The Smart Way to SEO Success

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Google’s algorithm updates may be incremental, but the effect on SEO over time has been anything but. And while the relentless pace of those updates — and the churn of the competitive landscape in your industry — may make SEO feel like a game of whack-a-mole, attention to the fundamentals can make all the difference to your SEO success.

Focus on SEO Fundamentals to Start

No surprise, the first things you should examine are the fundamentals. Your page titles and headers should be keyword rich, as should your copy. (Particularly the copy nearest the top of each page.) Meta descriptions should be informative and enticing, as they’re a key factor in encouraging clicks from the search results pages.

Alt tags — and accessibility more broadly — should also be a part of your pre-publication checklist for all content. There has been increased scrutiny on accessibility compliance over the past few years. This may require a shift in your approach to coding, design, and content. It’s not directly related to SEO success, but quite a bit of accessibility compliance best practices overlap with SEO best practices.

Technical performance counts, too. Search engines use page load speeds and other measures as factors in their rankings, knowing that how quickly a page loads contributes significantly to overall user experience.

Finally, be sure you understand your analytics data. Ask the questions that get you information you can turn into actionable insights. Get your analytics team to set up reports to include those data points on your dashboard.

Do Your Research

There’s keyword research, of course, which will tell you what language your prospects are using to find the information they want. Don’t forget that the same research can also paint a useful picture of what your prospects’ pain points are.

You should also be doing competitive research. Identify which of your competitors are having SEO success and understand what keywords and kinds of content they are producing to help them win.

Chart Your Own Path with Great Content

Once you’ve identified your most successful competition and their methods, it may make sense to zig where they’ve zagged. Carving out your own niche is often preferable to trying to unseat the incumbents. Just be sure the niche you create still serves the needs of your audience.

Then, it’s all about the quality of the content. It must be useful, actionable, and engaging. No one expects your B2B content to be as entertaining as the latest Netflix sensation, but it’s wise to remember that no matter how boring your industry, your prospects still go home at night to Netflix, Hulu, and other highly entertaining diversions.

The bar is lower for us as marketers, but only if our content helps our prospects succeed.

3 Tips to Refine Your Current SEO Strategy

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

It’s a good time of the year for digital marketers to take a closer look at the success of their SEO efforts. What SEO strategy seems to have worked best? How successful have you been in attracting your core audience? Now is not the time to coast on what you are doing, even if you’ve hit or exceeded your goals this year.

Use the last few months of the year to refine your SEO strategy and pinpoint opportunities for driving more high-converting visitors to your website. A quick audit like the one below can highlight places where these SEO tactics could yield better results.

1. Polish Your Technical SEO Components

You would be surprised at how many seemingly polished websites neglect basic SEO techniques, like optimal keyword placement and appropriate headers. Keyword research is one thing that remains vital in a sea of SEO changes over the years. Of course, don’t mistake an emphasis on keywords as an invitation to start using outdated keyword-stuffing tactics.

Unnaturally stuffing keywords into your pages is unnecessary and reads awkwardly to your target audience. Sprinkle your focus keywords throughout your content organically, in a way that makes sense. You can also target multiple, related keywords by optimizing their placement in the headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) of your content.

Meta descriptions are another SEO component many marketers neglect. Optimizing meta descriptions is a quick, easy way to help drive more clicks to your website; which, in turn, can improve your search engine rankings. Don’t just let Google decide what to use as your description in its search results. Draft compelling meta descriptions that will help your business stand out to prospective customers.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to SEO is the intent. How well are you matching the page titles and descriptions to what your prospective customers are searching for?

2. Upgrade Your Content

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating, content is king. Google’s goal is to provide the absolute best search results possible for its users, and that means you must have the best content if you want to compete in SEO.

What can visitors find on your site that they cannot get anywhere else? Home contractors can create video guides for common do-it-yourself scenarios that often stump potential clients, while making it clear when they should call in a professional. Creative types can take their visitors through their process of coming up with their final product, whether it is a song or a new cake design.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look at what is already ranking at the top of Google for your target keywords. How can you do it better? What new angle can you cover that can fulfill the needs of your visitors? The voice of experience should be evident throughout, showing customers why you should be their top choice over other competitors.

