As a product of the digital marketing industry, the SEO landscape is an environment of constant change and, for marketers, it's a never-ending race to gain an edge. Different from what many believe, it's a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to develop, implement, and manage an ROI-Driven SEO strategy, you need to be prepared for the long haul. More importantly, you need to prioritize your time toward what matters most: the user.
Over the years, more business owners have come to understand the importance of SEO and it's ability to bring results. The problem isn't a lack of people getting behind SEO; the problem is that too many view it as a checklist. There are a lot of strong marketers who have a solid grasp on the different elements of SEO, but they often forget the actual purpose it serves. All of the factors that go into organic ranking and everything that has to do with optimization MUST revolve around creating a better user experience for the consumer. The recipe for a stellar user experience comprises many elements, including some that are case-specific and some that lie more on the technical side of things. The latter part revolves around a site's usability, which includes a variety of components such as site speed, readability, ease of navigation, layout and several others. While strong usability is important, a great user experience calls for much more.
The most crucial parts for successfully creating unique online experiences depend on the audience and the emotional connection they have to the business. This involves the overall look and feel of the website, design, interaction, products/services, content...etc. While more time consuming and granular, when put together properly, this part of the puzzle is instrumental in delivering valuable user experiences which ultimately lead to driving conversion goals.
SEO is not a quick and easy short-term solution for generating more site traffic. It's not about pulling a fast one on Google (those days are far behind us) or just checking off a list of parameters as you make modifications to the pages of a site (but, this is a piece of the process). There are best practices, however, certain tactics don't always work the same for everybody. Each website is different and depending on your company, your industry and the audience you serve, the ideal approach will vary.
To help get you on track toward an SEO strategy that's crafted for the modern user experience, here are six specific areas to focus on.
In order to engage your audience and make their visits more meaningful you need to thoroughly understand them - how they interact with your site, which pages they frequently visit, what types of content they respond to...etc. Tracking user behavior and gathering valuable data is a must if you want to keep your audience interested and drive traffic. Fortunatley, there are plenty of resources available to help you measure activity.
2. Local Landing Pages and Local Listings:
There has been a strong emphasis in geo-targeting in the past year; more weight gets allocated to local audiences simply because they're the most likely to convert. Focus on creating location specific landing pages to get yourself started. This will continue as a point of emphasis throughout the year.
A few months ago Google announced that it will be implementing Mobile-First Indexing for search. Today, significantly more people are using their smartphones to search for things than desktop. There are tons of reasons why mobile is becoming an increasingly important marketing factor. We'll talk more about this topic soon in our upcoming mobile-focused post. For now, if your website is still not mobile-responsive, then that should be priority #1 for your 2017 checklist.
4. Social Signals:
As explained, SEO is all about user experience; social shares help with credibility and indicate that your content is engaging. Although not quite as impactful as some of the other focus areas listed here, social media is still one of the best ways to interact with and gain feedback from your audience. Make sure you're using the right content - on the right channels - for the right audience.
5. Fresh Content:
Quality content has always been king, but it has more of a shelf life than ever before. It's crucial to produce new, fresh content on an on-going basis with the same standard of quality. This means not only creating additional content for your pages, but also updating your existing content. Google measures the size and frequency of the renovations you make to your pages. Quite a bit goes into this one, Moz covers it pretty well here.
6. Calls to Action:
Whether your conversion goal is driving phone calls, form submissions, downloads or purchases, none of them are likely to happen unless you make it easy for the user. Calls to Action need to be page specific, positioned appropriately, and easy to spot; the worst thing you can do is confuse a ready-to-buy customer out of a purchase. Minimize the number of steps needed to take any and all actions.
What to Expect Moving Forward:
There's a lot of talk about the impact of SEO down the road; some argue that it's dead; some argue that it's on the decline and some argue that it won't be here in the next few years. Let's get one thing straight...there will always be a need for SEO.
Users are becoming increasingly engaged with the content they consume. As Google continues to perfect the way it provides information to people, the use of search is only going to grow. Those who earn the top ranking spots are going to receive more traffic from consumers and those who pay little attention to search will miss out on a great deal of valuable activity. It's very important for marketers to consider these trends for the bigger picture in order to compete in the future.
Need help crafting an SEO strategy this year? Give us a shout and let's get started