So, what does SEO look like at the moment? According to SEO best practices, you draw up a list of high potential keywords, publish relevant blogs on the website and get your website optimized. You have 2 sets of strategies; one for on-page, and another off-page. You track metrics through the many tools available like Google Analytics, Moz, AHRefs, and SEMRush, just to name a few.
For most marketers, this is how SEO has progressed and become routine. We are always on the lookout to minimize the time spent to rank a client website above their competitors. It doesn’t always follow a set sequence, but these do work.
However, of late, ranking has escalated in difficulty. Very few brands are able to consistently rank clients on the first page. In fact, I’d wager at least 99% of all people are struggling to get/keep their brands on the first page of Google.
This has to do with the functional revamp of the search engine in itself – there are several new functionalities and quality-of-life updates that make the process of ranking within the top 10 even more difficult. Here’s some of what has been added to the default Google search panel –
Considering that these are a whole new set of features that have been introduced, it is hard for people who are into SEO to keep track of all these changes. And unfortunately, you’ll find that things which worked a while ago, just don’t anymore.
Things To Know About Google Algorithms
Google’s algorithm has been worked on iteratively, and unlike back then, releases are pretty quick without much time to adapt in between. While new releases sometimes took years to consolidate and go live, these days Google releases some of them merely weeks apart. As of now, Google updates their algorithm up to 600 times a year! That is close to 2 updates per day on an average.
Major updates are still released like the “Medic” update on August 1, 2018, which affected the Health and Wellness as well as Financial niches. It rooted out websites which did not have accurate information in these niches majorly as well as others. This is part of the Google E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) algorithm update.
What Should You Do When Updates Hit?
Updates can mean a lot of things for your website, but if you’ve used legitimate methods to build up your brand and reputation, there is no need to fear the sudden drop in rankings. This is especially true if you own a brand that falls under the YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) category – websites that deal with an individual’s health, happiness, safety or financial well-being.
Here are a few things that you need to do when a broad core (Google’s version of major) update hits the search engine.
This is not an absolute consequence of what your website did right or wrong, as Google themselves have pointed out, “Changes to our systems benefit pages that we’re previously under-rewarded.” So don’t stress the loss of rankings at least not immediately. Give it time and also browse through your website to check if you’ve overlooked anything.
Say No To Immediate Changes
A lot of people’s first reaction would be to modify the website in the hopes that it would bounce back right up. This might actually make matters worse, the best thing you can do is run an analysis of the pages which draw the most traffic and get a picture of what is going on. Again, there are a lot of reports of websites that have bounced back after the update.
Guarantee Data Transparency
Something that you can work on though would be ensuring that all data on your website with regards to who is responsible for the content is available for people to read. This includes your about page, your employee roster, and along with testimonials if available. The main focus is that people who create content should have their credentials listed on the website.
Strategies That Are Guaranteed To Work In 2019
Considering Google’s algorithms include complicated techniques and are written by the best minds on the planet, there is limited scope for reverse engineering. What we can do though is make observations and proceed according to our understanding of the situation. That said, we’ve outlined a few steps that you can take which will bring you success regardless of the niches or brands you are dealing with.
These are what you should be doing to make ranking your brand in 2019 a lot easier.
Mobile User Optimization
Internet Traffic in 2018
As of today, mobile traffic is responsible for 52.2 percent of all internet traffic in 2018, and this is only set to rise. So if you want to make sure that your website needs to rank well, then you need to make sure that you take a “mobile-first” approach. To this end, you need to make sure that your website deploys effective AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) protocols which is one of the major revamps that needs to be carried out if you want to rank better.
AMP aims to increase the speed of all mobile pages and is considered a significant ranking factor now and will be an even more potent force later. AMP basically does away with all non-essential elements from a web page which might lack all the bells and whistles, but loads a lot faster. And because AMP versions of websites only have a minimal footprint, Google stores them on its own server.
This boosts the speed even further. AMP is not a novel idea, and it is more or less considered a default technology to implement on new websites. However, it doesn’t diminish it importance in the scheme of things.
Mobile indexing is also another feather in the cap of mobile devices used worldwide. Google announced to the world that more than half the pages shown on search results are from indexing using the mobile-first indexing procedure. This means that Google now indexes a majority of the pages searched looking through mobile rankings and not the desktop versions. This is a significant development and another sign that mobile optimization is going to be significant for ranking well in the years to come.
