What’s Wrong with the YouTube Algorithm? According to Creators, a Great Deal

YouTube’s recommendation algorithm drives roughly 70 percent of what people watch on the video-hosting platform. That’s to be expected, of course, especially since parent company Alphabet also manages and maintains the world’s largest search engine. What you might not expect is that in spite of Google’s ubiquity in the world of search engine optimization, YouTube’s policies and algorithms leave a lot to be desired. 

According to MIT Technology Review, a new study from Mozilla has found that even though YouTube provides users with controls to adjust what the algorithm shows them, those controls do very little. Researchers analyzed seven months of activity from more than 20,000 study participants to evaluate YouTube’s “Dislike,” “Not interested,” “Remove from history,” and “Don’t recommend this channel” functions. 

Each rejected video still spawned an average of 115 unwanted recommendations. 

This is only the tip of the iceberg where YouTube’s issues are concerned, however. MIT Technology Review goes on to note that the company has found itself repeatedly under fire for the site’s tendency to reward controversial content and promote videos and advertisements that violate its own content policies. Mozilla speculates that the core issue is that YouTube focuses more on watch time than user enjoyment or satisfaction. 

It doesn’t help that YouTube’s content policies are vague at best, and draconian at worst—nor does it help that the company retroactively applies policy changes. The most recent blunder in that arena, TechDirt reports, was that “an additional change to violent content was made, with the restriction no longer applying only to IRL violence, but now depictions of violence in media content, such as video games.”

Considering that two of the top five YouTube channels worldwide publish gaming content, this move is baffling, to say the least. 

But it’s also par for the course with YouTube, which has begun restricting foul language, limiting ads or outright demonetizing videos with profanity within the first 15 seconds. (Up until November 2021, YouTube allowed the moderate use of profanity within the first 30 seconds of a video.) Again, this change was applied retroactively, and the policy is enforced unevenly across channels, with multiple videos being repeatedly demonetized and then remonetized. 

The point is: Something on YouTube is broken. Between the unevenly applied content policies, its failure to communicate with its most critical content creators, and its user-unfriendly algorithms, it’s baffling to think that its parent company is the same organization that has defined the world of SEO for decades. 

You need only look at the swathes of prominent YouTubers forced to rely on alternative methods of monetization such as Patreon or brand sponsorships to see that YouTube needs to make a change. 

In the meantime, the only thing you can do if you publish content on the site is to optimize your videos well—and hope that the company doesn’t make an arbitrary change that causes viewership to plummet. 

Why Are Google’s Algorithm Updates Always so Volatile?

It seems like every time Google releases a major algorithm update, the SEO space erupts into chaos. Countless websites lose their ranking in the search engine results pages, and multiple businesses end up facing a sharp decline in revenue. Why does this keep happening?

Much of the consternation around Google’s algorithms is born of sensationalization. Google releases a major update to its algorithm—known as a Core Update—every few months, and smaller updates on roughly a weekly basis. Were the algorithm really as unstable as some people claim, it would be next to impossible to maintain a spot anywhere on the first page of the SERPs. Yet, somehow, many websites do. 

So why is there so much apparent misinformation around Google’s Core Updates? And, more importantly, how do you make it through these updates unscathed?  

We Don’t Know How Google’s Algorithms Work—But that Doesn’t Matter

Google is known for being notoriously tight-lipped about its algorithms. Although the company has published a comprehensive knowledge base with advice on how to place and rank in their search engine, much of what we know about SEO is based largely on guesswork and observation. 

With few exceptions, every single one of Google’s updates over the past several years has followed roughly the same pattern. Though we don’t know what’s going on under the hood, we do know that the company’s algorithms are intended to prioritize quality, accuracy and relevance above all else. 

This means that, provided you’ve done your homework on who your audience is, what they want and the right keywords to help them find your content, you should be just fine. It also means that if you are penalized by a Core Update, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong. 

