The Future is Now
In the last couple of years machine learning and AI have been building in their momentum. We’re seeing the application of these technologies in more of our day-to-day lives. The advancement of machine learning-powered software is also starting to play a role in digital marketing and SEO.
With applications like Siri or Google Now, how people search for things is changing. Spoken and written searches are typically phrased differently, so digital marketing professionals have to keep an eye on how search syntax is affected. However, until the day the machines rise and take over, there are still things we can do to make sure our SEO strategies are as healthy as possible. Here are some fundamental steps you can take.
It ALL Starts with Keyword Research
It doesn’t matter if your website ranks on the first page if no one searches for that keyword, or if that isn’t the keyword that your target audience uses. You need to thoroughly research and identify the keywords your target audiences would use.
There are great resources about effective keyword research, including our post on Unlocking the Key(word)s to SEO, but today’s SEO professional has to be thinking about how the nature of search is changing in terms of advances in technology like voice recognition.
It is very likely that pages that contain conversational, less formal content is going to factor more prominently in certain search scenarios. It will become critical to think about what people want to know and how they might go about asking for it. If you’re creating user personas start including ideas about how the user might phrase their questions differently when speaking versus typing.
Control the Message
Most search engines have similar layouts for their search engine results page. The snippet of text that appears on the search results page basically consists of title, description, and URL for the page. Note: Search results will also include other elements like review rating, contact information, but these 3 elements form the core of the search result.
These 3 elements can usually be controlled. They are something that you can use to help communicate what the user will find if they click on your search result. They should be informative and enticing. Remember you’re in a competition with every other search result for clicks. Here's how to use these elements effectively:
Title: This is the name or “identity tag” of the page. You have about 55 characters worth of space to work with, and it’s important to use your keywords in this element.
URL: This is the path and name given to the site. Google may also display the shortened URL or a navigation path (or breadcrumbs). Try to use intuitive, understandable names with the keyword. For example, /full-colour-lcd-display-monitor.php is much better for the user and for SEO than something like fc-lcd-disp.php. Note: use hyphens in the URL.
Description: You can’t stuff the description full of keywords and expect SEO lift anymore these days. What is critical to understand is that this element describes what kind of content the user will find when they click on the link. Use the 150 - 155 characters to entice, or excite the user.
Care About the User
When you develop your website it is important to consider a few key aspects of an effective page and user experience.
- Google and users will not tolerate a website that takes a long time to load. Aim for 1.5 seconds, much longer isn’t going to cut it. This is very important. Your developer should do everything possible to make sure your site loads as fast as possible.
- Use the heading tags H1, H2, H3 and so on. Heading tags that include your keywords will benefit SEO. Proper use of headings also make the page easier to scan and skim.
- Include links between related pages on your site, and use relevant anchor text in the link. Internal linking helps SEO and it helps users find more content that could be useful to them.
All of these tactics help SEO, but what they really do is improve the user experience. They help the user find the information they are looking for and this decreases bounce rate and increase the pages visited and the time spent on the website. That in turn signals to Google that users had a good experience...and that will impact your ranking.
The Almighty Backlink
One of the key factors that Google uses to determine the ranking of a page on your website is the quantity and quality of sites that links back to your website. It is important to build these links back from websites that have authority and high relevance between the source page of the link, and the theme of the page on your site. Link building is challenging, and it takes time, but it can have significant and long lasting impact.
There are no shortages of SEO tips, tricks and tactics, but these four are truly fundamental to ensure that your SEO strategy is being build on a solid foundations.