Key SEO success factors include optimizing for the search experience, creating content for people (not search engines), and preparing for voice search.
Many factors impact your SEO success, including:
Technical: This includes anything that affects the performance of, visibility of, or how search engines access your site. This includes indexing and crawling, schema, page speed, site structure, URL structure, and much more.
On-page: This is your content – both what is visible to users on your webpages (text, images, video, or audio), as well as elements that are only visible to search engines (HTML tags, structured data).
Off-page: This is anything that’s not on your site. Ultimately, off-page factors are about growing and demonstrating your website’s authority, relevance, and trust and building an audience. Think link building, social media marketing, PPC marketing, reviews, and user-generated content.
Search experience optimization: What opportunities you have to be more present to your customers/audience.
Content strategies for actual people: The importance of content and what it means to be relevant.
The impact of voice search on SEO: We’ll look into the not-too-distant future and show you why the time is now to optimize for voice search.
1. Search Experience Optimization
When you hear the acronym
SEO, it usually means Search Engine Optimization. And, as you’d expect,
SEO in this context means optimizing your website for search engines
(or, far less likely, optimizing a search engine).
But Search Experience Optimization is a newer way to think about the
term SEO. Some have even called search experience optimization the “new
Search experience optimization is optimizing for people in
all the places your brand and content could possibly appear. It goes
beyond the nuts and bolts of optimizing for search engines – although
those nuts and bolts are still incredibly important!
Search strategies require us to create brand experiences, using the search results to build relevance.
Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search
engine, according to a 2006 Forrester study. That means a search engine
is the biggest billboard there is for brands.
Search engines also travel with us wherever we go. Google refers to these search experiences as moments, with four of the biggest being:
Contemporary SEO strategies require us to be creative to get visibility.
Ranking Above the Fold: Desktop vs. Mobile
Check out these results. What do you see?
On mobile, there are no organic results above the fold.
On desktop, the only organic result you see is a featured snippet.
On Google, aside from paid search ads (which can supplement organic
visibility in search results), you also have to contend with prominent search features, which vary depending on the query.
On mobile, there are no organic results above the fold.
On desktop, the only organic resYou have to optimize in every way you possibly can to improve visibility of your brand. Sometimes ranking “number one” in organic search won’t even matter because the page you’re trying to rank won’t even show “first.”
News & Social Content
Google News and social content are areas where your content can gain great visibility. But news and social are wholly dependent on the freshness of query (how current/hot the topic is).
Google’s knowledge panels, which are powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, display the basics about a business. This includes things like:
Hours of operation.
This is a huge way to build trust in your brand. Searchers have been conditioned to look for certain parts of search results, such as knowledge panels, to get the trusted information they want or need.
Getting these panels is important if you’re a brand (or any other type of entity). If you aren’t in the Knowledge Graph, you might be in a little trouble.
People Also Ask
People also ask is another search feature in which content is directly pulled in line with results. These are real terms people are searching for and content from websites is pulled in to populate these results.
You can use this search feature directionally to identify content optimization opportunities or additional new pieces of content you could create to help target the audience you want to reach.
Apply SEO to Different Platforms
In addition to optimizing for different parts of search results, you can apply SEO methodologies to any platform someone can search on.These optimization opportunities, each of which is essentially a discipline unto itself, include:
App store optimization.
YouTube channel and video optimization.
Google My Business optimization.
Social media optimization.
Third-party sites and vertical search engines (e.g., Amazon and Yelp).
All of these searchable platforms are completely adaptable to the principles of SEO and provide opportunities for you to gain additional brand visibility.
Plus, when you optimize for other search experiences, content about your brand may be pulled into traditional search engine results (Google, Bing, etc.) as well.
Be visible as much as you can. Use every part of the results to create search experiences.
Optimize beyond the search engine. This will ultimately lead to additional real estate occupation in the search engine results themselves.
SEO assumes a much larger context when the goal is search experience optimization, not just search engine optimization.
2. Optimize Content for People
It’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s all about optimizing for people – your customers, readers, or subscribers.
So always optimize for people, not search engines.
Create content for customers, not for the sole purpose of ranking higher.
When you put people at center of your content strategies, chances are you’ll be way more successful in search engines.
Content, Keywords & Search Algorithms
Google has made several algorithm updates and changes over the years.
Two key algorithm changes are extremely important in terms of how we think about content and keywords:
This update gave Google the ability to understand full queries, not just individual keywords as part of a search. It also introduced the concept of semantics, or different keywords surrounding a main topic.
Optimizing your pages for a single keyword from top to bottom is no longer a viable SEO tactic, nor does it look natural to people.
This update gave Google the ability to understand queries it had never processed before and create associations necessary to be able to decipher the full meaning of query to deliver results through machine
learning. It is one of the top three ranking factors, along with content and links.
Even if you were to write content well enough to rank for this keyword, how much of that traffic will be relevant? How many conversions will you be able to generate? Probably not a lot.
The term “email marketing” is very generic. This is why Google shows ambiguous results.
There’s a clear difference in a term like “email marketing” and “enterprise cross-channel marketing platforms”.
What’s the difference?
Why Content Matters
There’s no denying the importance of content.
Without content there is no visibility.
To underscore how important content is (and how important the selection of keywords can be
to the effectiveness of content), consider this:
60 percent of queries are four words or more. The average word count for a first-page result on Google is almost 1,900 words. This begs the question: how do we know what people want? How do we know what people are going to search for?
