/ SEO

SEO in a World Where Content is King and It’s Always the Year of Mobile (Part 3 of 3)

Kevin McKernan

open office desk
In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we discussed SEO strategies of the past, technical SEO, and evolution of the non-technical side of SEO.

The fact of the matter is Google will never stop changing. Their goal is to help searchers find the information they need, when they need it, in the format they want it. And so, SEO will have to continue to evolve and adapt to meet those changes.

What’s coming next for SEO?

Content and SEO will Continue to Combine Forces

There’s a lot of noise out there that says SEO is dead and Content is King. Admittedly, I roll my eyes when someone tells me that “Content is King”. Maybe it’s just my natural aversion to buzzwords and phrases. Or maybe it’s because “Content is King” is insanely misleading as it suggests you can just create content and ta-dah! you’re done.

In fact, content needs SEO, and SEO needs content. Why? Because both play a major role in the user experience—a growing ranking factor with Google.

The opportunity for an SEO specialist to make content work hard for the brand, means taking a deep dive into what questions your audience is asking and how they’re asking it. In the past, SEO specialists would spend hours doing keyword research; today, SEO must move away from short-term keyword research to a more long-tail keyword approach, one that takes those specific audience questions in mind.

You also need to know how users are interacting with your current site. As the technology advances, we’ll see the use of heat maps and user experience analytics used as SEO tools, as well as a bigger push towards A/B testing of content and layouts. Finally, SEO specialists will become a growing part of helping brands provide more personalized, dynamic content.

In the meantime, your SEO efforts should support content by making it easy for Google to crawl and ensuring the user experience is optimized on all fronts—including desktop and mobile.

Mobile Will Be Mandatory, but Not the End All

In 2015, it was confirmed that the amount of searches performed on a mobile device had surpassed the amount of searches performed on desktop. Yes, it’s official. 2015 was the year of mobile. And mobile use will continue to rise. This means you want to make sure your business has a mobile friendly or, ideally, a responsive design website. You want to make it easy for users to interact with your pages and content, as well as convert, from their smartphone or tablet.

But that doesn’t mean you only need to worry about mobile users; desktop will likely never go away. And there are still many industries that get higher desktop traffic than mobile, particularly in B2B. So while we may have moved from the Year of Mobile to the Mobile Era, don’t forget to consider your audience across all platforms and devices.

And as new ways of viewing content are introduced, whether it’s in the form of wearable technology, such as smartwatches, SEO specialist will have to adjust their methods accordingly, focusing on how content on new devices can be viewed, and how to help those users find content as quickly as possible.

The Move Towards Instant Answers will Become More Commonplace

Google’s Knowledge Graph will continue to grow and evolve in order to provide instant answers to searchers. This means SEO specialists will have to pay even closer attention to technical elements, as well as schema and rich snippets.

Finally, this move to instant answers will leave SEO specialists having to consider the impact voice-based searches will have on their strategy. Technology like Google Now, Siri and Cortana are already impacting how consumers search. And over time, it will make searches more conversational in nature, meaning the move toward long-tail keywords and optimizing with sentences and phrases in mind will completely trump just optimizing for keywords (if it hasn’t already.) Voice-based search will also increase the importance of proper tagging and schema, and perhaps will one day lead to special mark-up for voice search specifically.

Right now, there is no data around traffic that is brought in specifically by searches performed via a voice-based search, but as these types of searches become for frequent, perhaps that’s something we will see in the future.

SEO Won’t Die, but it Will Evolve

Every year someone puts out an article claiming SEO has officially died. But rumors of its death have clearly been greatly exaggerated. SEO will never die. It is too engrained in our Internet experience. However, it must continue to evolve to meet the new challenges presented by changing Google algorithms and new technologies—which is something SEO specialists should be used to by now.

/ SEO

SEO in a World Where Content is King and It’s Always the Year of Mobile (Part 2 of 3)

Kevin McKernan

Middle of a cluttered open office desk
In Part 1 of this series, we reviewed SEO strategies of the past and explored the technical elements that SEO specialists need to employ to be successful. But those behind the scenes elements, while important, are only a piece of the puzzle. In the past, non-technical SEO was mostly concerned with keywords. Today, keywords still play a role, but its importance pales in comparison to newer, emerging methods.

The Non-Technical Side of SEO

There are still many visible, on-page elements that SEO specialists are focused on. You should still expect to receive recommendations on how to optimize your existing content. This would include things like better incorporation of keywords/phrases, and working to ensure each page has an appropriate level of useful, relevant content.

But you can’t just stop there.

Today, more than ever, Google is looking for websites that deliver an optimized user experience. Just as Google’s algorithm has moved towards anticipating searcher intent, so should your digital marketing strategy.