Technical SEO Is Irrelevant without Quality Content

If there’s one acronym that every SEO specialist absolutely needs to understand, it’s Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust) principle. Pulled directly from Google’s quality rater guidelines, these are the four metrics by which Google rates and assesses content. This means that every algorithm update has  a direct impact on your own PageRank

While we’d strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with the guidelines in its entirety, here’s a quick checklist of the major points your content should include:

  • Keywords relevant to both the interest and intent of your target audience. 
  • Links to and from sites that consistently publish high-quality content and maintain a top spot in the SERPs. 
  • Regular shares of content and discussion on social media. 
  • Bylines and author profiles to build up your reputation. 
  • Adherence to Schema and an understanding of metadata.
  • Guest editorials published by other authorities in your field. 
  • A comprehensive About Us page. 
  • A complete Google My Business profile.
  • Name, Address and Phone (NAP) information on every page. 
  • A well-organized website with easy navigation, few pop-ups, and clear topics and categories. 

Just Focus on Content Quality, and You’ll Be Fine

Ultimately, Google’s algorithm updates are nowhere near as volatile or harmful as they may seem. If an update causes your site’s ranking to drop, there’s always a reason for it. Your best bet is to simply focus on creating the best content and experience possible.

How to Protect Your Website from Negative SEO Attacks

The early days of search engines were reminiscent of the wild west. Underhanded or downright malicious search engine optimization (SEO) was commonplace, and many of the top spots on the search engine results page were taken up by low-quality, misleading spam sites. It didn’t take long for Google to correct the issue, and it’s been leveling increasingly harsh penalties against the tactics used by spammers and bad actors, collectively known as black hat SEO. 

Unfortunately, black hat practitioners appear to have missed the memo. Negative SEO attacks are on the rise, driven as much by unscrupulous site owners as by cybercriminals. Today, we’re going to tell you how to protect yourself against them.  

What is Negative SEO?

Negative SEO refers to a specific branch of black hat SEO that involves targeting other websites rather than attempting to improve one’s own page rank. Although the motivations may differ, the end goal of negative SEO is to sabotage another company’s SEO efforts. In some cases, a bad actor might even attempt to directly hack or compromise a website. 

What are the Most Common Types of Negative SEO Attack? 

Common negative SEO techniques include: 

  • Directly hacking a website. 
  • Using link farms or public blog networks to drown a competitor’s site in toxic backlinks. 
  • Content scraping. 
  • Fake reviews. 
  • Fraudulent backlink removal requests. 
  • Fraudulent DMCA takedowns.  

How Do You Stop a Negative SEO Attack?

The short answer is that it depends on the type of attack. The long answer is that in some cases, it’s difficult to know for certain if your website is even being targeted by negative SEO. Some webmasters are quick to blame external factors for their declining page rank, which may cause them to overlook their own mistakes. 

Before you assume you’re being targeted, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has Google recently updated its algorithm? 
  • When did you last perform a backlink audit?
  • When did you last test your website with PageSpeed Insights
  • Are there any recent industry changes that could explain this? 
  • Has a competitor started outperforming you because they simply have a higher-quality, better-optimized site?
  • Does your website use HTTPS? 
  • Is your website optimized for mobile devices?  

Once you’ve ruled out the factors above, the following steps can help keep you safe from a negative SEO attack—even one that’s in progress. 

  • Check your backlink profile for toxic links using a tool like Ahrefs.
  • Disavow each unnatural link you uncover.
  • Leverage a tool like Copyleaks to manually search for stolen or scraped content, or a platform like DataDome for automated protection. 
  • Every time you see a negative review about your business, make an effort to reach out to the reviewer and rectify the situation, reporting any obviously fake reviews. 
  • Enable spam protection and multifactor authentication on your website, and ensure that you have a secure username and password. 


At the end of the day, most negative SEO practitioners are doing it because they’re either too lazy or too talentless to achieve genuine success; they think they can get away with taking a shortcut instead. The reality is that as Google’s algorithms continue to improve, the efficacy of negative SEO continues to decrease. 

For the most part, as long as your SEO is up to par, you should be fine. 

Brain Engine Optimization is More than Just a Buzzword

If there’s one thing the marketing profession loves, it’s buzzwords. And by all accounts, Brain Engine Optimization (or BEO, for short) appears to fit the bill.  No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Google’s RankBrain Algorithm (even though by all accounts one would expect it to). 

