Giving the growing importance of content and search within the overall marketing mix, a brand’s SEO strategy should not be run in siloed isolation from the rest of its digital marketing strategy, writes John Ring.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has been around since the late 1990s and while many marketing people believe they are now experts on the topic, the devil is, as usual, in the detail when it comes to making sure your products or service are able to be found online. And that detail is constantly changing. You only need to look at Google’s announcement of late February regarding abandoning the showing of Adwords ads on the right hand side of the search results to see that in the SEO world, it’s dangerous to assume you know it all.
In the good old days before 2013, optimising your content meant compiling a list of the top performing keywords on Google’s keyword tool and carefully integrating these into your content. Now, with Hummingbird’s wings in full flutter, Google doesn’t just look for good content, it seeks out the pages that best satisfy exactly what the user is looking for and you need to make sure you’re in step.
The search engine itself has amassed knowledge. It takes into account how people who entered similar searches behaved after they clicked through on a result – whether those people spent time on the site and found the answers they were looking for. With “knowledge graph”, which returns a summary of information aimed at providing users with answers as soon as possible, and perhaps without even the need to click onto a result at all, artificial intelligence isn’t just interpreting what people are really looking for, it’s assessing how they behave once they’ve clicked on results.
So how should this influence your strategy? Thinking beyond just keywords relating to relevant topics and the intentions of users will help you plan more valuable content that should better answer queries, hold user’s attention and most importantly, signal to the search engines that you’ve provided a satisfactory answer.
Focus on the User
For so long SEO has been all about winning that all important click and getting a user to visit your website. But search engines are starting to take far more notice of how satisfied your visitors really are. Alongside providing quality content that answers their queries and meets their expectations, you’ll need to put overall experience into perspective to impress visitors and Google.
Factors such as mobile-friendliness, site speed and design all make for happier site visitors. Not sure how you’re performing on these fronts? Delve deep into your Google analytics to look for potential problems. Is there anything stopping users achieving satisfaction on your site? Go back to basics and see if the terms that are bringing you traffic are as you’d expect and if your content truly answers queries and look at where people are bouncing off your pages. If your content is performing well and you’re winning relevant traffic but not achieving a conversion rate to match, it could be time to look at conversion rate optimisation to identify any user niggles.
According to the Moz Search Engine Factors Survey published last year, mobile friendliness is the most important SEO factor to take account of. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider that 2015 saw mobile searches overtake desktop searches for the first time, so if you hadn’t already taken your cue from Google’s mobile-friendly “Mobilegeddon” update of last summer, you should know that making the experience of mobile users a priority is paramount.
You need to think beyond how your site appears on mobile and consider whether it retains full functionality and satisfies user intent in every format. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to look ahead at a restaurant’s menu or to book from your mobile only to find that the functionality is only available on the desktop site. It’s worth remembering that mobile searches have huge potential to drive local sales. There’s a good chance someone attempting to look at a restaurant’s menu is looking for somewhere local to eat, so businesses who want to attract footfall will want to consider functionality on mobile and also whether their local page and relevant listings and reviews are in place.
Partially linked to the rising importance of mobile search is the requirement to factor in the increasing number of people using voice search. Digital assistants like Siri and Cortana are fielding more spoken language queries, adding an extra layer to semantic search. Research conducted by MindMeld recently found that 37% of 1,800 adult smartphone users surveyed had not yet tried voice-assisted search but 60% had started to use it within the last year with 40% experimenting in the last six months. These numbers are only going to grow.
An Integrated Approach
Over the past few years SEOs have become more adept at using other digital marketing channels to support SEO, including the use of social media to support content dissemination. It’s expected that links from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
will become even more important, with user interaction with such links helping Google decide how dependable you are as an information source. Incidentally, there have also been strong indications that Google may well introduce video ads to search results.
Apps are another area to watch as more app content is indexed and links that point towards specific pages within apps are being attributed with more meaning.
Overall, the message is that your SEO strategy should not be run in siloed isolation from other digital marketing activities and a holistic approach needs to be taken that integrates display, paid search, social media and content marketing to better serve your target audience.
John Ring is managing director of the digital agency TinderPoint.
First published in Irish Marketing Journal (February 2016)© to order back issues please call 016611660