Some big changes hit the SEO world this week, with an unconfirmed search ranking algorithm update last Monday, and some new Google tests around grids and Core Web Vitals that could have a big impact on future SEO performance.
But first, let me take a step back and explore a question that really defines what I believe is the right approach to SEO.
What’s the most important ranking factor?
People ask me this all the time — and through all the algorithm updates, new SERP features, and ever-evolving black hat tactics — my answer is always the same.
The most important ranking factor is adding value.
If you focus on creating a digital experience that adds value for your audience, all the pieces will fall into place. Many SEOs, marketers, and even entire companies get caught up on the individual optimization items, and they lose sight of the bigger picture.
The key is focusing on delivering the most value to your audience, understanding their needs and biggest pain points and then solving those issues better than anyone else.
That’s how you build undeniable SEO campaigns.
And it takes a good SEO to understand how to translate that value into actionable marketing activities and campaigns. Now, let’s look at the latest updates in the SEO world this week, along with the lessons we can learn about adding value for our audience.
The local SEO goldmine around “near me” searches has grown dramatically, with "open now near me" searches up 400% YoY and "shopping near me" searches up 100% YoY. It’s no secret that “near me” optimization is key to a strong local SEO strategy. However, in what has become a classic SEO story, some of the most egregious, manipulative tactics for “near me” have finally stopped working.
When local SEO really started to kickoff, some enterprising (black hat) local businesses started creating business names with Near Me in the title. Think of the infamous "Dentist Near Me" and "Sushi Near Me" marketing memes.
Now, it looks like Google has removed the “near me” query connection. Basically, when a user searches [business category] + "near me," local search results will be matched to proximity and business category, not if the phrase direct matches “near me” language. This is part of Google’s improvements around understanding entities and local intent. The takeaway? The "near me” business name hack doesn't work, and will probably drive customers away because it’s beyond tacky.
Google introduced a new experimental performance metric called Interaction to Next Paint (INP). This metric covers user interaction responsiveness on a page. It’s still in early stages, and is unclear if it will be added to Core Web Vitals, but it’s important to understand what might become a new benchmark for page performance in the near future.
Google is testing a visual grid format on desktop search results. This grid has already been launched on mobile, and is mostly implemented on product searches. If you’re running Ecommerce SEO programs this might impact your CTR, ranking, and conversion metrics. It remains to be seen how this changes user behavior at shale.
Google shows item as out of stock when using the back order value schema, so be careful when implementing that structured data on your site. A product on back order is obviously not the same as out of stock, so users might be getting incorrect information with your Ecommerce SEO.
Google search Console reports now show Education Q&A rich results, super useful if you’re implement this schema and want to check performance.