Last week, we went over the basics of search engine optimization. This week, we share what’s changing.
WHAT’S COMING (or already here)
Searches from a mobile device surpassed those from a desktop three years ago. In fact, a BrightEdge study found that last year, 57 percent of traffic from its clients came from smartphones and tablets, and that percentage is increasing all the time. Quite simply, what mobile-first indexing means is that search engines will soon begin ranking websites based on their mobile versions first, because that’s how most people access the Internet.
What this means for marketers, according to SEO and marketing consultant Bridget Randolph, is that “the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of a site, and a site with a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.” Sites without responsive design (adapting desktop web content to mobile devices) could suffer in the search listings.
Voice searches, like the kind 55% of teens and 40% of adults conduct every day, also significantly affect SEO. That’s because Siri or Alexa (or whomever your digital assistant may be) most often reports from those sites with featured snippets, and only the best content earns featured snippets.
Have you noticed when you search for something on the web nowadays that a bordered paragraph of information on the subject shows up first? It looks something like this:
Featured snippets receive a “position 0” on the SERP because they come even before the coveted position 1. They are earned and (here’s the great news) have less to do with link metrics and more with content quality. Sites with content the search engines deem most able to answer users’ questions or meet their needs are the most likely candidates for featured snippets. Generally speaking, the tactics that increase opportunities for a position 0 are appropriate keywords that answer who, why, what, where and when as well as implied questions, such as “does,” “makes,” “costs,” etc. If you need a little inspiration, answerthepublic.com is a great resource that offers a list of questions most commonly asked about a certain topic.
Said Stephen Spencer, author of Search Engine Land and other books and material on SEO, “Surprisingly, it is not unheard of for URLs ranking on page two of the Google SERPS to get a “position 0” result” with a featured snippet.” Anticipating the right questions and providing clear, concise answers to them affects not only search engines, but, ultimately, consumers as well. And that should be the only goal of SEO
SERP feature bonanza!
Far beyond the “10 blue links” of Google past, moz.com identifies 16 features that commonly appear on Google SERPS. In addition to featured snippets are: Adwords (paid); In-Depth Article; Local Teaser Pack; Shopping Results; Knowledge Card; News Box; Site Links; Knowledge Panel; Related Questions; Tweet: Image Pack; Local Pack; Reviews; and Video. And there will certainly be more tomorrow, because Google is always working to be the best provider of information.
Increasingly, users don’t even have to go to an actual website to get the information they need; it’s all right there on the SERP. This is good for Google, but it’s also good for SEO writers because, for the most part, these features are earned, based on proximity to the searcher, reviews, and quality content that best answers consumers’ questions or provides the information they’re seeking.
More content creators and participants in conversations on social media are mentioning businesses or brands without including links to them, and search engines are increasingly using linkless backlinks (links to other sites) as ranking signals. This is primarily because unethical SEO practitioners were using backlinks to “suck up” to other brands, without a genuine intention to send consumers to the sites that best suit their needs.
Search engines caught on and are now rewarding linkless mentions, because they demonstrate natural engagement with a brand. Engagement enhances brand reputation, earned through quality, accurate, fresh content and robust social media activity. It can’t be “bought,” and the search engines know it. It’s kind of like a flower shop owner recommending a hair salon to someone without letting the salon owner know they’ve done so – they did it because they genuinely endorse the quality of the salon and not because they’re expecting a reciprocal favor.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As with many things nowadays, AI is powering more aspects of SEO. While not without their flaws, AI algorithms can understand entity salience, semantic distance, and phrased-based indexing. All that boils down to is that AI is able to determine content relevance based on relationships between commonly associated words. For example, advanced algorithms can recognize that copy containing the words “jays” and “seed” is more apt to be about birds than sports. On the flip side, copy that includes “jays” and “hockey” is more likely to be about athletics.
Read Part III of our blog next week, when we’ll discuss what’s on the decline in SEO and what will always be relevant.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
If what scientists are saying about human adaptive evolution is true – that it’s accelerating – then perhaps the future of homosapien development means that people will be born with downward-bent necks due to our prolific use of mobile devices.
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit out there, but fading fast are the days of folks accessing the Internet predominantly from their desktop computers. Since 2014, the number of mobile-only Internet users in the U.S. has grown from 24.6 to 37.3 percent. That rate is expected to grow to 42 percent, or 279 million, by 2020.
Websites can no longer survive with design that does not fit consumers wherever they are – literally. Coined “responsive design” by Ethan Marcotte back in 2010, the ability for one website to quickly and automatically adapt to whatever device one is using (whether desktop/laptop, phone, tablet, watch) is paramount to successful online customer experiences.
Before the development of responsive design moved into the mainstream, mobile users had to pinch, scroll, swipe, pan, zoom, and all but jump through hoops to get the information they wanted from websites that weren’t built to respond to their online environment. They became frustrated and quickly moved on.
Websites without responsive design leave visitors frustrated and likely to move on to other sites.
