SEO is in a constant state of change. This year, the evolution is continuing on the path it took in 2015, with a focus on mobile and increasing attention on the way search itself is changing. A detailed and up-to-date SEO strategy is one of the cornerstones of an effective, overall marketing plan, and it is increasingly tied to content and mobile initiatives.
There may not be a total SEO-altering shakeup in the near future, but these are three big things to take into account as you develop, or fine-tune your SEO strategy:
1. Mobile is Always Growing
Since April 2015’s “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update, in which Google significantly changed its algorithms to boost mobile-friendly pages, optimizing for mobile has been vital. Now, Google will be boosting the effects of the mobile-friendly algorithm beginning this month. For those whose websites are already mobile-friendly, the update shouldn’t have any negative effect. For those who still have a website that isn’t, it’s time to get onboard.
According to a Google study, consumers spend over 15 hours a week researching on their smartphones, and search is the most common starting point. In fact, 73% of mobile searches trigger a follow-up action. Mobile converts, and it’s growing. A great mobile experience might still be about leading your industry, but in the very near future it will be one of the first barriers to entry. If marketers really want to understand how to improve their SEO, they need to focus on mobile browsing as exclusively as possible. (Did you know that in some verticals, such as travel, no organic content shows up on Page 1 of a mobile search?)
Forget the laptop or desktop and use your phone or tablet. It’s the only way to really know what users are seeing. This approach has a name: mobile-first. In fact, Google’s Senior VP of Search, Amit Singhal, has been living off of cell phones for over a year—a lifestyle change that grants him constant awareness of the realities of mobile search. If the Senior VP of Search at Google is exclusively utilizing mobile search, it can only benefit your SEO to make it a major focus of your own strategy.
2. Voice Search is Increasing
As mobile grows, so does voice search. People use mobile voice search more and more frequently for everything from getting directions and movie times to checking the time. Teenagers use it increasingly for homework help—searching for information on the web—and these habits are likely to continue as they enter adulthood, when they will use voice search to make appointments, place orders, and make major purchases.
Marketers can improve their SEO for voice search by taking into consideration the different ways people search by speech and designing content to match:
- Conversational language: Voice search is naturally more conversational, so your content should be, too.
- Long-tail keywords: Using keywords that are questions or phrases is not a new SEO concept, but it’s more important than ever with the popularity of voice search, as people are far less likely to say just a simple keyword or two.
- Clear definition statements: A definition statement is a concise explanation of a key term. (See what I did there?) It answers the basic, “What is … ?” question behind a lot of simpler search queries.
These strategies can usually be incorporated by including FAQ content that is designed with SEO in mind. When the questions themselves appear in your content, search engines can easily match an answer to the user’s query. FAQs tend to be more casual and provide opportunities for those long-tail keywords.
Voice search may be used most for non-merchant-focused search for now, but Google is working on conversational shopping and creating travel plans with voice search, which means voice search will soon start converting. And the methods of optimizing for voice search are good for increasing your search engine rankings anyway, so the worst-case scenario is better SEO (which really isn’t a worst case).
3. SEO Requires Good Content
By the end of 2015, Google had won the PR battle over SEO with smarter algorithms to counter tricks and loopholes. As marketers have come to accept the inseparable relationship between SEO and content marketing, SEO has become increasingly competitive.
85% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve their lead generation goals and 83% of consumer marketers use content to achieve their sales goals, according to Content Marketing Institute. With these statistics, content marketing is undeniably and increasingly valuable for revenue, but new SEO competition means even the best content needs to be strategic or risk drowning unnoticed in a sea of “good” content.
Some marketers who work on SEO may cling to technical considerations and/or black hat strategies, and insist content marketing is just one small part of an SEO strategy. There are also content marketers who ignore SEO and dreamily whisper, “If I build it, they will come.” But as Google’s algorithms become more sophisticated and more adept at understanding and identifying high-quality content, marketers need to see the light: good content is good SEO, and good SEO drives good content. Nowadays, more content is being produced and even more of it is SEO-strategic.
Up Your SEO Game This Year
One of the best ways to get a feel for what’s coming might be to take a page from Singhal’s playbook and go mobile-only (as much as possible) for a week. How does your webiste look? Is it easy to navigate? How’s your search experience? What good and bad things do you notice about other sites? And if your brand is working with an outside SEO agency, make sure they’re paying attention. Ask about mobile strategies and how they integrate content marketing with SEO.
As you dive into mobile and content a clear strategy will more naturally come together. Just remember to check in on Google and SEO on a regular basis. If there’s one thing we know about the search giant, it’s that once we get comfortable—they change something.
What other changes do you see happening in the SEO space that marketers should be aware of? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.