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What I Learned from Overseeing Large Semantic SEO Data Studies for Neil Patel and Brian Dean

4 min read

Eric van Buskirk, founder of Clickstream, discusses what he learned from directing two of the largest and most recognized SEO data studies in this webinar with MarketMuse Co-founder and Chief Product Officer Jeff Coyle. Here are the webinar notes.

Keyword-Driven Content is Out

Major (and minor) updates over the years have really changed the nature of Google as a search engine. Panda in 2010 focused on quality at both the site and page level. Hummingbird in 2013 was all about search intent. Rankbrain in 2015 aimed for relevance and context. Today, we find ourselves in a cycle of continuous updates to further improve the search experience. Digital marketing needs to adapt.

What Really Affects Search Ranking

Google uses machine learning to observe the co-occurrence of topics and looks for these associations on content pages. Trust and authority are major ranking factors but it’s unknown how the search engine measures it. Erik relates a story about two of the effects of a recent Google update on two of his clients; one saw a dramatic increase in rankings while the other experienced a large drop. The one who experienced a large drop didn’t invest in the types of activities that generate true authority signals (participating in conferences, meetups, etc which results in quality links) and instead relied on old-school SEO link building.

Key Takeaways From the Neil Patel Study

Here are eight important revelations from the Neil Patel Study:

  1. Select, refine, and state your site’s topic using a clear purpose statement, above-the-fold content, and specific navigation elements.
  2. Create long-form content.
  3. Create in-depth content.
  4. Summarize the purpose and intent of the site with specificity and directness.
  5. Create content that appeals to readers.
  6. Create focused content.
  7. Create a lot of content.
  8. Create content that is entirely relevant to your area of expertise.

Key Takeaways From The Brian Dean Study

The Brian Dean study analyzed 1 million Google search results from which the following insights were gathered.

  1. The number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.
  2. A Site’s overall link authority strongly correlates with higher rankings.
  3. Content rated as “topically relevant” significantly outperformed content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth.
  4. Longer content tends to rank higher. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
  5. HTTPS has a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings.
  6. The use of Schema markup doesn’t correlate with higher rankings.
  7. Content with at least one image significantly outperformed content without any images.
  8. There is a very small relationship between title tag keyword optimization and ranking.
  9. Pages on fast-loading sites rank significantly higher than pages on slow-loading sites.
  10. Exact-match anchor text appears to have a strong influence on rankings.
  11. A low bounce rate was associated with higher Google rankings.

Search Engines and Semantics Relationships

The days of keyword density are over and have been for a long time. That SEO strategy no longer works. The relationship between words has taken priority. Frequency is not a measure of relevance. A semantically relevant word can be rarely mentioned yet have a high degree of relevance.

Moving The Needle

When creating content in today’s environment, pay attention to:

  • Breadth and depth – to make sure you’re covering all the related topics to an adequate degree.
  • User intent – to ensure your page addresses why people search for the subject in the first place.
  • Brand voice – align with your brand to ensure consistency from one page to the next.
  • Relevant topics – include all relevant topics so that your article is comprehensive and can be judged as expert-level content.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.