How Sites With Less SEO Win Google + 4 More SEO Tips

By Cyrus Shepard
Updated 4 days ago

Originally published as part of the SEO Tips Newsletter. Sign up free.

As we spot a small number of sites recovering traffic from Google’s last round of updates, it’s becoming clearer what Google wants when it talks about “Helpful Content.”

  • UX (Ads & popups ↓)
  • Business Model (Review sites ↓, ecommerce & forum sites ↑)
  • First-hand Experience

Now, based on our latest SEO study, we can likely add over-optimization to that list.

Google says they want to demote content that’s primarily made for search engines – but how do they know what to target?

In our latest study, I partnered with Ahrefs and examined common SEO practices—things that savvy SEOs might do aggressively.

The study found 4 surprising SEO practices that, when pushed to the limits, were significantly associated with losing traffic after a Google update.

Read the SEO Study Here

Here are the best SEO Tips we’ve seen this month:

1. Keep Your Topics Focused

Over the past year, we’ve seen Google shift towards rewarding sites that focus on more specific topics rather than sites that publish on a broad range of things. The recent Google leaks reveal a metric called SiteFocusScore. While we don’t know if or how Google uses this metric, you can learn about it and a bunch more related to the Google leaks in a very excellent post by Chima Mmeje.

20 SEOs Share Their Key Takeaways From the Google API Leaks

2. Don’t Lie to Google In Your XML Sitemaps

Both Google and Bing are encouraging you to include the lastmod element in your sitemap files. Many publishers sometimes “fudge” the lastmod date, believing Google will crawl their site more often. But if you do this, Google may lose trust in you.

Google: We Either Trusts Or Doesn’t Trust Your Sitemap’s Lastmod Date

3. Negotiate a Better SEO Salary

Whether you are negotiating with a client or starting a new role in-house, you want to get paid what you are worth—which is a lot! Don’t let the dollars slip by with this excellent guide from Carolyn Lyden and the experts at SEOjobs.

How to Successfully Negotiate Your SEO Salary: A Complete Guide

4. Kill Those Negative Search Results

Ranking higher is great, but sometimes you have to bury the bad stuff. This is the best and most comprehensive guide we’ve ever seen on Reputation Management in SEO, written by the terrific Chris Long.

How to Remove & Suppress Negative Search Results

Bonus: Tool of the Week

Google says it’s bad if you change “the date of pages to make them seem fresh when the content has not substantially changed.” We’ve seen evidence this can actually hurt sites, so it may be best to only update your page dates when you actually make significant changes. For WordPress users, the WP Last Modified Info plugin is my go-to for clients. It allows you to easily set all date parameters and display them however you wish. Get it here:

WP Last Modified Info

Do you have any SEO Tips you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Threads.

Best of luck with your SEO!

p.s. I’m once again offering SEO consulting services to select clients. If you’re interested, check out our Services page.


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Zyppy started optimizing websites for Google traffic in 2009, led by me, Cyrus Shepard. From my time at Moz until now, I run dozens of SEO experiments per year, so I'm comfortable with our data. My experience allows me craft successful SEO strategies for startups to Fortune 500 companies, and my mission extends to educating the public on SEO best practices. Learn more about Zyppy SEO. and our best services.

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