As noted by Marketing Week, it’s a phrase created out of a quote by John Bradshaw, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Traction:

“The most important search engine is still the one in our minds.” 

Alright, so our brain is a search engine, then? What does that mean, exactly?  More importantly, what does it have to do with marketing? 

Bizarre analogies aside, the concept of BEO actually has quite a bit to do with marketing and search. First and foremost, we all know the push Google’s been on recently—how it’s making every effort to reduce the importance of technical search engine optimization (SEO) in favor of something more holistic and intent-based. In short, it wants businesses to optimize their website for people rather than for robots. 

google search engine

To consider what their visitors want and need instead of what will help their content play nicely with the algorithms. 

In other words, it’s meant to optimize your content for how people think.  This is where you rely on a combination of intuition and research. For every piece of content you create, you need to answer the following questions: 

  • What do my customers want? 
  • What do people like about my brand?
  • What customer needs does this content serve to fulfill? 
  • What mental associations does this customer have with my brand, if any? 
  • What emotions do I want the customer to experience when associating with my brand? 

Realistically, this is just a roundabout way of advising you to create and maintain ideal customer profiles. This advice applies to business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations. Although the sales funnel for each is slightly different, the same knowledge is invaluable in both cases. 

There’s a bit more to the topic of BEO, like category entry points and memory generation. But it all ultimately boils down to what we’ve already said. As a marketing professional, knowing and understanding how your audience thinks, browses, and shops is more valuable than any keyword or sentiment research. 

So, brain engine optimization. Is it another largely unnecessary buzzword? Most definitely.

At the same time, it speaks to an important truth that underlies every marketing strategy, regardless of industry, sector, or demographic. The more you know about your audience’s thought process, the better-equipped you are to approach them in a way that captures their attention and holds it. And the deeper your understanding of your customers, the more success your brand will likely enjoy in both the short-term and the long-term. 

Is It Ever Worthwhile to Optimize for Search Engines Other Than Google?

There’s no question that Google dominates the world of search. Its algorithms handle roughly 90% of all search queries worldwide. Its closest rival, Bing, has a market share of a paltry 3.33%; the next runner-up, Yahoo, clocks in at 1.34%. 

With the above in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that the majority of search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on playing nice with Google’s algorithms. It keeps with one of the most basic tenets of doing business—be where your audience is. But could we actually be sabotaging ourselves? 

Could it be better to expand our focus, even in the face of seemingly minuscule returns? 

Why Bother Looking Outside Google? 

We’ve all heard that adage about putting all your eggs in one basket. Google’s algorithms may form the backbone of the Internet as we know it, but it is, at the end of the day, still a business. And if you optimize exclusively with Google in mind, you’re arguably leaving your website at the mercy of that business. 

After all, everyone’s heard at least one story of how a single algorithm update brought an entire company to its knees. 

That isn’t the only reason you might consider shifting your attention away from Google. If you know for a fact that your target audience is incredibly privacy-conscious, then there’s a good chance you might not even find them on Google. They’re far likelier to use a search engine like DuckDuckGo. 

It’s also worth looking at each search engine’s market share not in terms of percentage points, but search volume. Bing, for instance, saw roughly 1.2 billion unique global visitors in May 2022 alone. That may pale in comparison to Google’s 89.3 billion, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. 

If you could capture even a fraction of those unique visitors as leads, one could argue that your efforts have more than paid off. 

Finally, a lower market share arguably means there’s less competition on the lesser-used search engines. It may potentially be easier to rank on Yahoo or DuckDuckGo than on Google, which could, in turn, lead to more traffic. 

Optimizing for Other Search Engines

Here’s the good news—for the most part, SEO on other search engines isn’t actually that different from Google SEO. In the case of Bing and Yahoo, the process is almost identical. You might need to do a bit of extra keyword research, but optimizing for Google means you’ve effectively already optimized for other search engines. 