What does this mean for today’s SEO specialists? It means working with other areas of your digital marketing department to ensure the digital marketing strategy is, as a whole, focused on driving traffic to your website through relevant, useful content and promotion of that content on the appropriate channels, such as on social or email. While SEO is mainly concerned with organic traffic, these non-organic sources can help boost your authority with search engines, as they see how all visitors coming to your website are engaging.

SEO specialists also need to pay particularly close attention to metrics around organic traffic such as time on page, exit rates, bounce rates, and conversion rates to not only get a better sense of how users are entering your site, but what they are doing once they are there.

For example, let’s say, like most brands and businesses, you get the highest number of page views on your homepage, but you notice average time on page is less than 10 seconds. This could suggest a couple of things. First, it could mean that users are searching for a term or phrase related to your business, clicking on your link in the search results, and pretty instantly clicking back to the search results.

Ping ponging back and forth from the Google results page and a website suggests to Google that the user didn’t find what they were looking for…signaling the infamous Google algorithm to adjust itself in hopes of helping searchers find what they need as quickly as possible.

Of course, if you look at your pages/session metrics and see that those coming in from the homepage actually view more than one page during their session, and you see that the bounce rate (rate at which users exit from the same page they entered) for your homepage is low, it could just mean that users aren’t spending a lot of time on your homepage because they are able to quickly find the next step they need to take to get the information, or complete the purchase, they want.

Again, you have to think about searcher intent and user experience. What experience do you want visitors to have when they come to each page? Does the data support this is happening? No? Then it may be time to make an adjustment to the copy, the navigation, etc. Or it could be a more technical issue, such as a slow page load time. Keep in mind that survey’s show nearly 40% of searchers will click off a page if it doesn’t load fast enough.

This type of analysis and the actions you take based on the data you have, is a growing part of the new way to approach SEO.

What’s coming next for SEO? We’ll tackle that question in Part 3 of our series.

/ SEO

SEO in a World Where Content is King and It’s Always the Year of Mobile (Part 1 of 3)

Kevin McKernan

Group at deskHow can I improve my SEO? If you asked this question in 2009, the answer would be “keywords and rankings”. If you asked this question in 2011, the answer would be “meta data and keywords.” But if you’re asking this question today, you’re really asking the wrong question.

Today, businesses and brands should be less concerned with improving SEO. Why? Because SEO has moved beyond just considering search engines. And because of this, the question you should really be asking is: How can SEO help improve my user experience and guide my strategy in a way that allows me to provide something useful to my audience?

SEO Strategies of the Past

SEO used to be easy. Or if nothing else, at least more straight forward. There was a time when it was all about keywords and rankings. Put a keyword on your website enough times and your ranking would improve. The best part was, Google Analytics gave us complete access to the keywords searchers were using to find our websites. Meaning we could take those keywords, stuff them on more pages, and just like that, we were ranking higher and getting more traffic.

But let’s be honest. This type of SEO wasn’t helping anyone. Businesses and websites were getting more traffic and improving rankings, but these weren’t necessarily translating to higher conversions or higher revenue. And searchers were landing on pages that had nothing to do with what they were looking for.

To improve this, search engines (specifically, Google) began creating new algorithms that could better anticipate searcher intent. In turn, this lead to slowly phasing out access to keyword data. By 2011, marketers started to see that more and more of the keyword data they were used to seeing was moved to the “(not provided)” bucket. And today, keyword data is barely in existence, and nothing has really replaced it.

While all these changes have made the job of an SEO specialist more challenging, you have to admit, when you search for something now, the probability that you’ll find a useful page after just one query is significantly higher than it was, in say, 2009.

The Technical Side of SEO

Because of old school, “black hat” tactics of the past, SEO specialists often get a bad rap as the “keyword stuffers” of the digital marketing world. But today, many SEO specialists are focused on the more technical elements involved in SEO, things that the user doesn’t even necessarily see make it easier for search engines to understand your website, thus increasing the chance your page will rank. This would include things like:

  • Creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Being mindful of your page load speed and ensuring your site doesn’t take more than 2 seconds to load.
  • Making sure your robots.txt isn’t blocking important pages from search engine bots.
  • Properly redirecting old pages using a 301, which will transfer most of the page’s authority over to the new URL.
  • Making sure your page structure can be easily crawled, meaning you are properly using header tags (h1, h2, h3) logically and correctly.
  • Using title tags and meta descriptions that accurately describe the contents of each page of your website.

Other behind-the-scenes technical elements include incorporating proper schema structure, which essentially just helps search engines, such as Google, better crawl your page for a potential searcher. The better Google can read your site, and understand the content on a particular page, the more likely it is to show it to a potential searcher.

But what about the non-technical side of SEO? Are keyword optimizations still necessary? Or has SEO completely moved behind the scenes? We’ll explore these questions in Part 2 of this series.