more important to you.

Sweat the little details

Make your title tags and meta tags compelling. They’re what a visitor will see when your page is featured on a results page so give them a reason to click through.

And Finally…

In 2022, Google renamed its Webmaster Guidelines program as Google Search Essentials. Although not much changed as a result of it, the guidelines detailing what Google wants from websites were made clearer for brands to follow.

SEO Success With VERB Brands

From digital PR to building domain authority and meta descriptions to optimising image filenames, VERB Brands has over 10 years’ experience working with luxury brands to win more traffic from organic search. We helped clients stay on top during the two core Google search algorithm updates in May and September 2022.

Get in touch with us for a complete site audit. Let us know what you want to achieve with your website, and we’ll let you know what you need to do to provide the ultimate on-page experience for your visitors and for the search engines.

Please use the contact form to get in touch with our luxury SEO services team. We look forward to working with you.