Top Tips for SEO in 2017

SEO is of course still the most cost-effective channel for delivering direct B2C sales, but it also has strategic impact beyond this. Here Kevin Lee reminds us that there are 5 ways SEO is strategic in 2017:

  1. Branding Impact
    SEO and public relations aren’t the same thing, but they share the same goal: to increase the general visibility and favorable public impression (which is why so many SEO agencies have added “PR” to their service offerings, while PR agencies have added “SEO” to theirs). Increasing awareness is a high-level strategic marketing goal. Today, online reputation management always includes a tangible SEO component. As such it represents a key component of any influence-building campaign.
  2. Market Share Defence
    Organic listings in the SERPs don’t only increase your traffic and revenue, they take revenue from the competition. In B2B, where customer lifetime value is high, investing in high-quality content optimised for search should be a strategic goal. Any time an acquisition opportunity in search (paid or organic) is missed, chances are that opportunity is going to the competition. SEO, in other words, is a strategic asset — with offensive and defensive value — in the battle for market share.
  3. Lowering Digital Media Costs
    In many verticals paid search costs can reach £10 a click. (In the legal field, paid clicks can exceed £100.) Favourable organic positions materially reduce these costs, freeing up ad spend which can be deployed against segments that would otherwise be unaffordable. That’s an important, material and strategic impact of SEO that’s often missed.
  4. New Product/Service Development
    Search (both paid and organic) is a real-time, massively scaled focus group in which one can (with enough data) perform an accurate predictive analysis of what customers are looking for — and, in some cases, invent products for which there’s search demand (but no product yet). There’s huge potential upside in this kind of “virtual focus group” research, which in some cases has the potential to be more valuable to the organisation than old-style qualitative consumer research studies.
  5. More efficient (non-search) media campaigns
    Searchers often are compelled to begin query sessions because of exposure to some other marketing touch point (for example, a mention in a news story, in a TV drama, a remark of a friend or other offline event). Search traffic can therefore be used as a barometer of other media’s effectiveness. Search behavior can also reveal patterns in one’s targeted audience that provide unique, unexpected and strategic marketing insights.

The basic tenets of SEO remain the same as they have always done – on-site & off-site optimisation are still both key in equal measure for success in Google – only now the challenge for the SEO practitioner is to be both technically adept and creatively mindful.

Understanding how advances in web technology impact on marketing success requires a good understanding of internet architecture and web development principles which are often lacking in the average marketeer; At the opposite end of the spectrum understanding the how’s and why’s of reputation management as a result of the wide sharing of a prescribed piece of content is invaluable in the fragmented web.

Here are some key areas of change right now:

Structured Data & Schema Mark Up
Google allows additional data from your web pages into it’s results in a way that can give you a competitive edge. Known as Rich Snippets or Microdata various assets can be marked up in the source code of your web page and allow them to be used by Google right in the search results. This can give you a visible lead against the competition.

AI & Machine Learning
Machine learning is where a computer teaches itself how to do something, rather than being taught by humans or following detailed programming. Google Translate has been using AI for translation for some time but its’ success has lead to the growth of a new internal team called Google Brain who are now also working on integrating AI into Google search. Understanding the semantic relationship between data is a key growth area.

Speech Recognition (Apple’s Siri, Facebook’s M, Amazon’s Echo) & The Internet of Things
Part of this integration of course involves spoken search requests, and not only requests made via the Google search box but also via other connected devices. Voice search is obviously a very different method of searching (queries are often much longer and interrelated) and hugely growing area which presents its’ own intricacies that are being integrated into overall search.

Rank Brain
RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results. RankBrain represents a more advanced way of measuring relevance, built on teaching machines to discover the relationships between words.

Speed
Speed is a drug at Google, and as well as other technologies to speed things up there’s javascript & Google’s own JavaScript MVW framework, AngularJS, has seen pretty strong adoption as of late. When I attended Google’s I/O conference a few months ago, the recent advancements of Progressive Web Apps and Firebase were being harped upon due to the speed and flexibility they bring to the web. You can only expect that developers will make a stronger push.

HTTP/2 is on the way
One of Google’s largest points of emphasis is page speed. An understanding of how networking impacts page speed is definitely a must-have to be an effective SEO.

Before HTTP/2 was announced, the HyperText Transfer Protocol specification had not been updated in a very long time. In fact, we’ve been using HTTP/1.1 since 1999. HTTP/2 is a large departure from HTTP/1.1, and I encourage you to read up on it, as it will make a dramatic contribution to the speed of the web.

Mobile & AMP
The default index of results we get in Google is now ‘mobile-first’ which means that we no longer see the order of listings based on what is formatted for desktop browsers. This is a reflection of the fact that we have passed the tipping point and more searches get conducted on mobile than desktop today. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a convenient shortcut for publishers who appreciate that users want content served quickly. Knowing how to deliver this gives you an edge in Google’s algorithm.

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