My Favourite SEO Posts of 2016

04 Feb 2017

Here are some of the best industry posts from 2016. Great content that helps us all learn. Enjoy. 

SugarRae – How Google Works - A Call For Search Discussion

Rae Hoffman may not be a name that is familiar to you – but I suggest you subscribe to her blog. 

I’ve long been a fan of her work and the honesty in which she approaches the industry. In this post, Rae talks about a presentation given by Paul Haahr at SMX West. 

Paul gave a genuinely useful insight into how Google operates and as Hoffman comments, is probably one of the most important pieces of insight Google has ever shared with the industry. 

Rae provides commentary on each of the main slides in Paul’s presentation and does a great job by inviting opinions and comments. It's a very useful presentation and worth watching in full.

During the presentation, Paul gives a real insight into where Google is headed:

If you wonder why Google is doing something, often the answer is to make it look more like what the Rater Guidelines say.

If you haven't read the Quality Rater Guidelines, I suggest you take a look at them.

This is an incredibly helpful presentation and we should thank SMX West for getting the show together. The key points from Paul include:

  • Google is mobile first. The majority of their testing is mobile led.
  • Raters use their smartphones rather than desktops when testing.
  • Google users a single score to represent the match between query and page.
  • Google computes both query dependent and independent signals to establish this score.
  • Synonyms, context and entities matter in understanding queries.
  • Google engineers continually look for new signals to blend into its algorithms.
  • Google uses metrics to establish how good its results are.
  • The No 1 metric - how well the page answers the user query.
  • 'Quality' & 'Time To Result' also key metrics used.
  • 3 concepts define 'Quality' - these are Expertise, Authority and Trust (EAT).
  • Google uses experiments and raters to optimise/evaluate its key metrics.
  • Most people are part of some experiment or other when using Google.

Reading the SugarRae post and the presentation is a must for any SEO professional. The slides from the presentation are available on slideshare - The Myth Of Going Viral – (Nov 2016) Tomas Vaitulevicius

This was a fascinating read on many levels.

Tomas provided a fairly inflammatory post on the benefits of content marketing on bottom line SEO results. That on its own was brave and risked the ire of some of the best known seo agency's in the game. Essentially Tomas openly questioned the benefits of this methodology, citing 4 huge content pieces to present his argument.

As Tomas says, many agency services revolve around content marketing or more specifically, the concept of building interesting and stimulating content with a view to going viral:

Build Great Content + Go Viral + Lots Of Links = SEO Success

Now when I read the opening to this post, my first thought was ‘whoa – this is going to ruffle a few feathers.’

To Moz’s credit, they allowed the post air time – despite it directly calling out the strategies deployed by some of their recommended and closely affiliated agency’s - and more importantly querying the concept of Domain Authority. This is a Moz Metric and heavily used by the SEO industry. For the record Google says they do not use Domain Authority but nevertheless people use it A LOT and kudos to Moz here. It was a very interesting read and worth your time.

What do 600 linking domains and 400k Facebook shares get you?......nothing according to Tomas.

Its only fair to also highlight a follow up piece done by ex-Distilled Creative Director Mark Johnstone who was responsible for some of the work Tomas refers to.  

Mark is very honest in his response and does point out that at least one of the projects referenced in the original post had pretty great results. In the response, Mark confirms he agrees with much of the original analysis and whilst that may be hard to swallow for the clients involved, its a refreshingly honest and transparent appraisal of a major SEO agency's methodology.

Read both posts and you decide.

Searchmetrics: Ranking Factors – Rebooting for Relevance

Fair to say i got the champagne out when I read this. Why?

Because 18 months of solid work improving our processes, content quality and focus on user experience paid off in one glorious document.

Not only this, but our overall approach of delivering expert content first, backed by solid link creative work fitted perfectly into the study results.

No really, it did.

Searchmetrics are a very well respected data source in the industry. They provide a range of services but primarily offer a software suite designed to help SEO agency’s manage their client portfolio.

Periodically they release major studies. This is maybe the 5th or 6th release they have done.

For us in the office, it was great news. It puts us at the very forefront of the industry. That’s a very nice feeling :-)

SEO By The Sea - 2016 Important SEO Patents From Google

Bill Slawski probably deserves a medal for his tireless work investigating and reporting back to the industry on patent applications filed by Google.

This is a great roundup of those Bill felt the most important and its worth a read. Some really interesting things in here, my favourite being using sentiment as a ranking factor. Time to get some reviews done.... - 8 Old School SEO Practices That Are No Longer Effective - Whiteboard Friday

It always useful to check in with some of the more old school seo tactics that are kind of frowned upon really in 2016/7. That said, some of this stuff still works.

Recently I have worked on a site that had hidden footer links to doorway pages, way worse than the things Rand talks about. I would have expected Google to find and hammer these. They didn’t. They ranked great and brought in a lot of traffic and revenue in a competitive niche.

So old school still has a role. Avoid spam but helping Google using keywords and synonyms is still a great idea. - 10 Illustrations of How Fresh Content May Influence Google Rankings (Updated)

If you have read our SEO buyers guide, you will see I am big on fresh content and regular updates to content.

In this post, Cryus Shepherd provides some great examples of this in practice. Regular updates to site content are an investment in SEO. Not only are you keeping your content fresh for visitors, you get a nice little boost from the big G too.

Stone Temple Consulting - Are Links Still a Powerful Ranking Factor? (New Study)

Not for the faint hearted, this stats based monster post from Eric Enge (I have a lot of time for Eric’s work) demonstrates that links are still a powerful beast in the ranking jungle.

In fact as our buyers guide highlights, the combination of great content and great links is unbeatable. Great effort here from Stone Temple Consulting although whether it was worth this investment to confirm we need links I am not as sure....

Buzz Sumo - The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing

Quite a controversial discussion bearing in mind Google has hammered many fake Rolex sites for creating junk content. In it, Steve Rayson discusses the concept of content automation edited by experts to save time and money in content creation.

This may be helpful in some content types such as content requiring quick updates (stock updates etc.). I can’t see it working for true expert content however but its an interesting discussion and I am all for that. Not something we will be harnessing at least for the foreseeable though.

ConversionXL – Top 10 Articles Of 2016

The output from Peep Lejar is incredible. This just one example of the level of work they produce.

You are basically spoilt for choice here so try and read them all if you have time !

Wordstream - 6 SEO Experiments That Will Blow Your Mind

I like Larry Kim. He loves unicorns more than my two daughters and he’s not afraid to put something out there in the name of progressing the industry.

He also does a lot of work in Adwords which is of great quality. In this post, Larry rounds up some of his best experiments of the year. Well worth a look.

That’s it, but if you think I have missed some great content (I probably have) then tell me in the comments and I will signpost it.


The article was written by Robin Wood.

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