What happened in SEO during Q3 2021

by David Broderick

Want to catch up on the talking points and insights you might have missed from the world of SEO from the last three months?

Look no further.

Read on for a whistle-stop tour of the biggest stories and hottest topics in search right now.

The most popular stories from our Rich Snippets newsletter

Catch up on the ten most popular guides and resources we featured in our weekly Rich Snippets newsletter during Q3 2021:

1. The importance of understanding “entity-oriented search” for SEO: Beyond strings – inLinks

In this case study, the ever-eloquent Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR takes a deep dive into the importance of entity-oriented content strategies. Give it a read to discover how entities interconnect and can be leveraged to match content opportunities to user intent.

And if you’re not yet familiar with entities, expect to spend some extra time down delightful and/or slightly overwhelming rabbit holes.

2. How to improve ROI by connecting organic and paid search – Think with Google

In this illuminating guide, Stephen Pritchard argues that unifying the data between paid and organic search teams creates a fuller, richer picture of consumer behavior.

The piece includes useful case study data and insights on merging a bidding strategy with organic search for a better ROI.

3. SEO salary report 2021: How much SEO pros get paid – Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal has armed you with all the data you need to make a case for a payrise in its latest SEO salary report.

More than 2,300 SEOs contributed to the survey, which includes average SEO salary brackets, SEO salaries by job title, SEO salary by years of experience, and much more.

4. The Large site owner’s guide to managing your crawl budget – Google Search Central

Lizzi Harvey and the Google Search technical writing team recently nestled a quiz in the Large site owner’s guide to managing your crawl budget.

Hop on over and test your knowledge on how Google crawls and indexes websites with the mythbusting quiz.

5. Analyzing Google Search traffic drops – Google Search Central

In July, Google published its official guidance on analysing – and reversing – search traffic drops.

The Search Central Blog post walks through the five main causes of traffic losses and how you can use your Search Console performance report and Trends data to diagnose why your traffic has dropped off a cliff.

6. How to write blog posts that readers care about – Animalz

Animalz’s Ryan Law has published the content writing guide to end all content writing guides. This mammoth resource covers everything you need to know to write killer content that deserves to rank, from finding ideas and creating an outline to writing an introduction hook and choosing a great title.

7. Taking charge of your indexability – Areej AbuAli

At MozCon, Areej AbuAli took a deep dive into the power of controlling your index through a case study of her 18-month-long project on a 40 million page site.

The deck talks facets and filters, KPIs and datasets, prioritization and cross-team strategic collaboration.

8. Google’s July 2021 core update: Winners, losers, and analysis – Amsive Digital

After Google’s July update, Lily Ray was on hand to analyze the algorithm’s winners and losers.

Key takeaways from Lily’s analysis include:

9. Keep a simple URL structure – Google Search Central

New guidance from Google on how to maintain a simple URL structure includes a handy summary of common causes of problems such as filters, parameters, and dynamic URLs. 

Unfortunately, the guide is a little light on solutions – although it does recommend removing unnecessary URL parameters.

10. An update to how we generate web page titles – Google Search Central

Back in August, Google started using a new system to generate titles in the SERPs. A post on the Search Central Blog clarifies in which situations a new Google-generated title tag might appear in SERP.

Apparently, the Page Title Update is designed to detect and adjust for:

The hottest topics in our Slack community

Get your finger on the pulse of the hottest topics from our exclusive Slack community during Q3 2021:

1. How should you approach Google’s reminder on qualifying links?

At the end of July, there was a lively discussion within TTT around fresh Google guidance on qualifying links and its link spam update.

Opinions ranged from this potentially one of the most seismic algorithm changes of 2021 to it just being PR with no real algorithm change behind it.

James Norquay also bemoaned the perils of contributing to a HARO request from a site that then starts to sell links, tarring your site with a black hat brush after you’ve earned a link from a legitimate site that later changed its ways.

2. How to deal with duplicate location pages

A Traffic Think Tank member asked the community for advice on how to handle a new local SEO client with more than a hundred location pages that are identical beside the location name being swapped out.

Ryan Huser warned that he’s seen a site wiped out of Google’s index with a manual action for this exact thing (this was officially reported as thin content in Search Console).