Give People Content They Want
Some of the best audience tools are contained right in the Google search results:
People also ask.
Those are all queries/questions that people ask when they search. This data presents real opportunities for additional content.
Addressing pains points and directly answering questions will help you deliver the right content in a time of need to searchers. That’s fundamentally what a search is – a need. It will also help you understand your customers better.
Social platforms also provide ample opportunities to learn about people and listen to needs.
Many people use social media to complain. A lot. Use it to your advantage.
Use your own or competitive comment sections. Pick up on common topics/themes.
Monitor conversations on every social network you’re active (and anywhere your brand is discussed).
What are people complaining about? Maybe it’s:
Customer service issues.
Being unable to find out when your business is open.
Your product(s) or service(s).
You can turn any of these into content.
Analyzing the sites in search results for competitive topics reveal a lot about what is working, and what
isn’t, about your business. Do a content audit and find content gaps, or areas you want to emulate.
No matter what you choose, the end goal is always same: gain more context. Expand on topics your audience needs you to show up for. This type of research can be uncomfortable. You may have to face some hard
truths when you take any of these routes. But it’s worth it as you’ll understand the needs of people you want to reach.
Make It Mobile-First!
Great content means optimal accessibility, regardless of device. Truly mobile-first experiences that load as fast as possible.
One way to do this is using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), especially if you rely heavily on mobile organic traffic. Having content that loads lightning fast is just plain good user experience
(and good business).
Slow loading pages can potentially impact your SEO performance – and your bottom line. Always be testing and optimizing!
If you’re unsure about your mobile experience, test all your pages. Use any tool you can to optimize the user experience.
There are many great tools, including Pagespeed Insights. Use them to identify problem areas, such as how quickly your pages load and render.
Fun fact: In 2012, Google figured out that they would lose 8 million searches per day by slowing down results by just four-tenths of a second.
While that may not seem like a lot, considering Google delivers results for more than 3 billion queries per day, that’s 8 million searches Google can’t serve ads on. That means less revenue for Google. And
advertising is primarily how Google makes its money.
Be Prepared for the Mobile-First Index
Google has been telling everyone to go mobile-first for years but now it’s happening with the mobile-first index.
What this means is Google will crawl mobile sites at a higher frequency than desktop versions of sites. It also means that mobile is more critical to SEO than ever before. Watch developments in this area closely.
Make SEO Part of Your DNA
Optimize your content from the start. It will save you a lot of headaches in the end.
SEO is a process, not a goal. SEO is never done. You’re never done optimizing.
Every page can be optimized because there’s no such thing as a perfect website. You need to become “least imperfect.”In other words, you don’t need the best website in the world. You just need a website that’s better than your competition.
Being consistent with the SEO basics is the perfect way to do that:
Optimize your titles and meta descriptions.
Use readable user and search friendly URLs.
Optimize video content (if you have it).
Optimize header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).
Link to deeper content within your site.
Create and optimize topically-relevant content.
All of these items might seem like no-brainers to seasoned SEO professions. But you’d probably be surprised to see how often sites don’t have the most basic things (e.g., title tags on their most important pages).
Your navigation and internal linking structure is the thematic backbone of your site.
Use it to signal to search engines the topics of your site – what you want to be known for.
3. Voice Search Optimization
Voice search is closer than you think.
Pay attention to changes in search behavior and shifts in search results. Gather insight now to prepare for the future. A whole new generation of people is coming. Their primary relationship with a search engine is to speak to it – not to type or tap. This is a huge change.
With a proliferation of voice-assisted devices that are easy to use (even for older generations), we’re fast approaching a voice-first shift in search behavior.
Optimizing for Voice Search
Voice search has one result. Position zero is the only result spoken back to you.
To have success, it’s important to know the content and context of search:
Identify common questions and queries your audience has.
Create content to directly address those questions and queries.
Turn Content Into Actions & Skills
Google takes a few types of published content and makes it voice searchable for:
The Future of Voice Search
There’s a lot we still don’t know about voice search.
Voice search data isn’t available: Google doesn’t show voice search data in the same way it does for desktop and mobile search in the Search Console.
How search behavior is changing:
When mobile was becoming a thing, we had data to show “near me” type searches, reflective of those on the go, were exploding. We don’t yet know the voice search equivalent to “near me” searches.
What do we know?
We know voice search consists of 10 percent of all searches, and that number is increasing. Just like mobile 6-7 years ago, voice search is coming.
So here lies the SEO opportunity.
How will we define the methodology of voice search experience to continue to be present with relevant content when people need it?
Prepare for a voice-first world.
Optimizing for position zero is optimizing for voice search.
Make content searchable on voice-enabled devices.
As you approach SEO, especially in terms of content, make sure your strategy takes these three areas into account:
Creating search experiences is the new SEO.
Optimize for every opportunity you can. Take ownership of the search results, including outside of traditional organic search. Be present. Be relevant. Build trust in the people who are searching for your brand, wherever that is.
Create content for people, not search engines.
This is how you deliver great digital experiences and understand your customers better. Focus on the topics people want rather than worrying about keywords as much. Use your content assets to listen to your
audience and create content that directly addresses their questions and pain points. Build a foundation you need for good SEO going forward.
Voice search is coming. Don’t wait. Aim for position zero in search results and make content voice searchable.
This post was mostly based on a session at Adobe Summit (The Future of SEO: Is Your Content Strategy Ready?) presented by Matt Young, business consultant, Adobe Customer Solutions.
images/screenshots created by Matt Young/Adobe, used with permission.