To mitigate the problem, web designers created mobile templates, whereby a second website or subdomain was built in addition to the primary site to respond to mobile use. But, given the new generations of devices cropping up all the time, the time and cost involved in creating separate templates for each would be astronomical, and the effort impractical.
Responsive design is coded such that one website adapts seamlessly and expediently to all screen sizes, resolutions and platforms. The benefits of responsive design are many, and websites without it are undeniably suffering:
- Positive user experience – If visitors to your site can easily and quickly find what they’re looking for, they’re going to stay longer and engage more. Bounce rates will dramatically decrease.
- Competitive Edge – The absence of responsive design is glaringly apparent to anyone visiting your site. Implementing responsive design gives you an immense and immediate advantage over the competition.
- Increased social involvement – Nearly 80 percent of social media engagement happens on a mobile device. If your site is not easily seen or navigable from all platforms, audiences will be much less able to share and engage in the viral ways that are vital to your brand.
- Better conversions – A responsive website smoothly facilitates the actions you wish your visitors to take, whether it is to read a blog, respond to a CTA, make a comment…all the things that foster engagement with your brand and, ultimately, satisfy your ROI.
- Better SEO – Search engines rank websites with responsive design higher than those without. Responsive design is perceived as more relevant and more able to give searchers precisely what they’re looking for, whatever their online environment.
- Better branding – Because responsive design draws from one main website, as opposed to several templates or subdomains, displays across all devices are unified in look, style and brand identity.
- Speedier loads – Google PageSpeed standards recommend that pages designed for mobile users load in under two seconds. A website without responsive design rarely loads in a mobile environment in this amount of time. Waiting too long for a page to load often causes consumers to leave a site.
- Lower costs – Creating multiple templates and subdomains for all the many devices on the market costs time and money. Responsive design professionals can program one website to adapt to several platforms, resulting in considerable savings.
- Sustainability – Technically speaking, responsive design is based on screen size, not device. This has significant ramifications for the future, including the Internet of Things, because whether one’s field of view occupies an inch of space or a whole square block, your website will still look properly proportioned and attractive.
If your website is dying in the Digital Age, revitalize it with truly responsive design. Let our team of experts show you all that responsive design can do for your website, and your business as a whole.
Does your website have responsive design? Let us know how we can help improve or implement this technology on your company’s site.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Content marketing is king in today’s world of online communications. But what is it, exactly? While the term is ubiquitous across all of modern marketing, it is still rather mysterious, even to those in the business. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s lay it out like a wish list—all that we want in successful content marketing, and how to get it
- Audience relationships – Notice it’s not audience purchases. That’s intentional, and it’s huge. Making relationships, not sales, is the essence of content marketing and the reason we do it.
- Engaging content – This is the principal component of developing and maintaining relationships with prospects and customers. Without it, there is no hope of a lasting relationship, or even a first hello. Engaging means interesting, informative, problem solving, thought-provoking, entertaining, delighting…and doing each of these things very well individually and sometimes all at once.
- Knowledge of audience – This one’s as old as the hills, right? Yet, with all the countless messages on the Internet, yours must not only capture attention, but keep it and bring it back time and again. It’s imperative to know whom you’re talking to. Data analytics, buyer personas, content audits and other targeting tools are invaluable to a successful content marketing strategy.
- Audience trust – We are not selling…we are not selling…we are not selling. This should be the mantra of every content marketer. Trust is built by providing content that is engaging, not sales-focused. (Hint: this trust then turns into sales.)
- Audience loyalty – This is the natural consequence of gaining audiences’ trust. Consumers will want to come back to those who engage them meaningfully and will share not only your media, but also their experiences with your brand. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing strategy of all.
- Transparency – Consumers are anything but ignorant or gullible. They are smart, savvy, and they know what they want and how to get it. They are “prosumers,” and they can smell a sales ploy and false or exaggerated information from a mile away. Without transparency, there is no audience trust.
- Credibility – A close cousin of audience trust is credibility, demonstrating to consumers that you are uniquely qualified in your space and buttressing your expertise with links and references to other respected sources. Any awards, certifications and accreditations you have should also be conveyed.
- Multiple online media – Social media platforms, blogs, e-newsletters, post boosters, landing pages, interactive forms, visual media, press releases…the list goes on. Your brand needs original and curated content across multiple media to be truly effective in building meaningful customer relationships.
- SEO expertise – Fresh, regularly updated content not only engages your audiences, it influences the way search engines rank your site. Knowing how to employ SEO (search engine optimization) is key in driving traffic to your site and implementing a successful content marketing strategy.
- Responsive design – Audiences have more ways to engage with your brand than ever—desktop, laptop, phone, tablet, and the soon-to-come Internet of Things. Your content marketing must fit people where they are, not only metaphorically, but literally too—conforming to screen size, platform, orientation, and other electronic factors.
All any business or organization really wants is great content marketing. This holiday season and beyond, let our team of experts earn you the best gift of all: lasting consumer relationships.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.