“Five years ago, you could do SEO in your sleep. Now, you have to actually be awake.” – Bruce Clay
Mobile-first index, AMP, PWAs, featured snippets, chatbots, voice search, virtual assistants… The world of SEO is changing – and changing fast. There were 1,623 Google algorithm changes in the past year alone. That’s an average of four to five updates per day.
I had a blast learning about some of these current and upcoming changes while attending the SMX Advanced conference in Seattle this week. Three days of back-to-back sessions – chock full of nothing but search, search, search. I even joked on day two that there was some hidden meaning in the fact that several of us had to search long and hard to find not only a place to sit to eat our hot lunches, but also to find silverware with which to eat them.
By the end of day three I walked away better equipped to serve GroundFloor Media’s and CenterTable’s clients and excited to for what’s to come. This conference packed quite a punch for those who work (or play) in the search marketing world – and certainly left me wanting more. But like all good things, SMX had to come to an end (until the next one anyway). Here are a few of the many takeaways from the conference:
Top Ranking Factors and Algorithm Updates
Top ranking factors in 2017 include more content, more images and faster speeds – and, obviously, mobile/responsiveness.
The more content you have, the better your chances of ranking well. Recommended page length varies by topic, ranging from 800-2,700 words per page. The most tolerated paragraph length for a user is two to three sentences.
Focus on getting one really good backlink rather than 10 mediocre ones. And buying links on large article sites (think Forbes) are a waste of resources from an SEO perspective.
Speed is crucial: 53 percent of people will bounce out of a webpage if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
You don’t necessarily need to have a high authority website or use schema to get a featured snippet. And if you’re in position six, it can be easier to get to position zero than position one.
Mobile is Huge
60 percent of searches are conducted on mobile devices and 50 percent of website traffic comes from users on mobile devices. This trend is rapidly growing.
The Mobile-First Index is coming – although likely not until sometime in 2018. We need to be preparing now and responsive design is the preferred approach, otherwise you’ve got lots of work to do to get ready for the switch.
People research spontaneously on mobile so it’s a huge lost opportunity if you’re not there when they need you. However, people typically don’t complete their research or buy/convert on mobile. Desktop still matters!
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) seem to be preferred over AMP. But you can apply AMP coding standards to your website to increase its speed.
The Latest in Local Search
Citations (which are online references to your business’s name, address and phone number) are the ante to play in the local SEO game. Once you’re in the game, they don’t make a big difference.
Although proximity is a huge factor in local search, it is not the only factor. You have to have at least decent onsite SEO in place to even make the cut to appear in the local pack. Once you make that cut, Google will then order listings by proximity.
Schema markup is essential for SEO success in local businesses and eCommerce sites for that matter.
Lastly, these quotes I overheard throughout the week really put SEO into perspective for us:
SEO is not something you do. It’s what happens when you have done everything else right.
Make your website so good that Google feels embarrassed if they’re NOT showing it in search results.
Building a website without SEO is like building a house without the wiring.
Over optimization is like putting on too much makeup. At some point, you don’t like it.
You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a new website. The design is perfect. The content flows beautifully. The graphics are stunning. Now you’ve got to get people there.
One of the simplest, and often overlooked, steps of SEO is submitting your XML sitemap to the search engines. Although the search engine bots will eventually find your site anyway, submitting an XML sitemap can help speed up the crawling and indexing processes for your website and help to improve its ability to rank well in search results.
Steps to Submit the XML Sitemap to Google
Visit your website and make note of the URL of your XML sitemap. For example, com/sitemap.xml.
Finding your audience in search – or more so making it possible for your audience to find you – can be a bit of a moving target. This week we’ve got updates from both the paid (PPC) and organic (SEO) sides of search to keep you on your toes.
Apparent Scam Investigated by Colorado Attorney General
A local CBS news affiliate revealed recently that false Google+ profiles had been used to create online reviews for a local company that customers didn’t actually write. Online reviews are useful to local businesses to add credibility to their claims about product and service value. Positive online reviews can also improve the way search engines such as Google display the local business on the results page when users search for information.
Good search engine results page (SERP) placement can attract customers and bring in revenue, so it is no surprise that companies compete hard to get good online reviews. Occasionally though, the need to compete may push some marketers to overstep ethical boundaries.