Ian recommended a two-pronged solution:

Andrew Peluso echoed Ian’s advice by recommending reworking the pages so they each contain unique content by adding things like:

3. Should you stay solo or build an agency?

Nick LeRoy asked the solo consultants and agency owners within TTT why they chose to go the route they’ve gone.

As someone who both owns an agency and operates as a solo consultant, Joel Klettke had plenty of insights, including:

Jared McKiernan flagged that as a solo consultant you can make a lot of money, do what you want, and don’t have to manage anyone. Corey Northcutt added that while growing an agency adds complications and might not improve your payroll, it does accumulate millions in equity pretty quickly. 

Christian Thurston said it’s important to consider if you want to be doing the same thing in five years that you’re doing today. If not, you should have a plan to get you where you want to be – whether that’s going solo, building an agency, or another route.

4. How to stop being the bottleneck in your business

Blake Denman, one of our brilliant Community Advocates, revealed the lessons he’s learned about how to stop being the bottleneck in your business during the 12-and-half-years he’s been running his agency. 

His tips included:

5. Gotta register ‘em all!

When Ken Savage asked who else could relate to this meme, several hands were sheepishly raised:

One TTT founder who shall remain nameless even admitted to having close to 2,500 domains registered (no, that’s not a typo!).

6. How to build a content hub

When a TTT member asked for a 101 on content hubs, Isaac Hammelburger was happy to help. He explained:

Ian also added that a super strict silo approach with two-way links between each page gets messy once you have a lot of content. To overcome this, he suggests segmenting your silos with a third layer of pages. 

He illustrated this using the site of a personal injury lawyer as an example. Ian would create a content hub with three layers:

  1. A ‘personal injury’ page
  2. ‘Injury type’ pages (‘Motorcycle Accidents’, ‘Cycling Accidents’, ‘Car Accidents’, etc.)
  3. Individual posts

You’d build content hubs by:

  1. Linking from the ‘Personal Injury’ page to all of the ‘Injury type’ pages.
  2. Linking from ‘Injury type’ hubs to each of the posts of that type. 
  3. Linking back up to the relevant ‘Injury type’ hub and the ‘Personal Injury’ page from each post.

Ian also recommended a great Content Harmony guide to the types of content hubs – some with only a few links and some with tons – as further reading.

7. How to represent English on an international site

Andy Chadwick asked the community what flag or icon they would use on the button that toggles a multilingual site to English

Kane Jamison suggested keeping things simple and just having “English” in a small font, while YM Ousley and Richard Gargan both suggested having a flag split diagonally between the UK and US flag.

8. What’s the best/worst reason you’ve been fired by a client?

Tyler Hakes asked the community for the best/worst reason they’d been fired by a client.

One TTTer was ditched by a client for another consultant who sold them on the idea of building a bunch of Web 2.0 links. The TTTer wasn’t removed from the client’s Analytics and was shocked to watch that tactic not pan out.

Another TTTer had a client who would ring them whenever they were bored to discuss whether they’d made the right choice in investing in SEO or not. The TTTer was eventually let go for not being available enough for the clients’ liking…

Kris Roadruck didn’t have any horror stories, but explained the most common reason for being let go is that a client hires a new CMO or Marketing Director who wants to change things up or bring on an agency they’ve worked with before. In Kris’ words: “You can’t blame them. Even if you’re doing a great job, they don’t win any brownie points for changing nothing. Their predecessor would get the credit.”

9. Should you fire a client who isn’t active? 

Nick LeRoy asked if anyone had fired a client for not being active, despite paying their invoices.

A few TTTers had clients they wanted to fire because they didn’t implement their suggestions but understandably stuck it out for the money. 

John Short’s take is that keeping your team active and inspired is more important than the money, as the good people will leave if the work isn’t intellectually stimulating. 

Mike Belasco suggested that if you can handle it financially, you should give inactive clients the boot. His take is that it’s just a matter of time until you part ways with them, and if you leave it up to the client that might come at a bad time for you.

10. The best tool for creating content briefs

When Andrew Peluso asked the community what the best tool was for creating content outlines that includes a content grader, the consensus was clear: either Content Harmony or Clearscope.

Want to keep up to speed with all things SEO without having to wait until our Q4 update? Sign up to our weekly Rich Snippets newsletter and join Traffic Think Tank to get real-time updates and join in on the discussion.

And if you missed them the first time round, don’t miss the insights from our quarterly highlights from Q2 2021.

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