For years, the ultimate challenge for SEO has been how to deal with the Google updates. Many unnecessary wars broke out between black hatters and white hatters because of this subject. Quite often, white hatters accused black hatters of causing Google updates and black hatters accused the other side of spreading false rumors for their profit motive. What’s my verdict? It’s neither. Google’s algorithm looks at signals, not whether your links are resulting from outreach efforts or have been bought.
Don’t get me wrong. If you are doing content marketing, you should reach out to sites with readership. Getting a link back to your converting page is a good strategy for marketing purposes. But from a pure algorithmic standpoint, you may be satisfying unintended objectives whether you’ve realized it or not.
After many sleepless nights, I came up with a unique framework by sidestepping away from how everyone is looking at the entire SEO process. The conceptual framework has been the result of almost 20 years of SEO experience, observation, and testing.
SEO blogs and marketers often mention 200 factors at play for rankings. The number was derived from Google patent filed in 2008. If we were to account for 50 variations for each factor, it can easily swell to 10,000. From a logistics perspective, it doesn’t make sense for an SEO marketer to go through 10,000 line of checklist every time you launch an SEO campaign for a website.
One of the major challenges I’ve faced was how to deal with an ever-growing number of ranking factors and algorithm updates. When I realized that if I can figure out a way to describe the entire ranking process with a simpler model, not only would I have a way to scale, but I also knew I would have a better way to create a preventive measure against Google updates. Just like the concept of Yin and Yang, which describes the forces of nature in a simplified way, I was on a quest to discover one for SEO.
Several years ago, I came up with the concept of 4 major signals. By condensing all SEO processes into four, I was able to track and describe how Google behaved every time Google came up with an update. The 4 major SEO signals are Technical, Relevancy, Authority, and Popularity, which now I call TRAP framework.
Let’s look at each signal and roughly define what they are.
Relevancy – For every keyword, there is a related keyword that exists in Google’s database. Two keywords can be related in various ways such as semantic, geo, categorization, and brand.
Authority – Authority is a trust signal. Google looks for how often other trusted sites are referencing your site.
Popularity – Popularity has changed over the years as the web has evolved. Google made its algorithm changes to detect the signal from different places. Popularity signals can be divided into link popularity, social popularity, and search popularity.
Technical – Site security such as https and speed falls into this signal. Although some of the signals do not play a major role in rankings now, they are expected to play a bigger role in the future.
Now that we have roughly defined 4 major signals, let’s look at why understanding them has major benefits.
1) You now have a conceptual model to describe its behavior and understand what Google is looking for after each algorithm update.
2) You can easily catalog whatever SEO activity or link building scheme some SEO guru comes up with.
3) It gives a better way to identify the deficiencies with SEO activities you may have not known before.
4) You can plan a preventative measure and guard against Google updates.
Dissecting TRAP Framework
In order to tame Google’s algorithm, which reacts to the four major signals, we first need to trap and dissect it. It’s a similar concept to colliding two atoms together in Hadron Collider in order to understand the inner workings of subatomic particles. The more we can dissect, the more tools we’ll have at our disposal to create a preventative measure against Google’s updates. TRAP is the acronym for the four major signals: Technical, Relevancy, Authority, and Popularity. From now on, I’ll refer to the four major signals as TRAP as it has all the components we’ve discussed.
Characteristics of TRAP
Each component of TRAP has a specific contributing role for the set.
Technical – It has a qualifying role for TRAP. To be even considered for a Google’s crawler visit, your site needs to load within a reasonable time. Remember, ranking starts with indexation whether it’s on-page or off-page.
Relevancy – It has a relational role for TRAP. Google values content which caters to users’ search intent and its relational value.
Authority – It has an amplifying role for TRAP. Authority signal is used to amplify the site’s overall standings with Google called site authority which translates to faster and higher rankings.
Popularity – It has a validating role for TRAP. Once pages and links are built, Google will attempt to validate a site’s off-page activity by looking at popularity metric which is directly associated with human activity level.
Using TRAP Framework to Shield Against Google Updates
One of the major benefits of using TRAP is that we now have a conceptual model to describe everything related to SERP dynamics. We no longer have to describe a cause and effect relationship with complex diagrams or a long checklist. From a strategist’s perspective, it allows an efficient way to interpret the ranking patterns and create a preventative measure against future algorithm updates. The term ‘holistic SEO’ no longer needs to be associated with fluff words like ‘synergy’ and ‘natural.’ Holistic SEO means using TRAP to fulfill SEO requirements.
One of the major issues with Google’s algorithm update is that no one can predict what the changes will look like as it has been manufactured and maintained by a corporation. Its motive is simple. Google wants to maximize profit for its shareholders and keep marketers out from figuring out its algorithm with a high degree of accuracy. This, however, doesn’t mean that we can’t prepare ourselves better than any SEO marketer on the planet.
By recognizing that a healthy SEO campaign needs to contain all the elements of TRAP, we now have a way to monitor and look for deficiencies in any SEO campaign. Here is an analogy. Think of owning a car with a set of 4 wheels. You can technically drive a car with less than all four wheels intact. You can even make the car move with only one wheel. This, however, can have a bad consequence as the car can come to a halt which is an equivalent to losing all rankings and possibly even deindexation. But if you can maintain the set of all four wheels well, you can ride out any bumps headed your way with relative ease.
One of the best ways to survive Google update is by making sure that TRAP is in good standing. Here are the steps I’ve been using for years and have shielded my clients from major Google updates.
1) Create a checklist for TRAP components and do the best to keep up with activities which satisfy each component per defined period. Each page doesn’t need to have TRAP components satisfied but the site as a whole needs to satisfy the TRAP checklist.
2) Monitor rankings progress and use TRAP checklist to augment or minimize signals.
3) Whenever there is a news about a major update, wait for the update to be over and identify how Google’s TRAP requirement has shifted. Google algorithm update usually ends up with a shift in technical, popularity, authority, and relevancy signal.
4) Recognize the shift in Google’s algorithm and make up for deficiencies using TRAP checklist.
After many years of implementing TRAP framework into my SEO business, here are some results.
1) One of my clients is a part of a franchise group with more than 2,000 franchisees. After years of applying TRAP framework, the client became the number one producer in the organization. His secret weapon? A consistent organic traffic resulting from SEO. All the franchisees in the group are looking up to him and he is bragging about how great my SEO is for generating traffic. As a result, I have a continuous supply of new clients.
2) My marketing became easier as I was able to develop methodologies not currently available in the marketplace. I became a strategic partner to numerous niche agencies.
3) I was able to drastically increase SEO fulfillment capacity and efficiency while lowering expenses by leveraging TRAP framework. I no longer need to spend countless hours wasting my resources on unnecessary activities since I can classify each SEO activity under TRAP Framework.
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