Offering Value Through Content
While this might seem something that is oft repeated and vague, it still holds true and has become even more important as a ranking signal of late. While it was always important to offer value for people who visit your website these days, it is critical that people are able to validate the content on a webpage.
Experts like Seth Godin have gone on record stating that content marketing “is the only marketing left” and for a good many reasons.
Content marketing is able to get your message across to your customers, authentic, and is perfectly suited to the internet age. This year will see a revamp of older content marketing values come to the fore. Aspects like authenticity, transparency, and value will be the things content will have to offer.
The voice of the consumer is a powerful force today and making sure that you create content they value will go a long way in creating the right brand image. A few statistics, 86% of consumers rate authenticity as a key differentiator when it comes to purchase decisions. 73% of consumers would pay for a product if the company was transparent about the product. In addition to that, a whopping 94% would remain loyal to a brand which was transparent.
Another important factor for doing well with consumers at this moment is personalization and interactivity. People love content that is personally relevant and can result as much as 500% increase in consumer spending! Interactivity is something that is surprisingly beneficial to a brand’s image. People consider brands that interact with customers on a regular basis more trustworthy and credible.
Getting Snippets Right
Relatively speaking, featured snippets are one of the newer features of Google searches. A featured snippet is a short, snapshot solution to search queries that the user types in on searches. The difference between this and the other results is that this can solve the user’s query at a glance and it is populated directly on the SERPs.
Snippets are an important vehicle for garnering clicks because a lot of people tend to click the website with the snippets to their query. To them, the website must definitely be an authority if they manage to feature a snippet on the searches.
Plus it manages to answer the questions most people have about a subject.
A unique feature of featured snippets are the fact that you don’t even have to get within the top ten for it to feature – it just has to answer the question correctly. What this means is that you could engineer a page to answer a few commonly asked questions in your niche and even without ranking on the first page, you’ll still be able to pull clicks to your website. This makes snippets a powerful tool to divert traffic and engagement to your website.
Targeting Voice Assistants
Along with smarter search engines, voice assistants are also becoming increasingly complex. Enough to warrant people actually preferring to use them rather than typing out searches. And it makes sense too, because voice searching is a lot quicker than typing it out. Apart from the speed of the search, another advantage of voice search is the “near me” search pattern.This is frequently used and something that increases the QOL of the user – you can use voice to search for “places around you”.
These types of search queries are on the rise and you need to make sure that your website is optimized for voice searches as well. There are 4 major voice assistant platforms in the world at the moment
Of these, Google Assistant seems to be the class leader owing to a number of Android devices that are available. You need to make sure that your brand is able to tap into this nearly 2 billion people market. What you need to do is optimize your website so it appears easier on voice searches. There a few things you can do to make sure that it appears on voice search results –
- Brainstorm a wide array of search phrases
- Address specific topics on your website
- Make sure to include long-tail keywords in your strategy
- Use schema
- Add Q&A pages to your website
- Make sure your content has “local intent”
- Answers to questions should be at the top of the page
- Make sure your GMB page is up to date
- Ensure that you add trigger words
Voice Search will be in 2020
This can help get you a leg up on getting voice optimization right for your website. Voice searches are the way to move forward if you want to get more people visiting your website. Statistics predict that over 50% of all searches will be voice by the year 2020. Just this figure is reason enough to invest efforts into voice search optimization.
Links are the lifeline of a proper SEO campaign. In fact, most efforts taken in the campaign usually go toward building quality links for the brand. Google has admitted several times in the past that one of the most important ranking signals apart from content is links and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. There are basically two broad types of linking strategies for SEO centric content, internal links and backlinks (links from external authority websites). Both are equally important but serve different purposes.
Internal links are important when it comes to SEO strength because they directly impact user experience when they browse the website. Internal links serve to –
- Map a path for search crawlers
- Help readers get more out of the website
- Dictate the flow of link juice
A lot of people think that internal linking using link anchor text is gone out of vogue, but it hasn’t and is now more important than ever. Even now it helps to link to your more relevant pages or the ones with commercial intent. Moreover, when you add external links to your important pages, you can distribute link juice with the help of internal links to pages which need a push.
