Around this time last year, we wrote about 10 SEO tips to pay attention to in 2015. It’s that time of the year again. Which means, it's time to reevaluate the world of SEO. We're going to take a look at all of the changes Google made in 2015 and focus on some SEO tips for 2016.
If you are new to SEO, we’re going to dive into a basics SEO tutorial before we get to the good stuff. If you are more advanced, there is some good stuff in here too. So without further ado, let's dive into how SEO will work in 2016.
What is SEO? Let's answer that first.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Nowadays, I hear it used as a noun, adverb, adjective; you name it. It's become quite the term in the digital marketing world.
Quick definition: SEO is the process used to enhance the visibility and amplification of any given website through search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing.
Why is SEO so important? Is it still a viable strategy?
Think about the last 4 or 5 things you’ve done on the internet. Whether it was looking up weather, scores, directions or just general information… did you use a search engine? More than likely the answer is yes.
Also, you’ve probably heard the phrase “searcher’s intent”. If not, it’s another unique thing to search engine optimization. Searcher’s intent is the meaning behind the search. It’s the question to the answer. There aren’t many marketing channels that can provide the type of value and insight as SEO can.
Still, there are a ton of companies that still don't invest in a search strategy because of the lack of comfort level of education and understanding.
How does SEO change? Why does it happen so often?
The SEO landscape moves… quite a bit. Google, for instance, is constantly tweaking their algorithms and updating the way they index/rank websites. Sometimes, those changes can positively or negatively impact how a site ranks and receives search traffic.
There are core tactics and strategies used by marketers to enhance a website in search results. A lot of the strategies have stayed the same, but many change as Google evolves (...oh, by the way did you know that Google uses artificial intelligence to rank websites?
Let’s map out an SEO strategy for 2016.
When thinking about a search strategy, it’s important to understand a few key components. More than likely, you’ve already considered SEO as a possible solution and are already spending some money on other marketing initiatives. High five if you are and if you’re not, that’s cool too. Think of this as a "Do it Yourself SEO Guide".
SEO isn’t only powerful by itself but is a fantastic compliment paired up with other channels such as email marketing, social media marketing or content marketing. For now, let’s focus on search.
Understanding keywords and links are still important.
Every search campaign should start with good ole’ keyword research. There are plenty of tools out there that can help with this (like this one and this one). There are a ton of caveats too; so don’t get hyper obsessed with the ‘volume’ category. Analyze the types of searches people make.
However, it’s definitely going to be awesome if you can rank higher for a keyword with a higher volume than one with 10-15 searches a month. You'll see a higher % of visitors when you are ranking nicely for high volume keywords. Higher volume usually means more impressions which can translate into higher chances to increase your CTR (click through rate) in the search result pages.
More people looking for something generally means more chances they will find you.
Now, let's head on into links. Links are still a very important piece of any website’s strategy. They are still the highest on the 2015 Ranking Factors Study, hosted by Moz.
Not only from a ranking signal (by the way, links to your website from good websites can help rank your own site) but from a general traffic stance. It’s always nice welcoming new folks to your site. Those folks could turn into leads, then customers and possibly then refer their friends.
You never know and that is what is so fascinating about SEO. The perfect combination of targeted keywords and good links can lead to higher rankings.
Define a roadmap for each SEO campaign, it’ll be helpful in the long run. Okay, let’s dive into the nitty gritty, the good stuff.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when planning a search strategy.
Who is your audience?
Who is your audience and/or potential customer? Who are your customers? What do they do online? Where do they browse the web? How to do the browse the web? All of these questions are crucial in figuring out a holistic search campaign.
Do you have a good keyword strategy?
You absolutely need one! You can learn a lot about your audience by the types of queries they use. Good research can yield not only ways to rank content, but also offer a window into your customer's world. Not only exact match keywords either. Phrase match and related keywords are also very important.
What is your content strategy?
This is where you map out how you intend to use your audience and keyword research. So, let’s assume you’ve got info on who your audience is and you understand the types of searches they are making online. Now it’s time to plan out how to provide the information they are looking for. It's also important that your content strategy doesn't overlap another page on your site.
