The purpose of this article is to share with you a survival guide—a collection of strategies and personal insights that I’ve honed over the years. These are the tactics that have helped me weather the storm of algorithm changes and maintain a strong online presence. Let’s delve into the world of SEO post-Google content update changes and uncover the secrets to resilience and success.
So, how to survive a Google update?
The Importance of Keyword Research
In my experience, effective keyword research remains a critical foundation for SEO success, outweighing even the quality of content itself—particularly for newer sites.
With the right keywords, mediocre content can outperform premium content targeting the wrong keywords. The reverse is also true, where amazing content fails to get traction without keywords informing content strategy and alignment to user intent.
Simplifying Keyword Research
Many bloggers and agencies complicate keyword research to justify paid courses and services. But in most cases, identifying effective keywords does not require complex or technical processes.
Here is my approach in a nutshell:
- Generate a large list of relevant keywords using free tools like Ahrefs, Google Keyword Planner, or Keyword Everywhere.
- Refine and filter keywords using parameters like search volume, difficulty, and opportunity.
- Prioritize keywords based on urgency, relevancy, and chance of ranking.
- Align content creation to optimized keywords.
- Continually assess and refine keywords over time.
My Preferred Keyword Tools
For generating keyword lists, any quality keyword research tool will suffice, whether paid or free. I often use Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner, but Keyword Everywhere and SEMRush are also solid options.
Once I’ve compiledcandidate keywords, I use Keyword Chef or RankAtom to filter and refine my list, focusing on low competition keywords with the highest search volume.
The most important filtering parameters for me are:
- Low Keyword Difficulty – Generally keywords under 10-15 KD offer the best opportunity.
- High Search Volume – Minimum of 100 monthly searches or more.
- Key SERP Features – Forums, PDFs, low DA sites – indicators of opportunity.
My Personal Keyword Research Approaches
Beyond using keyword research tools, I take 3 personal approaches to identifying effective keywords for new content:
1. General Research – This is my baseline process of generating a keyword list from tools, then filtering for low-competition keywords with filtering tools like Keyword Chef and Serpstat.
2. Experience-Based – Once I know a niche well, I will directly target keywords and topics I’m confident will perform well based on expertise, like my article ranking for “GPT-4 passing AI detection”.
3. Content-to-Article – If I record a popular YouTube video, I’ll often repurpose it into a written article to maximize its value. The video title and topics inform my keyword targeting.
I’ve found these 3 approaches are optimal for researching keywords for pages I want to rank well.
Quality of Content: Balancing Human and AI
In addition to keywords, Google’s updates have placed greater emphasis on the quality and uniqueness of content. While AI tools can help scale content production, human writing is still valued above auto-generated content.
When determining the quality and authority of content, common factors Google considers include:
- Readability, structure, and organization
- Depth of information, analysis, and research
- Originality and uniqueness
- Adherence to SEO best practices
- Degree of human creation vs. automation
My Content Mix – Human vs AI
Across my main network site, I utilize a mix of human-written and AI-generated content:
- 3% Human – Very limited original content for high-priority pages.
- 33% GPT-3 – Repurposed from YouTube videos using ChatGPT.
- 40% Other AI – Primarily written by Conversion.ai and Jasper.ai.
- 24% Enhanced AI – AI content edited by human freelancers.
This balance allows me to scale content quickly while still ensuring high-quality and original content that follows SEO best practices.
My Preferred AI Tools
For auto-generated content, I mainly use Agility Writer and SEOWriting which provide robust features for long-form, SEO-optimized content. Both integrate keywords and allow some customization of tone/voice.
I also use ChatGPT and Open AI Playground for repurposing my own YouTube content into written articles (which aids with EAT).
For enhancing AI content, I work with human freelancers through platforms like Scripted.com to polish off any rough edges.
