As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This may hold true for many things in life, but for SEO, the phrase would fit only those agencies or businesses that want to survive in the industry. However, if your goal isn’t just to survive, but to thrive, then “it ain’t being broken” simply doesn’t cut it. Technology, and anything technology related, hinges on innovation. Change. Rethinking and redesigning. Every great technological innovation came because of constant improvement and growth; a constant dissatisfaction of what is achievable and what is the status quo, and a simple notion of what could be. If brilliant thinkers and developers had simply stayed satisfied with what was already available, we might not have computers or smartphones today, instead getting our information solely from television, or even just radio.
SEO is a product of the technological age;
It comes from having such advanced computing technology that basic information is no longer acceptable. Society now desires to know which information is more important, and who’s a more trusted source to provide this information.
In 1940, McDonalds first opened its doors to the public, although it was not yet considered a fast-food chain per se. It operated as a barbecue joint for about ten years, at which point it was bought out and remade into a fast food industry. McDonalds was actually the second one to enter this game, with White Castle being the oldest fast food burger place in the world. A huge part of McDonald’s redesign was to keep up with White Castle, and obviously to increase profitability. Seventy years later, and McDonalds is still a booming business, with locations scattered all across the globe. Meaning that for seventy years, McDonald’s has kept up with the latest innovations, even setting trends of its own. Could they have survived without doing so?
But if they didn’t, no one would have been surprised.
As a large enterprise, you may not really care what practices your SEO agency is engaging in, as long as you’re seeing the results that you want to see. The thing with SEO though, is that what’s on the inside matters just as much as what’s on the surface, because Google pays close attention to both. Just because your website is ranking on the first page of Google, it doesn’t mean that this will stay the case, whether because your backlinks are all bogus and fall through, or because Google issues your business with a penalty. That’s why it’s so crucial to understand what your SEO agency is doing for you, how it’s doing it, and whether you have reason to be concerned going forward.
But before you can do that, let’s look at what’s most important in SEO this year, and what changes we can expect to see.
Sometimes, the innovative changes that impact an industry don’t have to be huge, and this is a perfect example of slight changes making a world of difference. The basic platform of keyword research hasn’t changed, simply because the system in place already works effectively. Keyword research is all about finding words and phrases that potential clients are using to find the products and services that you’re offering. The closer your selected keywords are to actual consumer keywords, the higher your turnout rate will be.
- For the tools being used, little change has been seen. Google’s Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s keyword analysis are still the more popular ones on the market, and can help you identify those keywords and phrases that can bring you closer to your consumers.
- Your website contains a treasure trove of keyword data, which can be easily accessed by using website analytics tools. Use these to understand which keywords are generating traffic and sales, thus helping you see what consumers in your industry are looking for and how. With this data you can easily find extra words and related keywords, all based on what you already have on your website.
- Competitors should also be considered for keyword research, as they provide you with a free and effective way to see what’s working and what isn’t. With the same website analytics tools you used for your own site, head over to your competitors’ website and see which pages are ranking the highest. This will show you what keywords they’re targeting, and what keywords you should be targeting.
- Sometimes it’s not individual keywords that are ranking highest, but keyword phrases, also known as long-tail keywords. While you may know that single keyword searches are most effective, consumers are used to using natural language when searching, and end up creating high-ranking keyword phrases. Using these phrases can boost the visibility and popularity of your website.
But as Google grows smarter, and competitiveness in the market increases, search queries no longer depend only on keywords, with user intent and consumer desire becoming a primary factor in Google ranking.
So what does this mean for you?
When doing your keyword research, stop for a moment to think about the topic or theme of your industry, website, and services. What message are you selling to your consumers, and what message is your audience looking for on Google? Take Apple, for example, which has absolutely nailed the down the branding message. They sell more of an idea than a specific type of product, and when people come looking for these ideas, they stumble upon Apple. It’s almost impossible to look for a sleek and stylish laptop computer without stumbling on the MacBook or MacBook Air. So too your business needs to stop thinking about the keywords, and start focusing on the overall idea behind them. By working from the top down, you can more easily pick out relevant keywords and ensure that you satisfy the needs and desires of your consumer audience.
With the relationship between keywords and consumer intent changing, on-page SEO is also morphing to take on new qualities and methods for ranking. So what does your page need in order to rank better? What’s Google looking for on a page to decide its level of ranking?
- Word Count has always been a measurement factor for page ranking, with Google valuing longer and more comprehensive content. The reason for this is simple: Google provides instant information to users around the world. A website with over one thousand words can provide more information that one with under a thousand words, assuming that both have relevant and comprehensive content. The more insightful your page content is, the higher it will rank, provided that you’re ensuring it has a length of over one thousand words. The bare minimum is seven hundred and fifty words, and as long as it’s all on point, this can sometimes actually be enough.
