2016 has been an extremely eventful year to say the least in the digital marketing & SEO space. We’ve seen some exciting updates coming from this year’s Google Performance Summit and an actual update from Google themselves on the top 3 search ranking factors. Of course, part of an SEO expert’s mandate includes keeping pace with algorithm changes search engines continues to make. Yes, we’re talking about Penguin, Panda & RankBrain specifically. With these algorithm changes come tweaks that have to be made in your SEO strategy. Things that have worked in the past do not work as well in part of Google’s efforts to cut down on spamming and black-hat practices. We definitely appreciate Google’s efforts in rewarding websites that focus on giving the user the best possible experience because at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters. Here is a list how the SEO landscape that have changed over the years.
The Rise of Mobile
It’s a fact. There are now more google searches that are being performed on mobile devices than desktops, and that has affected the SEO landscape in a significant way. With more users consuming content on their phones, SEO professionals now have to focus on optimizing the mobile experience of their websites. Factors such as load times, responsible site design, separate mobile URLs are all things to consider when it comes to best practices for mobile devices. Google has already rolled out accelerated mobile pages, an open source initiative designed to improve the performance of mobile web. The obvious benefit for users here is of course faster load times and a seamless design optimized for mobile. This has had a significant impact for publishers and is a prime example of how far mobile has come along in the digital space.
Don’t Forget Social Media
Nowadays it has become a lot easier to share content because of the existence of social networks; something that had not existed before. Don’t underestimate the power social signals can provide to your website in terms of brand awareness, website traffic, and sales opportunities. With social media being one of the core promotional channels, utilize your networks to promote your content, drive conversations, and encourage sharing. In fact, this exact blog post will probably be shared across our social media networks on Facebook & Twitter for our followers to see and discuss. Be sure to follow us there and excuse us for the shameless plug! 🙂
Links have always been a significant factor in determining your rankings on search engines and as a result, link-building strategies have probably seen the most dramatic changes over the years. In the past, there was more focus on the quantity of links leading back to your website, as opposed to quality. The more backlinks (no matter the quality) that would lead to your site, the better the chance your website would rank for a given keyword. Furthermore, websites could get away with exclusively using exact match anchor texts, as opposed to diversifying it into longer tail, branded or partial match keywords. Implementing this kind of strategy today would be a terrible idea, and more than likely would raise a red flag to Google. Do you want your rankings to drop off the earth? Of course you don’t! SEO professionals today should focus on obtaining quality backlinks with high domain authorities and decreasing the amount of low authority websites. Furthermore, Google likes to see a wide array of links coming back to your website. Examples of links you can look to obtain include (but not limited to):
–Guest Posts or Guest Blogging: Inbound links coming from relevant blogging or publication sites can increase web/referral traffic and improve your visibility and online presence. It also provides your website and brand with authority and credibility. Once achieved, boost your guest post with some social signals. You can also explore having other people guest post on your own website as well.
–Press Releases: From credible press release distribution services. PR backlinks are not as effective as it once was, however putting out real ‘newsworthy’ content can help increase your brand and targeted web traffic.
–Local Citations: These links are helpful in getting your website ranked higher in your respective local listings and is useful in diversifying your overall backlink portfolio.
–Forum Posts and Blog Commenting: Scour relevant forums and blogs and join the conversation! There is a real opportunity to gain direct traffic to your website utilizing this strategy. It is best practice to make your inputs as detailed and helpful as possible, as well as commenting on posts in your target industry that would ideally provide value for the intended audience.
–Social Signals: Links to your website via social media can have a considerable impact on your website rankings, and again can help increase your website traffic as long as the content you are putting out is of high quality and engaging.
Link building in itself is a massive topic, and is something we can come back to in another dedicated blog post in the near future.
4.User Experience & Content Quality
User experience and content quality are becoming one of the more important factors when it comes to search engine visibility. In the past, it used to be a lot simpler to rank a low quality website while stuffing keywords and using an abundance of exact-match keywords. To make matters worse, the content written on these sites were at a sub-par standard to make just enough sense for a search engine to crawl and rank. Clearly from a user perspective, this was not ideal. To gain backlinks, website owners (and still to this day, albeit not as effective) used to ‘spin articles’ (a black-hat tactic used to rewrite the same written content while replacing specific words) and post these on low-quality Web 2.0s with their target keyword as the anchor text. With Google Panda and Penguin now honing down on penalizing these tactics, websites that focus on user experience with compelling content are now being properly rewarded. We have actually covered the importance of writing naturally sounding content on your website which you can read here.
When designing your website, be sure to put yourselves in the shoes of the user, and think about what kind of compelling and engaging factors would make yourself want to stay on the website. This will obviously differ depending on what kind of website you’re building, however always keep in mind of content quality and user experience. By doing this, you’ll notice bounce rates decreasing and metrics such as pages per session increasing. The more user friendly your website is, the more likely it will be viewed, shared, and ranked!
The rapidly changing nature of the internet has had an immense impact on keyword research and targeting. Clearly, businesses must be aware of high-performing keywords as well as their under-performing ones and over the last several years, we have seen a steady shift from targeting keywords based predominantly on high search volume to clients targeting a wider range of keywords based on conversions and engagement. In addition, using the same techniques for keyword research you did a couple of years ago could potentially reduce your website’s potential for success. Begin with what your target market is looking for and consider keywords and phrases different demographics and geographical regions are using.
With Google RankBrain & Hummingbird now being able to use language semantics to understand complex search queries, it will now be able to pick up on variations of certain queries so take this into mind when compiling your keyword research. Stuffing your keywords as many times won’t be as effective as writing on a topic that is considered to be a good fit to address a user’s search query. The arrival of RankBrain certainly has presented the opportunity to rank a page for many related keywords, and not only just the keywords you are optimizing the page for.
Furthermore, it is imperative to not do keyword research once and be done with it. Targeted keywords should continually be reviewed, monitored and maintained to keep up in today’s competitive landscape. As previously mentioned, when building out your website, keep in mind that keyword stuffing is not an effective way to get your website to rank in todays landscape, so refrain from being repetitive with your target keywords to potentially avoid being penalized by Google or Bing.
Gone are the days of stuffing your title tags with keywords. With title tags being one of the most important on-page ranking factors, it is critical to have your titles optimized for search engines. Title tags is the main snippet you see in your search engine result page as seen below:
The above image clearly displays Goose Digital as a B2B Digital Marketing Agency and features a primary keyword focus with the brand name. Ideally, a well optimized title tag will feature your brand with a primary keyword, and a secondary keyword if necessary. In addition, your title tags should be ‘selling’ your content, so be sure to make your title tag as compelling as possible. Title tags are not only important to search engines, but it is important when posting it on external websites such as Facebook or LinkedIn, where the title tag of your webpage will be used as your anchor text. With Google now testing out longer character limits, website owners will have a little more leeway into creating more compelling title tags, and quite possibly target longer tail keywords. Title tags are fairly simple to optimize, so be sure not to overlook this.
Here is a general checklist of title tag best practices for you to follow:
–Character Limit: 50-60 characters; Google looking to test title tags up to 70-71 characters
–Keyword Focus: Be sure to include a primary keyword and a secondary keyword if necessary, and make sure each webpage has a different keyword focus (Avoid Keyword Cannibalization).
–Include your Brand
–Have a unique title tag for each webpage
If you need help or advice with your SEO strategy, inbound marketing or anything digital, let us know! We would love to hear from you. Contact our team today.