That said, there are a few differences that you should keep in mind:

  • There’s evidence to suggest that Bing may treat social shares as a ranking factor, something Google has yet to do. 
  • DuckDuckGo places considerable emphasis on usability, privacy, and high-quality backlinks, even more so than Google. 
  • Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t track user data, you’ll need to adjust how you target your keywords. 
  • Some search engines, like Baidu, require you to submit your URLs to them directly. 

So, to circle back to our original question, is it worthwhile to optimize for search engines other than Google? Most definitely—at least in part because you’ve already done most of the work.

What Are the Four Pillars of SEO, and Why Are They Important?

To hear some people talk, search engine optimization (SEO) is some sort of arcane, incomprehensible craft. Those are the snake oil salespeople of the SEO sector—we’ve warned you about them in the past. The truth is that SEO isn’t actually as complicated as you might think.

Though with that said, it can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re new to the discipline. With that in mind, we’re going to break things down to be a bit more digestible. At a high level, SEO can be separated into four distinct pillars.

They are, as defined by Search Engine Land, your main areas of focus—and the primary determinants of your success. 

On-Page SEO: What’s On Your Website

This is what most people immediately think about when you mention SEO. It includes keyword research, website metadata, URLs, internal links, and page titles. There’s also a great deal of overlap between on-page SEO and technical SEO, as both are concerned with user experience. 

Technical SEO differs from on-page in a few key ways, however. 

Technical SEO: What’s Under the Hood

Technical SEO is, in many ways, the most complicated of the four pillars. It’s focused on your website’s backend—the factors that influence page speed, security, responsiveness, and overall performance. Technical SEO is also concerned with the way search engines crawl your site, as defined by your XML sitemap, robots.txt file, and meta directives. 

Generally, mucking about with technical SEO is something that’s best left to the experts—failing that, most decent SEO tools provide you with the necessary functionality to tweak the technical side of things. 

iphone with google open

Content: Your Bread and Butter

Content, as they say, is king. In addition to being a crucial component of any inbound marketing strategy, effective site content is a pillar of SEO. Good content is not only high quality, but also highly relevant to your audience. Your goal with content is to provide visitors with exactly what they’re searching for, whether that’s a food recipe or guidance on how to build a deck. 

In most cases, you’re going to want to strike a solid balance between content that’s sales-focused and content that’s audience-focused. 

Off-Page SEO: Promoting Awareness

Last but certainly not least, off-page SEO is sort of an umbrella term for everything that doesn’t fit under any of the other three pillars. It’s all about how people find, perceive, and talk about your website and brand. Unsurprisingly, there’s a great deal of overlap between off-page SEO and social media marketing. 

Off-page SEO is also a cornerstone of local SEO, as that requires that your business maintain a Google My Business Page and monitor factors such as reviews. Inbound links are another element of off-page SEO, alongside your business’s outreach strategy and any mailing lists you maintain. 

How to Successfully Target Keywords in your Blog Posts in 2022

Content is king. SEO is dead. Relevance, relevance, relevance. 

You’ve heard it all before, the buzzwords, sweeping assertions, and half-truths. We’d wager you’re just as tired of it as we are. 

See, although content is important, it’s only part of the equation. You still need a strategy—something to inform what you write and to whom you address it. The best way to achieve that, believe it or not, is still with keywords. 

So with that in mind, let’s discuss what it takes to successfully target keywords in your blog posts in 2022.

Initial Research

What are people searching for? 

That’s the first question you need to answer. Look at Google Trends, examine your own analytics data, and assess competing websites via a keyword analysis tool. The goal here is to identify keyword opportunities that fit into your brand and niche. 

Generally, though, you’re not going to directly use any of the keywords you discover during this research. Most of them are going to be too broad in scope, too competitive, or both. Your next step will be to narrow things down. 

Topic Ideation

Once you’ve established a few broad keyword opportunities, it’s time to narrow things down to come up with topics that are a bit more focused. Consider what you know about your audience. Not just the search terms they’re using, but the intent behind those terms and why they chose to visit your site specifically. 

Drawing on this knowledge, your goal is to generate a list of topics that align simultaneously with your brand, their interests, and their intent. 

Topic Keyword Research

Next, for each of the topics you came up with in the previous step, you’re going to drill down a little further. The goal here is to come up with subtopics and related keywords for each. In particular, pay attention to the questions people are asking on search—these are all questions you will likely want to answer in your content. 

