Staying on top of what’s shaping the future of SEO is key to online success, and with its ability to transform at a breakneck pace, now’s the time to start prioritizing the latest best practices in SEO. We’ll walk you through which techniques and practices will serve as the best traffic drivers for your website in the year to come.
Evolve With the SERPs
Over the past year, search engine results pages (SERPs) have undergone incremental changes with important implications, like increasing the length limit of meta descriptions and titles.
While it still hasn’t been confirmed if these changes are here to stay - or simply the subject of A/B testing - this opens up a window of opportunity to better describe your product to users in a more compelling, elaborate fashion. One notable benefit of extending the titles is that it can make room for brand name placement at the end of it, enhancing brand visibility on a search result without having to cut into your content.
If your meta descriptions clock in at anything below 100 characters, you should consider increasing them to prevent your descriptions from getting obscured by the updated character limits. For those who are still confined to the original character limits, continue placing your primary keyword at the beginning of both your title and meta description.
Use Schema Mark-up
Rewind to about 3 years ago when Google started working infoboxes into search results by using the Knowledge Graph to display relevant search information. This eliminated a step for users as they could find answers to their frequently-asked questions on the search page without having to actually click through.
These infoboxes are a simple way to give your website attention as they extract rich snippets from your site pages and prominently display them at the top of search results.
Since Google is the self-proclaimed champion of internet relevance, one of the leading factors for SERP rankings is relevancy. But you don’t have to be the top search result in order to receive the infobox treatment. To be included in the Knowledge Graph - and to capitalize on your attention to detail - you must strategically integrate Schema markup into your website.
In the words of Google, Schema is a “code that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.” The biggest benefit of leveraging microdata is that it provides more context for search engines which, in turn, helps them better understand, index, and rank your website.
Schema.org is a great one-stop resource for getting your Schema markup off the ground. Important to note: similar to keyword research, arbitrarily stuffing Schema markup will do more harm than good with your ranking. All tags should be tied back to the going theme of your page.
OK, Google: What is Voice Search?
Thanks to mobile devices and smart home technology like Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, voice recognition technology is steadily becoming better at understanding our needs. According to the experts, it’ll account for nearly 50% of all search requests by 2020. That’s because talking requires far less effort than manually punching in text - the average person types around 40 WPM but speaks at the rate of 100-130 WPM.
This trend comes with big-time implications: like re-thinking the nature of our content. For starters, take stock of the questions being asked on your website, your social media platforms, and any other online forums. Gather up your sales reps and ask them the most commonly asked questions of your customers. Observe conversations to adopt the exact wording and phrases, and incorporate your customer’s conversational speech into your marketing strategy.
Enter your responses in the same text you would use in a conversation. When optimizing for voice search content, it is crucial to formulate brief, clear answers that do not cause any confusion. Avoid formal or excessively commercial language and use colloquial terms as much as possible. You can then enrich the answers to your questions with related and equally useful information.
Coming up dry on questions? Check out Rank Tracker, a voice query tool that’ll helps you find hundreds of questions to target.
Personalize Your PPC
AdWords saw some changes in 2016 and, according to WordStream, will be subject to even more in the near future. Recent changes were most notably marked with the elimination of right-hand column ads, longer text ads, desktop and mobile ads being handled as separate entities, and a reduced number of organic results showing up in SERPs.
For a while, PPC served as the end-all, be-all for determining the exact keywords entered into a query. But with the enormous growth of voice search, adapting your PPC campaigns to accommodate longer-tail queries is as critical as ever. Choosing the right search engine to base your PPC strategy around is important, as most voice-searching applications are Bing-powered and the majority of devices are contracted with Bing for voice applications.
Providing contextual content will play a role in the user experience - in addition to improving your quality score - which positively ripples into your PPC performance and helps guide searchers further down the funnel.
In late 2016, Google began testing a new mobile-first index. They create and rank search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings viewed by desktop users. That’s because as mobile continues to drive more searches, Google wants its index and search results to reflect their users with the majority of them being mobile searchers.
What does this mean for you? Google gave some recommendations to help prime webmasters for the change:
- If your website is responsive and your content and markup across mobile and desktop remains unchanged, there’s really no need to change anything.
- If the primary content and markup within your site configuration differs from mobile to desktop, consider the following:
- Serve structured markup across your desktop and mobile versions. You can ensure that your structured markup across desktop and mobile is consistent by typing the URLs of both into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the results.
- As you add structured data to your mobile site, avoid inputting heavy amounts of markup that doesn’t apply to the information content within each document.
- Check out the robots.txt testing tool to see if Googlebot can access your mobile version.
The Need for Speed
Google’s been stressing for years to need for sites to up their speed game. As we consider the impacts of the mobile-first index, it’s likely that site speed will move up in ranking factor precedence.
Google emphasized the importance of speed in a statement last September, particularly as it relates to mobile. “Slow loading sites frustrate users and negatively impact publishers. In our new study, ‘The Need for Mobile Speed,’ we found that 53% of mobile sites visits are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.” If you’re unable to fully gauge the loading speed of your site, Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Mobile-Friendly Test come in handy.
ET, Slow Phone
While we’re on the subject, Google knows that sluggish load times negatively impact the user experience on mobile. The introduction of its AMP project in 2015 was designed to place importance on mobile device speed. It acts as a filter, removing excess from websites, which improves loading speeds by up to 85%.
And speaking of mobile, micro moments, the reflexive needs of device users (I want to know/go/buy/do), have become synonymous with the mobile experience. Brands who are able and agile enough to respond in these impulses will see a boost in their reputation.
To make sure your brand is one of them, your strategy should include the following: do away with unnecessary images or ones that require long-loading times, your cookies should only be the essentials, and - if at all possible - compress your web pages.
SEO in 2017 is about embodying “the answer.” Work these trends into your strategy and avoid being behind the eight ball.
Assess Your Search Strength
If your website fails the Google test, give us a ring and we’ll help you get back on track with our free digital assessment. Sign yourself up right here: