Although there are many, many different aspects to a successful Internet marketing campaign – encompassing everything from web design and development to email, social media, and pay-per- click advertising – search engine optimization (SEO) is still the top path to new sales for most businesses. Get a healthy share of Google’s 2 billion daily searchers coming to your website, and you’re almost bound to see your bottom line improve.
That isn’t new information, which is why most business owners have at least a passing knowledge of the way Google works, and the methods they can use to improve their search rankings. As we move into 2017, however, it’s becoming clear that patterns and algorithms are changing. Ideas that used to be considered best practices in the world of SEO are now counterproductive.
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers are holding on to outdated advice, and are losing ground to their competitors on Google as a result. To help you avoid the same kinds of mistakes, here are a few things we hope you’ll remember this year…
A greater reliance on semantic search formulas is changing the way Google evaluates websites. Specifically, it means things like context (from page to page) are being used to determine what your content is actually about.
That somewhat diminishes the value of exact keyword matches when it comes to gaining search visibility. Those important terms and phrases still matter, of course, they just don’t carry quite the weight they used to. A site with lots of relevant pages built around a defined topic can now outrank another that’s created specifically to draw in search traffic for an exact query.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t give up on keywords, but they shouldn’t be the only component of your on-page search engine optimization campaigns, either.
Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm changes – along with the subsequent updates to each – altered the value of inbound links and search formulations. Like keywords, links still matter quite a bit when it comes to determining search visibility. It’s just that different types of links now have different scores attached to them.
The most obvious shift, and one that marketers noticed almost immediately, was that low-quality links (those coming from link farms, for instance) now have no SEO value at all. They used to be negative search signals until unethical marketers started using them as weapons against one another. In any case, it no longer pays to buy links pointing to your website.
Conversely, high-quality links that originate from media portals, review sites, and other high-PageRank sources now have more value than they ever did in the past. Get a few of those, and you could see your site move to the top of Google’s rankings.
And finally, while the links you get from industry directories might not have a lot of value in terms of improving your rankings, they do serve as corroborating information for Google’s local search pack. So, take the time to keep those updated because they’ll make it easier for customers to find you in the real world.
Most business owners still talk about search engine rankings as if they were static and unchanging. They want “a top three listing,” and for good reason, but don’t realize that how you measure matters a great deal. That’s because search results are becoming more and more customized. That’s particularly true when you factor in the variables of geography, device type, and search history.
Geography is easy to understand. Most marketers know Google is doing its best to match searchers with vendors and results in the same city or neighborhood. Device type refers to mobile compatibility, with the caveat that you absolutely will not show up in a mobile users search results if you don’t have a responsive website. And finally, search history helps Google to understand the intent behind query. If your website doesn’t have the information it thinks a searcher is looking for, then keyword matches are going to be secondary.
Putting these pieces together, you should recognize that there isn’t necessarily a great thing as a “top search position” anymore. Instead, what you should strive for is high visibility within your most important target markets, since they are going to change from one user to the next.
Aside from audits of search positioning, the metric most business owners used to determine the effectiveness of their SEO campaigns is on-site visits. More traffic is better than less, since it means more buying opportunities.
That’s certainly true, and probably always will be. However, there are other numerical indicators to look for. One has to do with levels of engagement. It’s a good sign if potential customers are spending time on your website, clicking from one piece of content to the next and interacting with your pages. That tells you your content is relevant, and sends a signal to Google that your website is a good search result.
Don’t forget, either, that visits only matter if they lead to successful conversions. Really, that’s the one number you can look at to see whether your search engine optimization campaigns have value or not. Traffic is meaningless without results. They are related but not the same thing, so keep an eye on both.
As more and more business owners become familiar with the trends that are affecting Google – in their own search engine positioning – you can expect we’ll hear a lot of grumbling about the way SEO works in 2017 and beyond. It’s always hard to change, especially when money is on the line.
Where there is change, however, there is also opportunity. So, for the companies that can adjust, the new age of search engine optimization is a chance to stand out and get ahead. Stop following outdated SEO advice today and you’ll have taken the first step towards getting ahead of the competition. Then, they’ll be left to wonder how you found all the answers they’ve been searching for!
MicroD is your partner for web design, Internet marketing, and expert search engine optimization services. Call our office today to set up a free consultation and see how we can help your company grow.
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