Backlinks are critical for a brand’s SEO process in that they give the website a lot of SEO strength from authoritative sources. There have been several articles about how important backlinking is to the SEO process, and this is one such case study on MoZ detailing how they ranked a keyword in under 3 months.
Focus On Local Searches
An oft-forgotten method to rank well for keywords is targeting local searches for the niche. Local SEO helps your brand show up on searches by people from that specific locality. There are specific geo tags such as state, city, and zip code to name a few. This is especially relevant during “near me” searches where the location of the person is picked up by Google, and it displays search results from that area.
Local SEO is especially important if your business is a conventional brick-and-mortar store rather than internet or remote services. Even otherwise, there are several important statistics that are relevant if you want to attract clients, we’ve rounded a few of them up –
92% of people pick businesses on the first page of local search results
46% of all Google searches are local
86% of people look up the location of the business
Considering all these factors, local search is something that is critical to the success of a brand’s business. And this has become especially true because mobile searches are growing exponentially. And if you’ve got your website’s local search tied down, then there’s more than a good chance that you will rank higher because of that. This is because Google has introduced something called a “local pack.” This basically lists out all the local businesses close to the person searching. While there were 7 results for the local pack earlier, Google has cut it down to just 3.
Another important thing you need to note is to make sure that your Google My Business page is updated with the latest information about your business. Any information present on the GMB should be consistent with what is on your website.
Leveraging Social Media
If there has been something of a revelation when it comes to digital marketing, it has to be the rise of social media. Social media has taken some giant strides when it comes to getting people interested and engaged with brands around the world. Social media has some pretty outrageous numbers to show off when it comes to its prowess as a marketing platform for all kinds of brands, here are a few –
- Total number of people using social media – 3 billion
- Number of new social media users every second – 11 users
- Percentage of marketers observed social media increased traffic – 75%
- on social media channe Amount of advertising spend ls – $40 billion
Considering that social media can pull in numbers like this, it was only a matter of time before digital marketers began to use social media as a platform for marketing. Let’s check out how social media directly affects SEO strength for a brand.
Using social media as a platform to increase brand visibility is a proven tactic. By sharing content related to your niche or created in-house, you can get a lot of people talking about your brand. This, in turn, increases engagement and can directly affect your conversion rates. Also, shares on social media are considered a ranking signal.
Since social media is a platform, a lot of people (3 billion of us!) congregate.
This means a massive potential to build an audience for your brand. But you need to be active on any social media to attract a crowd, just logging on and checking numbers won’t have any positive effect for you. A larger audience for your content also means that your brand will start building trust, which is really important in the long run.
AI And Chatbots
Technology has given rise to new methods of problem-solving, and a Chatbot is one such development. Basically, it is a computer program which can respond to simple queries and requests from users. The AI subroutines have gotten advanced enough so people don’t realize that they’re not talking to a real person. Chatbots are incredibly useful and have been implemented in a variety of applications like instant messaging, promotions, customer support and virtual assistants.
You might be wondering how Chatbots have an effect on SEO. Well, it’s simple. Chatbots mean that there is no latency time when it comes to getting more information from the website. This means that a lot more users can be serviced than when you have people manning the stations.
The caveat is that you cannot implement Chatbots for every application, you need to pick and choose the right application, or you will be risking an even worse user experience than earlier.
Chatbots aren’t a blanket solution to getting more people to your website, they are more of a niche solution. You need to exercise caution and find the right place to implement this. Make sure that the AI you’re implementing is trained with the maximum number of queries related to your niche that are possible.
Using Chatbots as they should be can net you significant traffic and engagement especially if your brand is oriented to selling products or services.
Choosing The Right Images And Videos
Audiences always prefer visual content over plain textual content and this is highly apparent when you consider social media platforms like Instagram. That said, you need to make sure that you use the right kind of images and videos relevant to your niche.
An advantage of having a video on your website is that people are able to assimilate data a lot quicker than just text. Videos have cornered the market when it comes to getting the most attention from the users. Brands that focus on video content also have tangible SEO benefits as well. When you search for a brand, if there are videos about them, they come up right at the top of search results.
This becomes an effective marketing technique even if your brand doesn’t have a lot of video content to put out.
Focusing on video content can noticeably increase dwell times and get you better SEO metrics. Increasing dwell times can improve your SEO rankings and get you better numbers.