As Google is so integral to the modern marketing effort, any hint of a change to its search algorithm gets immediate attention. Google usually notifies its users of possible changes on its Webmaster guideline pages or has members of its Web Spam team discuss the changes in public or on video releases.
Two weeks ago, Google included a notation on its Link Schemes page that adds links contained in press releases and guest blog posts among those that could be non-compliant with Google’s guidelines. Google Web Spam team member John Mueller followed this up in a video hangout in which he noted that links for distributed content like press releases should in the future include a “no-follow” tag.
Is this a hint of some upcoming modifications? We think so. Google doesn’t invest effort like this unless it intends to institute some changes.
Long a staple of the public relations business, press releases have always provided an opportunity to distribute news and information through a wide network. Not so long ago, that network used to be limited to journalists and online pressrooms, but today press releases have the potential to generate huge visibility, and more importantly, can drive readers to your company’s website through links embedded within the body of the release. But, do these links carry any SEO value or help your company’s website rank higher on the search engines?
In late 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts insisted that there is no SEO value to a link placed within a press release. According to Cutts, links placed within a press release wouldn’t help a website improve its standing on the search engine results.
However, some interesting tests were run by enterprising SEO’ers to prove that there is some search-related value to including links within your press releases. Search Engine Land reports that Daniel Tan recently produced a press release in which he linked the odd term “leasreepressmm” to Matt Cutts’ own blog. Within a few days, Google searches for this unique string of letters started to return the link to Matt Cutts’ blog site. Tan has a screen shot to prove his results – although Google has apparently pulled the Cutts blog from searches for “leasreepressmm.”
At a much anticipated press conference in Menlo Park, CA, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the company’s plans to introduce a new search engine for Facebook users. Termed “Graph Search,” the new system allows users to search through their networks for information about people, photos, images and even local businesses. The introduction of this new type of Internet search carries potentially major implications for future marketing practices.
Graph Search could signal a major change in the way search engines return results for business web pages or business pages hosted on social media sites such as Facebook. Graph Search users will be able to seek out businesses in a local area that meet not only the general search requirements, such as “Mexican restaurants in Sausalito” but, according to Facebook, the results would be returned according to the validations of the user’s network members. Businesses that meet the search requirements AND have a positive standing within the user’s network would be displayed near the top of the Graph Search results list. A Graph Search would enable users to search for “Mexican restaurants in Sausalito that my friends like.”
Appearing among the first results on a search results page is a huge marketing advantage. Search engine users typically don’t scroll past the first few results when deciding which link to click or site to visit, so appearing at the top of the results list enables an organization to reach new potential customers and attract new business. In the Graph Search system businesses that have many ‘likes’ would presumably enjoy better search engine results page placement for their business Facebook page.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a hot topic, but it can make a lot of us want to climb under our desks and hide as it can be really technical and overwhelming. GFM is proud to have expanded its Digital Strategy team to include our own resident SEO expert, Matt Stone, who on a daily basis helps our team evaluate how to best incorporate strategic SEO tactics into our PR outreach. If you’re thinking of how to incorporate SEO into your company’s communications plan, watch this short video – the first in a series – for some basic tips. And if you have specific questions, feel free to submit them here in comments and we’ll address them in future posts!
As we mentioned in our previous post, building a strong web foundation enables rapid and effective response to crisis situations. Assembling all the elements that comprise a strong search engine optimization (SEO) strategy requires advance planning and a strong communications background. At GFM we strongly recommend clients consider how to implement an SEO and content strategy sooner rather than later so their website is well positioned to reach readers if a crisis situation arises.
Image courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net
What does it take to build a ‘strong’ website?
Well-constructed sites that can compete on the search engines for good placement (e.g., on the first page of search results) usually contain:
A great deal of focused and informative content
Searchable keywords within the content and page code
Frequently updated product pages
Meaningful, informative and useful blog posts
However, as we’ve mentioned before, search results won’t be achieved overnight. For example, developing focused and informative content may seem self-explanatory, but a little research may be required to determine what readers find valuable. The more technical page “tagging” strategies require understanding which words and terms consumers are using to search for your company, and then setting parts of the website pages so that search engines will more easily associate the content with those terms. Updating pages and posting regular blog posts are ongoing efforts and important parts of the investment in creating a strong and valuable Internet presence. And again, search engines need time to crawl all of this information and run it through their algorithms before ranking a page.
In the end, it is important to reach readers now – not later. Don’t wait until it starts raining before you build your boat!