If you were to implement an SEO strategy today and optimize a website from the ground up, how would you do it?
Answering this question a few years ago would have been pretty easy. After all, you didn’t need more than rich anchor texts, multiple backlinks, and an aggressive keyword strategy to dominate the search engines. But, things have changed dramatically since the early days of SEO.
With Google receiving over 65,868 search queries per second, it’s becoming abundantly clear that keyword-focused content isn’t enough anymore if you want to get at the top of search engine results. The world of SEO is constantly evolving and you need to keep pace with the changes if you want to make your site visible to the right audience. We’re no longer in the era of keyword stuffing and metadata optimization. The new world of SEO expands beyond the old landscape and incorporates trends such as high-quality content, mobile, voice search, and video among others.
With that in mind, let’s try to explore how to execute a profitable SEO strategy in today’s landscape.
What SEO Looks Like in Today
As marketers and entrepreneurs, you’re focused on building your online presence and may have gotten quite good at adapting your strategy on the go. But, as user behavior changes and new technology emerges, search engines are taking new shape.
What does that mean for you?
Well, for starters, you have to understand that the way people are searching for information about the products and services that interest them is changing. For example, instead of “best movies 2017,” a user may look for “what should I see tonight?”
How do you adapt to these new patterns to create an SEO strategy that drives quantifiable results?
● SEO and AI
Google made a lot of waves when they introduced RankBrain in 2016, a machine learning algorithm that helps the search engine organize results. Many feared that the algorithm would lack the capacity to understand natural language and wouldn’t be able to rank results accordingly. While RankBrain was definitely a game-changer that forced marketers to reconsider their conventional SEO tactics, it also opened the door to new opportunities.
Here’s an example: Let’s imagine that you’re looking to buy a new espresso machine and you hop on Google to do a bit of research. You type “how to buy an espresso machine,” and click on the first result. The article is terrible, and instead of giving you helpful tips and advice, it’s just a sales page for the product the company is selling. You bounce after only a few seconds and click on the third result. Now, this article is just great – it’s comprehensive, full of actionable tips, and teaches you everything you ever wanted to know about espresso machines, how to use them, and how to make the best choice. So, you spend five full minutes reading every word.
RankBrain will take note of this behavior. And, if enough people bounce off the number one result but spend a lot of time on the article ranked at #3, then it will make some changes.
What does that tell you: just because you’ve optimized your content to perfection, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will rank high if you have a low bounce rate. In other words, if your content isn’t relevant and if the user experience you provide isn’t par excellence, then Google will take note of this and remove your website from the number #1 spot.
● It’s a Mobile-First World
With over 71% of internet use taking place on mobile, it is important to understand how your website traffic, leads, and sales are finding you. Even if mobile still falls second to desktop (in some industries this is very well still the case), then you still need to find ways in which you can capture the mobile-specific engagement on your website to drive revenue.
Further, rethink your customer experience to prepare your site for Google’s mobile-first index. However, here’s an interesting tidbit that is making the world of mobile search more complicated than it already was. According to one report, users spend 92% of their mobile time in apps. What does that mean for SEO and how can you optimize your website for this new behavior?
One solution Google has come up with is to index and deliver app content in search results. That means that you’ll have to set up the same link on your desktop site and mobile version inside your app so that Google can rank and display it for relevant search queries. If you want to boost the ranking of links to your app, then make sure to integrate the App Indexing API.
Another thing that you need to understand to optimize your content is how and why people use apps. Here’s the thing: people aren’t replacing computers with their smartphones. However, they are using smartphones to address immediate needs.
Here’s an example: When I was pregnant, I used an app that tracked the evolution of my baby. I wanted to learn about the changes that will happen during the 30th week of pregnancy, but I didn’t want to scroll through the entire database. So, I opened the app and used the search function to find the information I was looking for.
Google calls that action a micro-moment. To take advantage of it, make sure that your app provides answers to some of the most common questions and that users don’t have to work hard to find the information that interests them.
● Are You Ready for Voice Search?
According to Google, 41% of U.S. adults and 55% of teens use voice search at least twice a day. The impact this new behavior has on SEO is already noticeable. Instead of keywords, users are now employing complex sentences to search for the information that interests them. Voice assistants like Alexa, Siri or Google are smart enough to understand natural language and deliver relevant results. These sophisticated systems can understand both exact commands like “How can I clean my TV screen without damaging it” and vague search queries like “What’s the closest beauty salon near me.”
So how do you optimize your content when more and more people seem to dismiss keywords and use natural language instead?
For starters, you need to make sure that you understand user intent. What your audience is looking for, what they are expecting to find when they land on your page, and how can you provide them with the best answers and experience. Consider “near me” searches and make sure that your local listings are up-to-date and optimized.
● Comprehensive Content Is Still a Winner
The way people search for information online is changing. However, one thing remains the same. Regardless if they’re using voice search or looking for information on their computers, they all want relevant content. In a way, you could say that change and high-quality content are the only constants in SEO.
I could probably write an entire eBook about what constitutes quality content, but for now, I’m going to stick with just a few basic rules:
- Write for Humans, Not the Search Engines: With all the algorithm changes, a lot of marketers and entrepreneurs alike are looking for the winning formula that could propel their websites at the top of SERPs. They get so caught up in following and respecting all the rules that they forget who their content is actually intended for: humans. So, make sure that your articles are easy to understand, grammatically and factually correct, and well-researched.
- Write Comprehensive, Well-Researched Content: When working with clients who are targeting the B2B space, my team and I spend a lot of time planning, researching, and writing out the content. That’s because we know that users today are sensitive to fluff and quick to bounce if a piece of content is weak, boring or irrelevant. The purpose of your content should be to educate your audience and make them curious enough to learn more about your products or services.
- Write Engaging Content: Use relevant images that support your content and break your article into small paragraphs, bullet points, and lists. Further, leverage multiple content types such as video, infographics, tutorials, guides, checklists, etc. to diversify your content assets. Doing so will also help you better understand which content types your audience is most interested in as well.
Revisit Your Strategy Often
It doesn’t matter how confident you are in your SEO strategy. You should always take the time to measure its performance. That’s the only way you can tell what’s working and what needs some adjustments.
But, with so many vanity metrics out there, what metrics should you focus on and prioritize?
Here are the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are worth your attention:
- Organic search impressions and clicks
- Web page ranking
- Bounce rate
- Click-through rate
- Page views to organic search ratio
- Conversion rate
- Revenue per visit
Your Next Steps
If there’s one thing that you should remember after reading this, it’s that there aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to SEO success. If there are, then history has made it pretty clear that they won’t work for long. So, instead of looking for quick and easy solutions, focus on the tactics that drive long-term results.