Search engine optimization is the forefront of online marketing strategy everywhere. Over 80% of consumers use search engines as a research tool before making a purchase. This means whether you’re generating leads online or in-store, your customers want to have a relationship with your brand through a website or through social media.
Your brand’s online presence is one of your most important assets. Like any other marketing campaign, you need to maintain, adjust, and track your SEO progress, which is time sensitive. SEO strategy is ever-changing, so you need to keep a watchful eye on the trends. With every new year comes a new set of rules and best practices for search engine marketing.
The goal of any SEO campaign is to attract customers who search for your products, services, or brand online. When a customer searches for keywords (search terms that describe the content on a web page or website) related to your brand, you want your website to be at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). Which websites “rank” or appear at the top of the SERPs is determined by the search engine itself, such as Google or Bing. The search engines use different algorithms to determine this based on what content is the highest quality and most related to the user’s keywords.
Though the search engine algorithms are not public knowledge, marketers study trends and watch for indicators of higher or lower ranking in the system. Most SEO tactics focus on improving the quality and customer experience of the site, choosing keywords that target customers are likely to use, and creating content around those words. There is no one right way to do this. It requires trial and error and testing on the marketer’s part. However, over the years we’ve discovered the basic factors that contribute the most to SEO success.
These factors matter to every website, no matter the size of your brand or target market. For your site to succeed, these are the areas that you need to improve now:
It’s important to know where your customers are spending the most time, and how to reach them with your marketing content. On average, consumers spend 69% of their personal media time on their smartphone, rather than a desktop, and this trend will continue to rise. Customers want to engage with social media and look up local businesses on-the-go. Your first online interaction with a customer is very likely to be on their smartphone, so it’s important to make that first impression a good one.
Unfortunately, brands spend the majority of their time working on the technical and content marketing components of their SEO campaign, and ignore mobile optimization. Many websites do not function fully in their mobile versions, making it difficult for customers to get the information they need to make a purchase or contact the business. Making your website mobile-friendly only takes a few simple steps, and it will improve your conversion rates and lead generation results tremendously.
Accommodating to changes in Google algorithms
Over 80% of online searches begin on Google.com. The most effective way to strategize your SEO campaign is to follow Google’s best practices, as most other search engines will follow suit. Google regularly updates its algorithms to better the user experience. They can determine a website’s context, its theme, and its desktop and mobile usability through the use of site “crawlers,” or bots that sweep your sitemap looking for keywords and other useful information.
Google often changes their ranking criteria, and you need to know about these changes to improve your strategy. Do proper research, as many SEO tactics used even just last year may be ineffectual. You don’t want to be penalized or lose ranking for poor, outdated SEO practices.
Search engines now rank sites based on their variety, rather than similarity of keywords. Instead of using the same few keywords for each page, they encourage sites to use a choice of many different keywords that surround a topic or theme. This is to improve the user experience, so that sites are built for the benefit of the customer rather than optimized for the search engine alone.
This is to discourage the practice of “keyword stuffing” where sites overuse the same keywords on every page in an attempt to increase their ranking. This used to be an effective practice, when search engine crawlers gathered very basic information, without any context. Now, search engines can interpret the context of a site as well as how reader-friendly it is. This advancement is called the “semantic search” capability, and your site can be penalized for keyword stuffing or using other practices meant to benefit the search engine rather than the user.
These SEO elements are vital to the success of your marketing campaign and your business’ online reputation. While most of these can be improved upon by your team, it never hurts to talk to an SEO professional about ways in which you can bring your site to the top of the SERPs.