- Terminology can play a huge role in page ranking, as it shows your connection to the topic at hand. For example, if you’re in the automotive industry, and a page on your website doesn’t include the words ‘car’ or ‘auto’ even once, it probably won’t get a very high ranking. That’s because Google has no way to verify whether your page actually discuss the topic it purports to, making it an unreliable webpage. These are what’s known as “proof terms”, and they show to Google and consumers that your page is about what it says it is. Relevant terms, although similar, are additional words which can be related to your industry, and are not as essential as proof terms.
- Website navigation, and consequentially, internal linking, is very important in how the user sees your website, and whether they find it helpful for their goals. It’s necessary for the different parts of your website to link with each other in a natural and dynamic way. This means that if one site page mentions sales, it should be linked over to the sales page on your website. This allows search engines to more easily categorize and look through your website, as well as users. The more fluid your internal linking, the longer the user will stay on your webpage.
- The underlying parts of your website have a lot to do with your ranking. No one but Google will see your headers, meta-descriptions, and meta-tags, but they can have a big impact on how the search engine ranks you in its results. Ensure that they describe the major topic of your page, and aren’t overly complicated.
Have you ever spent hours perfecting individual parts of an essay, only to discover that it’s absolute gibberish at the very end? It’s happened to most people at least once, and it occurs for a very simple reason. When you’re focusing on individual parts, you lose track of what the big picture looks like. You even lose track of what other parts looked like as you go, ending up with a tangled, incoherent mess of ideas. That’s why teachers always recommend writing an outline before starting your essay, and why it’s best to follow the order of this outline. When you do so, you ensure that your flow of ideas will remain constant, and that the entire paper gives off the same topic or message.
SEO for your website works in the same way. When you focus only on the SEO of individual pages, you end up with a website made of parts that are individual strong, but together don’t amount to much. To strengthen a website, SEO needs to be done site-wide.
Mobile is constantly growing
Mobile is constantly growing, with more and more consumers using phones and tablets to access websites. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you’ll find visitor numbers to your website dwindling, decreasing your visibility and leads acquisition. This means switching your website over to a responsive design, which performs equally well across desktop and mobile. Or you could have a dedicated mobile site or app, although this will require more work and maintenance down the line.
No one likes dealing with a slow website
No one enjoys dealing with a slow website, regardless of which device it’s on. Most websites perform well enough that consumers are accustomed to a certain standard, and if you can’t fulfill that standard, then you’ll be taking a back seat to those that can. Your websites loading time should be as minimal as possible across all viewing platforms. A difference of even a second can have a tremendous impact on search ranking, and that applies to every page of the site. To see how effectively your site performs in terms of speed, and on mobile, check out Google’s tool here.
Website structure is just as important as the content
Website structure is just as important as the content, as it’s what helps consumers navigate and understand the content of each webpage. Ideally, your content should be structured in a way that makes it easy to understand and follow for consumers, while also allowing search engine algorithms to quickly analyze your website. Optimal structure encompasses many elements within it, with each adding to the ease of use of the page. Menus and buttons are an interactive way to organize your content and to simplify the layout, and are very often already worked in to website templates. Using them is in your best interest and requires little extra work to orchestrate. Bullet points are a simple and well-known way of breaking up enormous blocks of content into chunks of information, separating different ideas within one paragraph. Finally, internal linking is a powerful tool at your disposal to disperse information across your website. Rather than having all your content on one page, you can spread it across multiple pages. With quick loading times, switching between them is just like reading one continuous page. You can also choose to use external links, adding to your backlink pool, and making your website more noticeable for search engines and consumers alike.
As mobile only continues to grow in popularity, websites that aren’t fully optimized for mobile can no longer make the cut, and find dwindling visitor numbers even on desktop. With most Google searches being done on mobile devices, you’re immediately losing at least half of your user base, which can have a dangerous impact on your profitability. You may think that the problem of mobile users can be easily resolved by having a mobile or responsive site, but unfortunately, that’s just not enough. There are multiple factors that you need to adhere to in order to have a usable mobile site, especially from the eyes of consumers.
- As we’ve mentioned before, the speed at which your website runs is absolutely crucial, and this criteria needs to be doubled down on for mobile devices. Mobile browsing is almost always done on the go and on the whim, in those spare moments that consumers are in between things. They turn to their device for some kind of distraction, and if they’re not receiving it almost immediately, they’ll look elsewhere. Think about how many things a consumer can do on their cell phone. Now think about how many of your competitors they could have looked at after deciding they have an interest in your industry. For whatever reason, they went with your site. Don’t mess up this opportunity by having a slow site with heavy file sizes that take ages to load.