Regardless of the niche, you have to make sure that the images or video that you are using on the website is high quality and is relevant to your interests. Because there are chances that people would be turned off by poor quality visual content as well.
Optimizing Google My Business
When Google has its own business directory, you can bet it would be an important ranking signal to consider. Google My Business is a business directory that has the ability to boost ranking signals when used with an accurate date.
Basically Google My Business is a portal where business owners can work on how their businesses are displayed on throughout Google-owned services and platforms, including SERPs and reviews. There are several advantages to registering your business on GMB, let’s take a look at a few of them.
The most important property is information consistency and security. Because of the number of businesses online, it is hard to know if your business has been misrepresented or worse.
But this is a thing of the past when you register your business on GMB. Your business will appear at the top of searches when searched by name along with several details which you can control like address, phone, hours open, just to name a few. The business also gets Google Maps blurb which users can click to get information about the location of the business.
- Google My Business Increase Ranking Signals 90% 90%
Since GMB is a really popular business directory, any business registering on it will have great visibility throughout the web. Also, since Google verifies data that is posted on its GMB, a lot of third-party websites rely on Google for information. Another important factor to consider is the fact that businesses are classified into various categories which means that you get hits on a lot more relevant local searches.
One of the downsides of this is that you need to make sure that all information that is presented is consistent with what you have on the website. But anything that is going to help your brand rank better is going to take time. This is free and can help you verify your presence online.
Quick and Easy – Essential SEO Tips 2019
Now that we’ve gone through several things that you can do to get your brand website more SEO strength, let’s look at a few things which can help you with getting more performance out of your SEO pipeline. This is not going to be as detailed as the content above, but it’s more of a descriptive checklist as to what you should be looking for when you are streamlining your website.
Speed Is Critical
The first thing you need to do is to get rid of anything that doesn’t help the load speed of your website. Page load speed is considered as one of the few critical factors for SEO, especially in these times. A 1-second delayin page times can result in 75 loss when it comes to conversions Page speed is directly linked to the website being trustworthy for a lot of people.
A lot of people are under the impression that linking to other websites in the same niche means that your readers are being taken off your page. This is a misunderstood concept. Link building is a critical part of the SEO process, and this entails in sharing information with other websites in your functional vicinity. And this also opens up opportunities for further discussion – you could get in touch with the owner of the linked content and request a link back to your website.
Don’t Write For The Machines
We all know it is important to rank well, but the key to perform is to not write just for search engines. As search engine algorithms get more complex, it takes into account many other factors when ranking your website. One critical aspect of ranking well is that it factors in how good the reader’s experience of your content is.
The more value people find with your website, the better it will rank. Plus when you write good content, it becomes that much easier to get other authority websites in your niche to link back to you.
Start With Analytics
A lot of people forget to deploy analytics at the start of the campaign which means that you do not get an accurate picture of how much better your website is getting. Analytics can help you track, record and even suggest improvements where required. When it comes to tools, there are several that can help you get more information about your SEO campaign.
Google Analytics, and Google Search Console can help find out just how well your website is doing. There are other tools like CrazyEgg which can give you a heat map of how users are interacting with your website.
Keep Metadata Unique
A problem lot of websites have with ranking optimally is when they have metadata that is repeated on several pages or that the content is just not up to scratch. Duplicate meta descriptions can land you in hot water with Google, maybe not immediately, but it will happen. There are several plugins for your CMS that can help rectify duplicate meta content.
These are a few things that can help you get the most out of your SEO campaign. While some of them may not have an immediate effect, they all contribute to your total SEO strength and ranking numbers and are definitely important in the long game.
There have been hundreds of updates of search engines all geared to make it a better experience for the users. A lot of digital marketers think of updates as a hurdle to jump across, but in reality it is something that helps us all in the long run. When you create legitimate, user-centric, experiences on your website that people actually derive value from, you don’t need to fear search engine updates. The focus of your SEO campaign should be to offer content that is actionable and useful for the end-user or streamline existing content to those quality standards.
This article has hands-on advice on how you can improve the SEO strength of your brand website. These strategies have been tried and tested over multiple updates and can still deliver despite any updates that are coming up. Do share with us your results after implementing these tactics and feel free to share any advice that you might have for us as well.