An SEO Consultant’s 4-Point SEO Holiday Wish List for Santa

This year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving and the rush to the end of the year are upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for it is filled with good cheer, good eats, and no expectation that gifts will be exchanged.

In the past at Thanksgiving, I have written about gratitude. But this year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list:

  • Make all of my clients’ sites super-speedy
  • Teach all of my client teams how to write unique, valuable content — faster
  • Make all client structured data instantly accurate, complete, and error-free
  • Fix all mobile search/usability problems, immediately

Why Is This My Wish List?

Although each of these wishes are for client sites, this is, in fact, a selfish wish list. Fast sites are still the gold standard — table stakes for good SEO results. If Santa will supercharge all of my client sites, then the other SEO tactics that I recommend will have a firm and fast base to run from. It is foolish, read borderline delusional, to assume that a slow or marginally fast site is going to deliver a successful search optimization project.

Content Team Challenges Grow

Today, the message that high-quality content is an SEO must-have has finally seeped deeper into organizations, beyond just the SEO team. As the understanding the impact of content on SEO results grows, it is this SEO’s expectation that content teams will be tasked with creating more and more high-quality content. To meet the demand, content development teams will need to create more content, faster. This wish benefits the SEO consultant and the client.

Structured Data — A Key to Stronger Results

Structured data provide information that search engines can use to understand a site’s content and provide the best search results possible. Adding Schema markup to the HTML improves the way a page displays in search results pages (SERPs) by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. The rich results give searchers cues that a page may, in fact, address what they are searching. Clearer signals will result in improved results, but the structured data vocabulary is still evolving. My wish for instant, accurate, complete, and error-free structured data for client sites is a wish for an easier path.

Unaddressed Mobile Problems Are a Brake on Results

Mobile is firmly entrenched as the device of choice for a growing majority of searchers. To deny the importance of mobile is to fly in the face of reality. If a site has mobile issues that are flagged by Google’s Search Console, then it is fair to say that these will act as a brake on the search optimization program’s results. Mobile errors are — to use a sports metaphor — the equivalent of unforced errors. Quickly fixing mobile search/usability problems limits the damage; hence, my wish.

Perhaps, if you believe in Santa, you may get your wishes granted. I know Santa will bring me these four little wishes, because I’ve been very good this year. Maybe?

How Structured Data Enhances Local SEO

Want to rank higher in Google’s local map results? Want your website to rank for voice-only searches? Then you need to learn how and why to add structured data to your website.

Structured data, also commonly referred to as schema, makes it easier for search engines to present beneficial results to users about local businesses. For example, consumers issuing a voice command like, “Find a restaurant near me,” through Alexa feeds back search engine results for places closest to their current location.

That doesn’t happen by accident, just like it wasn’t an accident that this page came up when you looked up using structured data with local SEO.

What Is Structured Data?

Structured data organizes the information in your web pages into understandable and searchable sections. It is similar in concept to taking a spreadsheet filled with data and adding columns with labels and formatting that makes it easier for a user to understand.

Adding structured data to your webpage performs a similar function. Search engines can quickly locate relevant results that match up to a user’s query and feed them back in to the search engine results pages (SERPs). There are several different sets of rules supported by popular search engines, along with two standard vocabularies. Visit Schema.org and Microformats.org for more information about the syntaxes.

The vocabulary from schema.org is most commonly associated with the markup used in SEO web pages. The mark-up can be added directly to the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) used to build your page. Those more technically proficient can place relevant localized business data into page headers using a web language called JavaScript. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is another alternative language to use in loading structured data.

How Structured Data Helps Local SEO

Embedding a business’s web pages with location information allows Google and other popular search engines to quickly scan the page for items that match the user’s query. And it does make a difference. Fifty percent of people who looked up a local business on their phone visited it in person the next day. Overall, mobile users perform 60% of local searches using a mobile device.

The key is making sure all information remains consistent across all aspects of a company’s online digital media. Search engines also reward websites that use structured data with enhanced organic search result placement. These features can come in the form of:

  • Stylized search results that include images and other types of visual enhancements
  • Knowledge graphs that contain brand information about a business
  • A carousel-style collection of results made up of a company’s information
  • Accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) that make it easy for users to see relevant details on a business

Applying Structured Data With Local SEO

Schema.org contains many attributes that can be embedded in your HTML to distinguish specific bits of information. For example, adding an H1 tag to the header of a paragraph helps a search engine understand that you’re emphasizing a title or applying importance to a page section. H1s can be particularly beneficial to local SEO when you add phrases like the function of your business (bakery shop) and where it is located (Los Angeles) into the wording.