- When you’re building your mobile site, be considerate of how consumers will view it and reading your content. Mobile browsing is usually done on the go, so content should be as easy to read and understand as possible. Larger font sizes, bullet points, and well formatted paragraphs are just some techniques that you can use to accomplish this. Make the site easy to interact with. If a user zooms in, your responsive design can shift the rest of the text to make viewing more fluid. These are simple tricks that can win you big points with mobile users.
- Keywords play as big of a role on mobile as they do on desktop. The same way that you’ve been incorporating keywords into the body of your content on desktop, do so on mobile. Proof terms and relevant terms should be used when necessary, but also keep in mind that mobile content is more ‘casual’ than desktop. That means you can get away with using fewer keywords and relevant terms.
- Speaking of casual, mobile content has a lower word count than desktop, usually aiming at under a thousand words. Although the ideal word count fluctuates from year to year, it stays pretty constant at the seven hundred and fifty range, around a quarter lower than what is expected for desktop.
- There’s nothing wrong with running ads on your desktop or mobile website. There is a problem, however, with having so many ads that the page becomes cluttered, hard to maneuver, and slow-loading. While on desktop ad-loading time might not have the biggest impact, on mobile it can serve to severely slow down your webpage. The only thing that consumers hate more than a webpage with lots of ads is a webpage with lots of ads that load really slowly, and slows down the page itself.
The traditional method of link-building used by websites, although still effective, is being altered into more fluid methods of link association and brand building. To build links to other websites, reach out to the websites themselves and ask for the link, or submit posts to websites with guest-posting opportunities. Recently, however, Google has included non-linked mentions into its ranking algorithm. Non-linked mentions, also known as co-associations, or implied links, are like a shout-out to your business. They explicitly mention your business, why your business is good at what it does, and why your brand matters, all without providing a link. The consumer can then search for your business on their own. The beauty of this is that buying backlinks is no longer necessary; it’s now about building a brand name through high-quality content, and reaching out to industry leaders and authority websites to mention your brand success.
This idea is nothing new. We’ve been stressing the importance of high quality content for years, warning you that Google’s machine learning algorithms are getting better and better at analyzing it. Logically, this has always been the next step; switching ranking from actual links to content centered links.
If your content contains backed up research, breaking opinions founded in investigative journalism, well-written content over a thousand words, informative list posts, or even historical information posts, you’re likelier to gain a high number of natural links. But given that you want to be proactive, here’s what you can do in the future to ensure a high number of links.
- Guest blogging is a still as powerful a strategy as ever, allowing you to reach new audiences across multiple industries. By finding the right guest blogging opportunities, (example guest blog) you can ensure that your content is steadily spread across the web.
- Social Media is guest blogging for the modern age, letting you target social media users through likes, shares, and retweets. Although Google doesn’t count shares and likes as links, a high amount of sharing on social media can benefit you because it spreads your content across the web, which improves your ranking and displays you to a greater audience.
- There are other methods to acquire guest posts, although they will require a fair amount of research on your part. Many services online can guarantee submissions on certain websites, provided that you supply the content to post. You can also work to establish yourself as an authority in the industry, which may lead to other websites asking to host your guest posts. Ultimately, by working to expand your brand and solidify your place in the industry, you can guarantee that guest posting opportunities will continue to arise. Fire up those fingers, cause they’re about to get sharing!
Finally, we’ve gotten to the most important factor of SEO, one that we’ve touched upon many times before. Marketing through high-quality, relevant content. Content has always been at the core of high rankings, and as Google’s search algorithms grow smarter, this only becomes more and more the case. A few years back, businesses could get away with writing a few hundred words of content loaded with keywords, and then spamming links to it anywhere they can. Google caught on to this practice, and started penalizing those who weren’t producing content of value, and that completely changed the game. Inputting keywords is fine, but only a small portion of the content should be keywords. In 2023, long-form-content will rule the game, as long as it’s informative, comprehensive, and it speaks to the needs of consumers.
Other websites are more likely to share and like this kind of content, meaning that it’ll be viewed more across the web, thus ranking higher on Google. If the content gives a powerful overview of its topic, contains proof terms, relevant terms, and keywords, and is over one thousand words, it will accumulate links from authority sites.
Of course, this content needs to be properly distributed; through the use of social media, business partnerships, and backlinks, your content can easily help build your brand and your business. To put it simply, the key to success this year will be crafting quality content, and creating the means for your audience to see it.
We covered a lot of info in this guide and introduced you to the most important changes hitting SEO this year. Being successful with digital marketing is all about keeping up with the times, and learning how to create techniques that can be adopted for coming changes. Quality content will always be desirable, and by building it now, you save yourself time and money down the line. It all comes down to providing the best experience for the user, and in the age of information, that means giving them something of value to read and consume.