How to win Search Engine Optimization in 2018 (and beyond)

 

We are not saying you should not hire that SEO expert with 10+ years experience, but don’t hire him/her because of that 10 year experience, and here’s why.

Search Engine Optimization is probably one of the most dynamic fields within digital marketing. What you knew about SEO 2 or 3 years ago may be of historical value, but will not make a page rank high in 2019. Unless you manage to keep up with the evolution of search behavior from a consumer perspective and the ranking factors of search engines from a Google perspective, you are guaranteed to miss vital aspects that may prevent your or your client’s page from being in that top quarter of the first search engine results page.

Before we go into some details, here are a few did-you-knows to get you in the mood for SEO:

  • Search Engine algorithms take up to 200+ ‘signals’ into account when calculating and presenting their page rank in your search results

  • Google constantly updates their algorithm, smaller updates a couple times a day, larger ones at least every few weeks

  • The algorithm is applied to a downloaded copy of websites (Google index), which means the results you see in Google are technically not taken from the live internet

  • If your page is only partially indexed or not indexed at all, your chances of showing up are minimal

  • Why do we primarily talk about Google? Because around 80% of all search online happens through Google (3-4 billion searches a day)

  • At least 75% of all clicks take place on the first search engine results page

  • 70-80% of people ignore paid search results (ads), choosing to only click on organic listings

  • The results you see in search engines are personalized, based on your search history, device, location, online behaviour, demographical info and more, especially when you are ‘logged into’ your online account

  • Voice search is on the rise, some predict that up to 50% of search in 2020 could come from mobile and home assistant devices, smart speakers etc.

So what exactly is SEO?

SEO is the process of positively affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's ‘organic’ (unpaid) results. The goal of SEO is, of course, to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website.

Google and other search engines ‘crawl’ web pages on the internet and gather information about all the content they can find. The collected data is used to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with a search query, ideally displaying results in order of (perceived) relevance and authority.

SEO should not be seen as a once off project, but a continuous effort of improving customer experience while ‘pleasing’ search engines.

When our clients ask us for help with their SEO, we typically tackle the project from 3 angles:

1) Keyword research – what are the keywords you want to rank for vs. what you actually rank for vs. what potential customers are actually searching for. Depending on the maturity of the website, we avail of different tools and tactics to get the required data (from Google tools, such as keyword planner, analytics and search console to 3rd party paid and free resources).

The result is typically thousands of rows of keywords which we then sort by search volume, relevance and competition level. The shortlisted keywords, phrases and topics are the foundation of the next two areas.

2) Technical SEO – in this stage we analyze and make recommendations based on website structure, URL hierarchy, on-page SEO best practices (URL, page title, description, headlines, tags, media elements and so on). The better a page is built and structured, the easier it is for search engines to ‘understand’.

We work with clients on an optimal sitemap, menu structure, internal & external link structure etc. and explain while even small things (such as file names and custom error pages) can have significant SEO impact.

Every single page needs unique page titles, description and purpose. Many pages should also include a ‘next step’, a desired action, micro conversion or call-to-action which could be as simple as watching a clip, engage with site content, download a file or signing up for newsletters, webinars etc.

We strongly believe in providing useful information along the customer journey, lead nurturing and building trust before pushing for quote requests and buy-now buttons. 

3) Content Strategy – the most critical area and one that takes a lot of effort. Keyword and technical SEO are both pretty straight forward exercises which require discipline, consistency and checklists.

Your SEO content strategy however also requires creativity, originality and time. While we address the 3 areas individually, in reality they are closely connected. The keywords identified in the first stage are the basis for our content strategy.

Our page content determines the page title, description and URL from our technical SEO focus. ‘Content’ used to be primarily referring to the text on pages. Past strategies included high keyword density, even keywords stuffing and hidden keywords.

Those days are long gone, thankfully. Today, ‘content’ focuses on topics rather than individual keywords, and is made of a variety of formats, such as documents, images, audio and video files, webinars, ebooks, even social media, stories, news, case studies etc. all of which come with their own SEO best practices.

Search engines used to only be able to understand HTML text. Content and SEO value can now be found in all types of digital content. We recommend leveraging as many as you can (and as many as make sense for your business) over time.

Make your content share-worthy to gain valuable back-links to your page. Be a resource for people and the sales will follow. 

The simplest SEO advice is: provide value to people while being crawl-friendly to search engines. Tell both parties what to expect on your pages and what products or services you provide.

Don’t be obsessed with search algorithms, they change too often anyway for you to always adjust on time. But pay attention to big trends and put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Learn from your own search behavior and results, apply your findings and preferences to your site. Be mobile friendly, voice search friendly, be user friendly. Be consistent across channels and be strategic. Also be patient, depending on your starting point, it can take weeks and months for SEO to have noticeable impact.

A neat little side effect you will enjoy right away though is with highly optimized pages, your PPC advertising cost will go down. Why? Since your ad quality score can be expected to be higher when page content, title etc. are consistently more relevant to your visitors, it is also easier to write good ad copies that lead to more clicks. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you want your website to get a SEO boost, contact us. We develop tailor made strategies to increase your website traffic, nurture and capture leads and grow your sales.