Maintaining Quality and Engagement
To keep both human and AI content engaging, I ensure all posts are:
- Organized with headers, short paragraphs, and bullet points
- Focused around a specific keyword and topic
- Free of grammar errors or awkward phrasing
- Reviewed and edited by a human at some point
I also try to embed relevant stats, quotes, examples, and multimedia to improve quality. The goal is to make every article useful, clear, and compelling for readers – regardless of whether its origin is human or AI.
So far, this blend of both original and auto-generated content has proven effective in ranking well while avoiding Google penalties.
Backlink Building Strategies
Backlinks remain one of the strongest rankings signals for SEO. While Google’s updates have enhanced their abilities to detect unnatural links, quality backlinks from relevant sites continue to improve search visibility.
My Backlink Methods
I take a minimalist approach to backlink building with just two core strategies:
Content-Driven: Creating link-worthy content assets like rankings and tools that other sites naturally link to.
Purchasing: Buying a small number of backlinks from high-authority sites in my niche.
This combines organic and promotional strategies for getting quality backlinks without over-optimizing.
Leveraging Content Assets for Links
Some examples of content assets that have generated quality backlinks for my sites include:
- Free KGR Calculator – free keyword research tool to calculate the KGR score
- Free Niche Generator – a free niche generator with helpful insights and strategies
- Free Turnitin Score Estimator – a free Turnitin alternative that let’s peole check the A.I. Score
- Recommended Tools – a helpful resource for Beginner Bloggers to choose the best A.I. Tool Stack
Helpful tools and resources like this that others find value in naturally cultivate backlinks. They also attract social shares which can compound into more organic links.
For purchasing backlinks, I use a service by Saket Wahi which offers managed backlink building from trusted sites. I limit orders to 2-3 per month to avoid over-optimizing.
The Power of Direct Traffic for SEO
While backlinks, keywords, and content help pages rank for specific queries, directing external traffic to your site is key for overall domain authority. One major ranking factor Google has confirmed is the volume of direct traffic a site receives.
Direct traffic encompasses visits from:
- Social media referrals
- Direct URLs
- Email subscribers
Attracting direct, engaged visitors signals a site’s trust and popularity independent of content-focused rankings.
Driving Direct Traffic to My Sites
To cultivate direct traffic, the key strategies I focus on are:
- Social Media: Promoting my content across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram etc.
- Tools / Widgets: Creating viral tools like calculators that get embedded and shared.
- Loyal Readers: Building my email list and reader base that revisits.
- Brand Recognition: Establishing my site’s brand and authority within my niche.
Here are a few examples of assets driving recurring direct traffic:
- YouTube channel with 17,000 subscribers
- Email list of 2000+ subscribers interested in my niche
- Popular “Turnitin Score Estimator” tool embedded
The ongoing stream of direct visitors to my site from these sources inoculates my domain against changes in Google’s core ranking algorithms. Even if my page rankings slip, direct traffic persistence keeps overall domain stability higher.
Building a Pillar Site That Thrives Through Google Updates
By combining the strategies outlined above, I’ve been able to build several pillar sites that continue driving strong organic traffic through Google ups and downs.
What is a Pillar Site?
A pillar site is a website focused around a specific niche or industry. It aims to establish domain authority and recognition as a top resource for that particular topic.
The content quality and community loyalty of a pillar site make it resistant to algorithm changes. By providing ongoing value, pillar sites earn trust and relevance that Google seeks to reward.
Turning Your Website Into a Pillar Site
Here are key steps I recommend based on my own experience:
- Choose a specific, in-demand niche. Become THE site people associate with that niche.
- Conduct relentless keyword research. Build content around keywords people are searching for.
- Produce high-quality content consistently. Earn trust and authority around your niche.
- Acquire backlinks strategically. Pursue contextual links from relevant industry sites.
- Build your audience and traffic channels. Establish owned media and subscribers.
- Create tools and assets for your niche. Provide unique value beyond just content.
It takes time, but sites that follow this formula can become pillars and weather most Google updates.