Optionally, you can check out Q&A communities such as Quora for both inspiration and information. 

Content Creation & Optimization

Finally, it’s time to start creating. By now, you have both your topic and a general outline in place. All that remains is creation.  To that end, there are a few best practices you’ll want to follow: 

  • Make sure to identify whether you want to create Horizontal or Vertical content before you put the pen to the paper. This is the true measure of whether you understand the searchers intent.
  • Make sure your URL and meta title both contain your core keyword. It’s recommended that your meta description does as well, but that won’t directly influence how you rank.
  • Add internal links to any other relevant blog posts or pages on your website. Ideally, you’ll want to anchor those links to relevant keywords. 
  • Once you’ve finished creating and your post goes live, promote it. Share it to every social network on which you’re active. 

What Role do Backlinks Play in Search Engine Optimization in 2022?

Remember back in the earliest days of search engine optimization? Back when the Internet was akin to the Wild West, and tactics like keyword stuffing and link farms were still relevant? We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? 

Especially lately. It seems like every single one of Google’s more recent algorithm updates have been released with a single goal in mind—to gradually depreciate the importance of technical SEO in favor of content quality and relevance. As far as we’ve seen, they’ve done a pretty good job thus far. 

That isn’t to say the technical side isn’t still important. It most definitely is. It just plays a slightly different role these days. 

Backlinks are included under that umbrella—and recently, we’ve seen plenty of people wondering what their purpose, role, and relevance are to SEO in 2022. 

Scrabble tiles spell out SEO

Not Quite Irrelevant

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front. Backlinks are still incredibly important and should be a centerpiece of any successful SEO strategy. With that said, it’s important to understand that not all backlinks are created equal. 

For instance, backlinks from a site that’s considered authoritative in the consumer electronics space isn’t going to do you much good if your niche is industrial machinery. As the first step in your backlink strategy, you’re going to want to do a bit of research and figure out: 

  • Which websites related to your niche have the highest E-A-T score.
  • Who the top thought leaders and influencers are for your sector.
  • If there are any websites you should avoid or brands that are considered toxic. 

Once you’ve put together a shortlist of sites that are worthwhile from a backlink perspective, you’ll next want to check if any of them have guest editorial guidelines. Now, it’s certainly possible to reach out and get a piece placed on a site that doesn’t have a clear program in place. However, it’s also a great deal more difficult to even get a response, particularly if you try to reach out via a cold email. 

Beyond exchanging guest posts, the best advice we can give is to simply take a collaborative approach to content creation. What we mean here is that you should look to establish yourself not just on social media, but also in any communities that are relevant to your niche.  Focus on building partnerships and cultivating relationships first and foremost. 

With any luck, you’ll find some valuable backlink opportunities as you do so. Also, check out our post on vertical and horizontal content to get a better understanding of how you should structure your informational pieces. The way your content is written and the audiences it appeals to should be considered when you’re trying to build backlinks.

Even in Backlinks, Content Remains King

Ultimately, the best way to get yourself out there and start generating backlinks is through the creation of high-quality content. If you can establish your brand as a thought leader,  then people will naturally start linking back to you.  From there, you’ve nowhere to go but up. 

What is Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO)?

People are obsessed over how virtual reality and augmented reality will disrupt the marketing sector. Unsurprisingly, with hype comes buzzwords. And the latest phrase that seems to be on everyone’s lips? 

Virtual Environment Optimization (VEO). It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Just as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves tweaking your website’s performance and content to appeal to search algorithms, VEO represents all the proposed tactics, strategies, and technical adjustments required to market to users in virtual reality. 

But is this actually a trend we should all prepare for, or is it like the metaverse—an overdone buzzword referencing technologies that have already existed for decades? 

questions marks spread across black surface

Honestly, at this point, the jury is still out. While it’s true that all the talk of a completely immersive, completely interconnected virtual world is largely bunk, it’s also true that we’ve already seen some very exciting applications of VR and its less advanced cousin, augmented reality. For evidence of this, we need look no further than online apparel and home goods retailers. 