3. Improve Tracking Across Your Pages

Tracking is a marketer’s best tool when it comes to finding SEO improvements. It can tell you exactly where the issues are and what changes can have the most significant impact, when properly implemented. If you haven’t done so already, then I suggest installing Google Analytics across your entire website and linking it up to your account with Google Search Console. Those two tools will give you invaluable insights into your SEO efforts.

You’ll be able to track keyword rankings, search engine click-through rates, and SEO landing page conversions.

For locally-focused businesses, I recommend BrightLocal for tracking your Google My Business rankings, over time. This will help you spot trends and continue to make improvements with your local SEO efforts.

It’s Time to Work on Your SEO Strategy

We’re in the fourth quarter, so it’s time to set up your SEO for success in the next year. Review the basics and make sure you’ve optimized your website correctly for your target keywords. Then review your content, compared to what’s already ranking in Google. How can you compete and create superior content for your target audience? Lastly, don’t forget about tracking. It’s never too late to get proper tracking installed so that you have the tools readily available to improve your SEO.

Want more tips to help you with SEO? Click here to grab a copy of my “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

Why Google’s SEO Strategy May Drive You Back to Digital Display

Bit by bit, Google has been changing the terms of its SEO strategy deal with healthcare marketers. Google’s strategy is shifting away from matchmaker to one of being a destination in and of itself, with fewer hand-offs necessary to your non-e-commerce site.

Bit by bit, Google has been changing the terms of its SEO strategy deal with healthcare marketers.

Health systems produced content and then made it “findable” by following established search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, in exchange for greater visibility when Google’s users plugged in related search terms. With more than 60% market share, Google’s importance as a matchmaker between content and curiosity could not be overstated.

But Google’s strategy is shifting away from matchmaker to one of being a destination in and of itself, with fewer hand-offs necessary to your non-e-commerce site. As your organic traffic plateaus, marketers will be forced to re-balance their digital tactics, just to hold onto the same user volume.

Google’s changing approach is based on old trends, as well as new ones. Marketers have long known that the longer a user spends on a site, the more opportunity there is to capture value from the visit. Google now leverages that logic for its benefit. The more information previewed in the top-level results, the more likely it is that the user’s question will be satisfied without the need to click through your site. The results from voice-based searches are even more succinct and less subject to commercialization (at this point).

What Healthcare Marketers Can Do

Are you unsure if this trend applies to your hospital?

Do a condition-based search, relevant to your facility, on a desktop. The results page probably starts with knowledge panels and instant answers, a map with showing facilities like yours, followed by paid ads, and then organic results — where SEO lives.

This hierarchy is more pronounced on mobile. Google depends on your site to serve up information that it compiles and displays in an at-a-glance format, regardless of device. A substantial number of searches relevant to your core content can be addressed, without ever registering on your analytics as a site visit. The irony is you can be getting better at SEO; especially with speakable schema, but not see the growth in traffic you’ve come to expect.

So, do you abandon SEO efforts? No. Digital queries in all forms will continue to increase, and competitors will not sit still. Quality content will retain its value, but likely needs additional behind-the-scenes mark-ups to be optimized.

Beyond that, you may need to revise your assumptions about traffic volume that will be produced by organic results and offset that volume loss with traffic generated from targeted outbound display ads. Of course, this has implications for your budget and audience mix.

The good news is that digital display on reputable outlets can give you the targeting and frequency levels necessary to generate awareness. And, creativity will once again become the focus of display ad development to pique the viewer’s interests and earn the click.

Like so many things, what was old is new again.

5 Ways Your SEO Strategy MUST Evolve in 2017

What do Siri, food pictures and fake news have in common? All three of these things are heavily influencing SEO strategy as we near the midway point of 2017. Many of the nuts and bolts of SEO haven’t changed; links, keyword optimization and the other usual suspects still matter. Look at the big picture, though, and you’ll see how smartphone usage, artificial intelligence and societal trends are touching every aspect of search engine marketing.

SEO Strategy for 2017.What do Siri, food pictures and fake news have in common?

All three of these things are heavily influencing SEO strategy as we near the midway point of 2017. Many of the nuts and bolts of SEO haven’t changed; links, keyword optimization and the other usual suspects still matter. Look at the big picture, though, and you’ll see how smartphone usage, artificial intelligence and societal trends are touching every aspect of search engine marketing.

In this post, we’ll review the top 5 SEO game changers that we’ve already seen in 2017. This isn’t a list of tips to improve your website’s SEO — rather, these are ongoing, seismic shifts that can guide your marketing strategy going forward.