Common Local SEO Attributes

The following local business attributes from schema.org can be very beneficial in helping your business online. They represent the items most looked for by web searchers. Properly used attributes can attract more local traffic and help search engines enhance your result before presenting it to the user.

  • Email — Allows you to leave a contact email.
  • Location — Provides your company’s geographical location.
  • Telephone — Provides a telephone number to call your business.
  • paymentsAccepted — Lets a visitor know what forms of payments your business accepts.
  • address — Provides the physical address of your business.
  • areaServed — Indicates the area in which your company provides services.

These attributes also assist in voice searches, since voice-only searches are estimated to account for 30 percent of web sessions by 2020.

How much your company benefits from structured data in local SEO depends on the type of business you run. Law firms, medical practices, restaurants, and other organizations that have no problem revealing public information often see the highest returns.

Pulling Everything Together

Take the time to learn more about structured data and the role it can play in enhancing your business’s placement in localized search results. Here is a quick rundown of what you should keep in mind:

  1. Using structured data makes it easier for search engines to rank and categorize your pages, based on a user’s search criteria.
  2. Adding special tags around your business information helps enhance visualizations in SERPs.
  3. Making your information consistent across your digital platform allows users to find you through both web and voice searches.

Leveraging structured data to your advantage helps “future-proof” your content, ensuring local users can find you using any web search technology.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

6 SEO Trends for 2018

With the holiday season in the rearview, it’s time once again to predict SEO’s biggest trends through the new year. The previous year was a big one, with mobile-first results and localized optimization among the most critical shifts of 2017. What challenges will 2018 bring? More importantly, what can SEO marketers do to stay ahead of the curve?

With the holiday season in the rearview, it’s time once again to predict SEO’s biggest trends through the new year. The previous year was a big one, with mobile-first results and localized optimization among the most critical shifts of 2017. What challenges will 2018 bring? More importantly, what can SEO marketers do to stay ahead of the curve?

I’m predicting the rise of a couple new SEO trends, and I also believe a handful of factors from the previous year will become top priorities in digital marketing strategies. Read on to see the top six anticipated SEO trends for 2018..

1. Page Share Becomes Critical

Earning the top organic search results on coveted search terms used to be the golden goose of SEO. In many cases, it still is. In 2018, though, expect this to change as Google refines its featured snippets, Knowledge panels and other SERP elements displayed above the organic listings. SEO marketers should already be familiar with page share — it’s the concept of optimizing for as many SERP placements as possible, rather than winning a single top-ranked search result. The more Google supplements its above-the-fold search results, the more important page share will become.

Also, consider the impact of mobile SEO on page share optimization. Smartphones supplanted desktop and laptop PCs long ago as the preferred devices for searching the Web, and Google’s mobile SERPs leave even less room for organic listings. Knowledge graphs now appear on most of the research-oriented searches that small businesses depend on for organic traffic. It’s time to optimize for those placements to avoid being pushed into digital obscurity.

2. Long-Tail Keywords Will Dominate

Long-tail keywords are finally becoming mainstream. For years, digital marketers used long-tail keywords as less-competitive sources of both paid and organic traffic. That was before the start of 2017, when a Pew Research Center study found more than three-quarters of Americans owned smartphones, and also before most new smartphones launched with voice-activated digital assistants.

Thanks to this technology, searching the web today is as simple as asking a question. More people are transitioning to this technology, too. Google’s Behshad Behzadi reported that 55 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults use voice searching on a daily basis. This opens a wealth of possibilities for opportunistic SEO marketers who research which questions their audiences are asking. Remember this form of question-oriented targeting when planning your content going forward.

3. Need for Speed

Page speed was already important in 2017, and it’s going to be big again in 2018. Google solidified its preference for mobile websites last year with its decision to move to a “mobile first” algorithm. Going forward, page speed will be a critical factor among digital marketers vying for the best SERP placements.

Faster is always better. You can find free online speed tests to learn how quickly (or slowly) your pages are loading.

4. Structured Data

I’ve already explained how page share is becoming more important than organic results. However, organic results are still vital. They bring scores of visitors to websites, and they’re also prime pieces of page share.