Before understanding what “SEO” looks like in 2016, we need to address what shapes the playing field. This can be summed up in one word: Google. This search giant owns nearly 70% of the search space, with Bing gaining ground at around 20%. Google’s algorithm updates are becoming increasingly sophisticated by the hour, so understanding their goal will help you reach yours.
Search engine algorithms are hyper-focused on the user and their intent. Serving up the most relevant search results (and ads) for a query satisfies the user, increasing the likelihood of that user returning to that search engine for their next question. You want to be the search result, or website, that answers their question. You want to be valued by Google.
Traditional SEO isn’t dead. It’s standard.
Optimization of title tags, meta descriptions, image alt tags, and header tags is, in a sense, a thing of the past. These elements are standard. Having them in place with optimal keywords will only ensure that you’re “in the building” and ready to be considered by Google to be served up to the next search query. Having these elements in place won’t give you first page status, but not having these elements will ensure that you don’t.
Is content really king?
You’ve heard it before – “Content is king.” The truth is, there’s only limited truth in that annoying buzz phrase. Content is only as valuable as your customer finds it. Pushing out fresh content (that has likely already been written and read thousands of times) is nothing more than a waste of time.
Take time to write innovative articles, infographics, podcasts, etc. that actually answer your user’s question. Keep it short and to the point. Drawing traffic to a piece of content that is too long or uninformative will increase your bounce rate (or lower your time on page), which tells Google that your page didn’t help the user. When they navigate away from your page, click on another search result, and engage, you lost to your competitor. With so much data available to everyone, you have, on average, just 8 – 12 seconds to interest your customer.
Add structured data to your website.
If you’re looking for, what feels like an SEO task, visit Schema.org. Adding structured data to your website in the form of microdata or JSON helps search engines serve up more than just your web pages. Marking up product reviews, star ratings, videos, and other on page elements makes it easier for Google to understand the elements on your website and serve them as results. Now you’re diversifying and increasing the resources that search engines can use to answer a search query.
This is arguably the most important piece of “SEO” as we speak. Since Google and other search engines want to satisfy their users, your website has to be able to accommodate them quickly and efficiently.
Utilize Google Analytics
Which pages have high bounce or exit rates? Did your customer leave because it was uninformative or because they couldn’t find what they were looking for? Are your customers spending considerable amounts of time on pages that don’t matter? These are questions that you should be asking yourself and sparking discussions between you and your web developer. Websites have to be easy to navigate and allow users to find what they’re looking for quickly. If not, you’re loosing out on conversions, sales, and customers.
Utilize Webmaster Consoles
Search console analysis is a must. They give you insight to your page load time, broken pages, duplicate content issues, and more. Ensuring your site loads quickly, is mobile-friendly, and doesn’t have broken pages are just a few of the issues you can identify and clear up for your users. If a searcher accesses your site with no wait, doesn’t run into any errors, doesn’t find useless content, and has the same experience on a mobile device, your chances of making the sale or converting them as a lead are exponentially higher. Presenting the user with any of the aforementioned problems will turn them off to your website and leave a bad taste in their mouth when recalling your business.
The bottom line of what SEO means this year is that technical optimization is taking a back seat to customer experience. Focusing on intent and accessibility should be at the forefront of your SEO efforts.
There is much more that can be said for any of the previous topics covered, and even more for the topics that weren’t covered (yet). Stay tuned to mySmartMedia for more on how you can get the most out of your website now, and years to come.