The changing landscape of SEO comes from both the search engine itself and from the searchers. On top of that, the content strategies of millions of marketers are evolving to address those same changes. All this puts you in a tough spot. How do you keep up and respond to the competition for viewers?
Here are our thoughts on 2017 SEO tips and tricks designed to address this evolving digital landscape.
Web Search Behavior Changes
Sometimes it can be tough to determine precisely what is causing a particular change. Is it the ever-changing search algorithm or is that algorithm responding to the ways that people are actually searching? We believe it is the search algorithm determining how people search, what they’re looking for, and how best to deliver those answers.
- Mobile Search. Mobile search surpassed desktop search in 2015 and is still growing. As just one example, when was the last time you searched for a nearby restaurant from your desktop? Google is also working on serving up mobile-first results. The majority of searches are mobile and looking for local results.
- Local Results. Search engines are supplying local results. This, in turn, means your keyword research is going to be skewed by your location. It also means that you need to be working with long-tailed keywords to take into account location and other relevant factors that get you ranked on that first page.
- Voice Search. Another big change is that those long-tailed keywords are being entered by voice-to-text. That’s the big reason they are longer, plus they are entered by a mobile device and looking for local results. It’s that same example of searching for a nearby restaurant from your car via voice-to-text. This means that you need to be much more specific about what your website is offering. It isn’t just umbrellas. It’s black umbrellas with pink polka dots in Dallas. And the search result isn’t a 1,000-word blog post but a quick reference that can be read on a mobile screen.
Search Engine Changes
All search engines are trying to provide the results that are needed, whether the searcher can link the right words together or even spell correctly, in a timely manner. Google in particular is trying to deliver those results with ever increasing speed.
- Rich Answers or Featured Snippets. These results appear at the top of the search results and with the summary of the best result. It’s estimated that over 20% of search queries now display a rich answer. To get into the rich answer box you’ll need to optimize your SEO for the query, use command words to start sentences, use a clear heading, and keep your section short.
- Search Quality. Google occasionally publishes their search quality raters guidelines. The first key item is an emphasis on local results, called “Visit-in-Person.” Next is a growing emphasis on what they call “Your Money Your Life,” which are those things that that impact your health, life, and finances. This is followed by E-A-T or expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, all of which much be demonstrated in your content. The final item is Needs Met which addresses mobile usability of your website. •
- RankBrain. Google’s RankBrain is an artificial intelligence program combining hundreds of search algorithms and using machine learning to continuously improve search results. This means that the search engine rankings you’re seeking actually change. Every. Single. Day.
SEO Tips and Tricks
Anyone who has worked with SEO for any length of time can get overly focused on all the many tips, tricks, and just plain magic that can result in even temporary ranking supremacy. But the bottom line is that you need to build an audience by providing valuable content.
This isn’t new. But it’s taken on new importance. In fact, it’s called 10x Content, building content that is 10 times better than the best search result for a given keyword phrase or topic.
In addition, quite a few research studies have shown that longer content is ranked higher. This just reinforces the concept that high quality, in-depth content is far better that lots of short posts.
With that underlying premise, here are a few tips and tricks for your SEO.
- Optimize Visual Content. As just noted, words are the key. But don’t forget about your visual content— images and video. This includes image titles, metadata, alt text, and keywords. And don’t overlook file size. Too large an image slows things down and doesn’t work well on mobile. This will lower your rankings.
- Faster is Better. It is a race and site speed is absolutely essential, no matter what your device.
- Use the Right Tools. Use an SEO tool suite to analyze your back links, research keywords, and track rankings. As a Hubspot certified agency, we use Hubspot’s SEO tools.
- Buyer Personas. We feel that buyer personas are the secret sauce of the best digital marketing agencies. Given that, you need to add searcher goals and behaviors to your buyer persona development. This can then drive every aspect of your content development and SEO practices.
- Long Tail Keywords. You should have received this message in all that went before. Mobile search, voice search, and local results are all driven by long tail keywords. They are an absolutely essential element of your SEO.
- Topic Clusters. We really like Hubspot’s recommendation of developing deep and broad content through topic clusters rather than keywords or even long tail keywords. This helps drive deeper content development across your core topic areas and helps you build a better information architecture with greatly improved internal linking. All this adds up to a much better user experience and search results.
For more insight, try “Best SEO Practices to Dominate in 2017” which is a good post from several experts sharing their SEO hacks. We also like “WordPress SEO Checklist — 45 Tips for 2017” and for a broader perspective our own “7 Hot Digital Marketing Trends to Continue in 2017.”
We Can Help
If all that insight seems a bit daunting, we can help. I founded Digital Marketing Direction to help businesses grow faster through online marketing using inbound strategies and remarkable content. Check out some of our work, case studies, or testimonials and call 214-937-9521 or go here to request a consultation today.
Posted by Jackie Connors
Jackie Connors is the Founder & CEO of Digital Marketing Direction, a top-tiered HubSpot Solutions Partner agency based in Texas. She provides inbound training, consulting, and content marketing services to mid-market companies.