Google’s Mobile-First Index

More people search the Internet from mobile devices than on desktop PCs, but that isn’t new. Mobile searches eclipsed desktop searches two years ago, and the gap continues to widen.

What’s different though is that Google is going to prioritize mobile SEO over desktop SEO. Earlier this year, Google announced its mobile-first index, which crawls the mobile versions of websites rather than their desktop counterparts. Google only crawls desktop websites when mobile-friendly versions can’t be found — and given the direction of today’s SEO, those websites aren’t likely to fare well on search engine results pages.

What does this mean for business owners and online marketers?

The good news is that if your website is built with a responsive design, then the roll-out of the mobile-first index shouldn’t affect you. And if your site was built recently using WordPress, Joomla or another CMS, chances are good that it’s already responsive. If your website isn’t responsive, then you need to focus your optimization efforts on your mobile site. That might mean simplifying your menus, lengthening content or revising what shows “above the fold” on smartphone browsers. Basically, you must make your site as appealing and intuitive as possible for visitors using mobile devices. Your desktop site takes a back seat.

That said, don’t neglect your desktop site! Although mobile SEO will earn you better search rankings, desktop visits are still significantly more likely to result in conversions, according to 2016 data from the Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly.

Rise of the Machines

At face value, machine learning has caused minimal movement in Google’s search engine rankings. That said, the overall impact of machine learning couldn’t be more profound.

Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence that allows computer programs to evolve based on the automated analysis of data. Google’s algorithm is still very much driven by humans, and Google officials have said this will remain the case indefinitely. However, the search engine giant uses machine learning to craft and test adjustments to its search algorithms. Google is literally taking its cues from more than 3.5 billion searches each day.

Stop Kanye’ing Your Audience

Since the early 2000s, we have known people don’t like pop-ups … yet they’re still being used. “I know you’re trying to leave my site, but HEY! Look at this!” “Don’t go! Here’s more stuff you don’t want!” Or the pop-ups appear before you even see the content you thought you wanted to see.

Since the early 2000s, we have known people don’t like pop-ups … yet they’re still being used.

“I know you’re trying to leave my site, but HEY! Look at this!”

“Don’t go! Here’s more stuff you don’t want!”

Or the pop-ups appear before you even see the content you thought you wanted to see.

Stop Kanye'ing Your Audience
Slide image courtesy of Wil Reynolds and C3 (it’s so perfect).

Say what?

The request to “stop Kanye’ing your audience” was one of the many things Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive asked of his audience during the keynote, “The Ranking Farce — and What You Should Do About It” on Day 1 of C3, hosted by Conductor on Oct. 28-29.

What does he mean? Well, remember what happened during the 2009 MTV Music Awards? Taylor Swift won for the Best Female Video, and during her acceptance speech, Kanye came up on the stage and said:

“Yo Taylor, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time … one of the best videos of all time!”

He took the mic out of her hand, made his statement, then MTV cut to commercial. Ms. Swift did not get to finish (though when Beyonce won for Video of the Year, she did invite Taylor up to finish her acceptance).

Marketers are doing this, and not just with pop-ups. Many are more concerned with telling the customers what they need and how they should buy it, instead of listening and just letting them finish.

Wil explained that customers are interested in experiences that “Make me a better me.” “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves …”

Making Customers Better SelvesBut marketers Kanye their customers there, too. The focus stops short on the product, or the No. 1 ranking on a search engine results page (SERP). But as the slide above shows, your business isn’t selling your product, it’s selling the experience your product gives the customer to be better.

A great example Wil gave was how Serious Eats’ guide to grilling steaks improved his steak grilling game, made him smarter about steak cuts, techniques, etc., and helped him impress friends and family. So, when the site showed products from affiliates — like a grill or charcoal chimney — he wasn’t put off by it because Serious Eats had already earned his trust.

“Content levels me up,” he explained

So ask yourself: Is your content leveling people up? Or are you Kanye’ing them with pop-ups they don’t want, sales pushes they don’t need and no content that helps them be the best version of themselves.

Because if you are, another marketer is going to be the Beyonce to your Taylor Swift customer.

Do yourself a favor: The awesome folks at Conductor have made the C3 keynote videos available, so check out Wil’s right here:

And I dare you to not get a little marketing crush on him and his mad presentation skills.