Seeking a means of replicating in-person retail during lockdown, many of these eCommerce brands turned to augmented reality. Users could visualize how a particular type of furniture would look in their space or how a ring would look on their finger using their smartphone. They could compare the sizes of different types of products, browse dynamically-generated lifestyle photography, and generally enjoy a shopping experience that was the next best thing to actually being there.   

Of course, that alone doesn’t mean we’re on the verge of a deep dive into full immersion. There are still far too many roadblocks for the technology to reach its full potential. If you recall the shape of the smartphone market prior to the early 2000s, it’s a very familiar picture:

  • Current VR headsets are far too expensive for the general public and are held back further by issues with availability. 
  • VR technology is either too bulky or too uncomfortable to be worn for an extended period of time. 
  • Immersion-breaking technical and performance glitches are still far too common. 

It’s important to note here that we’re not saying VR will never be a reality, nor are we denying the notion that someday, VEO will be every bit as important as SEO. But the simple fact is that we’re just not there yet. For now, marketing through virtual reality is a niche pursuit at best, and at worst little more than a pipe dream. 

Learn about it if you so choose. But don’t expect to see practical applications for that knowledge for at least a few years. And for the love of everything sacred about SEO, please stop talking about the metaverse—it’s not going to happen.

Not in the way people who promote the concept believe it will happen, anyway. Interested in more SEO content? Check out our monthly blog, and posts on topics such as Three Potential Reasons You’re Not Ranking on Google!

Is it Possible to Predict the Outcome of an Algorithm Update?

Google’s algorithm remains one of the most enduring mysteries in search engine optimization. Although we know the general rules, no one is entirely clear about how they’re enforced. Similarly, there’s rarely a clear consensus on the nature of upcoming releases—every expert tends to have their own take on what’s coming.

Given how arcane Google’s algorithm is and will likely remain, it should follow that it’s impossible to predict algorithm changes and their impact with any degree of accuracy, right? 

Not exactly. While figuring out what Google intends to do next is largely a guessing game—only their engineers know for certain—it is possible to determine how an update will impact your position on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). As with so many other things, the answer lies with artificial intelligence. 

Scrabble tiles spell out SEO

As noted by Search Engine Journal, through a combination of machine learning, real-time data, and historical data, AI-driven solutions can

  • Test how website changes will impact your PageRank. 
  • Display how an algorithm update will impact your website. 
  • Identify weaknesses and bottlenecks that may be lowering your PageRank. 
  • Understand why competitors outrank you.
  • Anticipate how your SEO efforts will impact your site’s long-term growth. 

Granted, these tools don’t offer a direct window to the inner workings of Google’s algorithms. No tool can truly claim to accomplish that—not without drawing the ire of the search giant, anyway. What they do provide is the next best thing, getting you as close to fully accurate predictions as possible. 

One might say it’s something of a moot point, anyway. Thanks to pending regulations in the European Union, we might have that insight within the next few years. Should this legislation pass, both Meta and Google would be required by law to: 

  • Reveal to the public how their content algorithms work
  • Establish a clear process for users to contest content moderation decisions
  • Define mechanisms to be adopted during public security or public health emergencies. 
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads based on sexuality, religion, or ethnicity.
  • Pledge to stop allowing targeted ads directed at minors. 

If the EU is successful in this, the implications would be enormous. SEO and marketing professionals would finally get what we’ve wanted for decades—a genuine peek behind the curtain. As for the AI-driven SEO solutions currently gaining popularity? 

With a thorough understanding of Google’s backend, they’ll only become more effective, efficient, and formidable. 

But we’re getting off track. Our initial question was whether or not it’s possible to predict the results of an algorithm update. As you’ve seen, the answer is yes, albeit with a few notable caveats. 

At the end of the day, all this pontification is ultimately a moot point, anyway. The one common thread in all of Google’s recent algorithm updates is an effort to promote better, more relevant, and more valuable content. What that means is that if you focus exclusively on your audience, and on providing them with what they’re searching for, the rest will eventually fall into place. 

For more info about all the latest developments in SEO, check out our blog!