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SEO strategies are an indelible part of any online marketing strategies, and they represent a topic that is arguably prone to more uncertainty than any other in the field.

The Google search algorithm underwent a number of changes over the course of 2021, which led to endless speculation about how the outcome of different people’s SEO strategies would be affected for the better or the worse. Now that the New Year is upon us, there is still no definitive answer to that question, though the general wisdom remains the same:

The more the algorithm is refined, the more you can count on Google to rank you high on search results pages if your site’s content is as good as it can be.

Content is King…

This is to say that your overall digital marketing strategy needs to take precedence over your SEO strategy, now more than ever. The latter should be built upon the former, with the goal of further buttressing the inroads you’ve already made by writing top-notch product descriptions and blog posts, refining your web design to fit dominant trends and the known preferences of your target audience, and testing user interface to make sure the purchase funnel leads the majority of visitors toward conversion, on all platforms.

Those essential elements must be your top-line priorities, but you must not overcompensate for the unpredictability of search engine optimization by assuming that it is a factor beyond your control. There are still things that every site owner and web designer can do to maximize their chances of rising to the top of a SERP, beyond the obvious content-related SEO strategies.

What has changed with successive Google updates is not so much the nature of optimization, but rather the hierarchy of elements that determine which pages are deemed most relevant to a given search term. Factors like keyword density and Core Web Vitals have moved down that hierarchy, but they haven’t been removed from it. This means that even as your priorities shift to accommodate Google’s new expectations, there is little to no change in what it means to have truly comprehensive SEO strategies.

Only the most comprehensive of those strategies will rise to the top of search results. If a sites search engine optimization team has failed to account for just one element, it could make all the difference if they are competing with another site that has checked every last box on the algorithm’s checklist.

Granted, no one can be entirely sure what all of those check boxes are, much less what order they appear in. But decades of experience with search engine optimization should lead qualified digital marketing teams to have a clear sense of various elements that have been important in the past, or have become important in recent years, and will therefore always have some role to play unless the concept of optimization is someday reworked from scratch.

Core Web Vitals are a prime example of the sort of elements that used to be of paramount importance, and today are secondary at best, while still being important. The term collectively refers to largest contentful paint, first input display, and cumulative layout shift – web development features that load before any of the truly substantive features of a website, often within a matter of milliseconds.

But SEO Tricks Still Have Their Place

Depending on how technically-minded you are and how long you’ve been interested in digital marketing or SEO strategies, your knee-jerk reaction to that description might be either to question why Core Web Vitals would still matter or to recognize immediately why they were important in the first place.

On one hand, practically no-one consciously notices web design elements that appear and then are swallowed up by the rest of the page in a matter of seconds. But on the other hand, most people do recognize even very brief lags and delays in the alignment of display elements. Many users form their impressions of a given website on an unconscious level, sometimes even in as little time as it takes for Core Web Vitals to load.

Of course, any negative impression created by flaws in this area will be overridden by high-quality content, which is more important to the algorithm anyway. But if the same user unconsciously registers lag on your website but not on another site of equal quality, visited at roughly the same time, then that other site is all but certain to get the edge in competing for the user’s attention.

Whether or not the user notices any difference, the algorithm certainly does. If the content on two sites is truly of equal quality in its eyes, there has to be something to break the tie. Core Web Vitals are as good a benchmark as any, even if there’s only a minor chance of ordinary human beings picking up on them.

Then again, there are other minor aspects of SEO strategies which might also set one website apart from another site of functionally equal quality. There’s also no way of knowing for certain which it will be. That’s why it’s so important for digital marketing teams to try to be as comprehensive as possible with their SEO marketing strategies, even though such strategies are far, far less important than the actual content of a website.

At the same time, it’s important for those same teams to remember where SEO strategies belong in the hierarchy, and to act accordingly. That sub-category of digital marketing should never overwhelm the project as a whole. If it does, Google is sure to pick up on it right away and start moving the site in question lower on the results pages because it’s using tactics like keyword-stuffing which fell out of favor in the industry’s earliest years.

In other words, the dual responsibilities of marketing and search engine optimization require web service providers to strike a very delicate balance. SEO tips and tricks must never be neglected, but they must never be assigned so much importance that they upstage the website’s high-quality content. That content, as any marketing professional will tell you, is still king.

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