Always think, one page = one goal.
Have you optimized your on-page content?
This is where you put the pedal to the metal. I’ll break down the most important ways to capitalize on good on-page SEO:
- Are you using your main keyword in your page title?
- Does your headline also include your keyword?
- Is your meta description compelling; does it make users want to click?
- Have you used as much structured markup as possible?
- Does your page provide value? Is it unique? Better than what’s out there?
- Does your site provide a great UX (user experience)? Easy to read? Loads fast?
- Is your page mobile friendly? Will it be awesome on all devices including phones?
Understand the technical SEO elements?
This is the technical stuff, the stuff that can get you into a mess (or pull you out of one). It’s super important to understand what’s under the hood.
- Does your site architecture make sense; is it easy to decipher?
- Google crawls through links, so is your website linked amongst itself?
- Do you have duplicate content? Have you canonicalized the correct version?
- Do you have a proper robots.txt file? Are you blocking Googlebot?
- Have you uploaded an .XML file w/ your sitemap into the Search Console?
- Have you eliminated any broken pages (404, page not founds).
- Are you redirecting pages when needed?
Are links still important?
Quite a few SEO strategists argue over this topic but it’s clear… links still add a ton of value to a website. As stated above, not just for traffic - but for rankings, too. You don't want links from bad sites, that's dangerous. You want links from good, relevant websites and you want people to amplify your content.
Search engine optimization is a science, no doubt. It’s a powerful force that, in my opinion, is literally the best way to invest your marketing dollars for your business.
You can probably ask 10 different people who practice SEO and each one tell you the top 2-3 things to “do” on your website. Surprisingly, this is very normal. However, it's not a good practice to continue old tactics when they've been proven to fail, especially if Google sends out warnings.
Granted, some people are probably stronger in some areas over others but the fact remains the same. Play by the rules and you won't get harmed. The sites that get penalized are usually sites that don't abide the Google webmaster guidelines.
Some myths, misconceptions and strategies to retire in 2016.
Should I buy EMDs?
EMDs are exact match domains. They used to be (and sometimes can still be) powerful but Google prefers brands. Think about it, domains are generally the name of your brand and people are used to that. SEO is all about brand authority and not sending spammy signals. From my experience, users much rather trust a brand over a tactic.
Should I build links everywhere?
I mentioned this above but building links from every which way is not worth it. It’s all about quality over quantity. Having a bunch of bad links can actually do harm to your site. Instead, focus on link earning through quality content that people enjoy.
Does keyword stuffing all over the page work?
Keyword stuffing your web content is a bad idea. If it doesn’t read naturally, it won’t rank naturally. There is a common misconception behind “copywriting vs. SEO copywriting” that we as web specialists need to retire. All copywriting has potential to attract organic traffic. It's the optimized content that attracts the most.
When writing content on the web, it's important to attract visitors with good keyword targeting but also writing content that is compelling enough for them to stick around (or possibly share or link to). If you are writing content without a strategy behind it, you may be missing the mark completely.
Over-optimizing SEO can be dangerous and defeat the overall purpose of your site.
If you have Google Search Console installed, you can get a glimpse into the types of queries a user types in that visits your website. You'll start to see patterns and sometimes even keywords that Google thinks is relevant using topic modeling and semantic connectivity.
Let's not forget, exact match keywords are still important but phrase match is just as important when writing content on the web! Google is really smart and is getting smarter. Sure, use your keywords on the page but use them strategically, always think about user intent!
Can I add all my keywords to my page title?
It's okay and absolutely important to add your main keyword to your title tag once and early on. What you don't want to do is have 3-4 different keywords in there that send mixed signals to Google.
Example: "Keyword 1 - Relevant Phrase Enticing You to Click"
Can I add all my keywords to my meta description?
The meta description is a seriously important piece of the search engine results page (SERP). The only advantage you have of adding your keywords are the bold enhancements you get in the SERP.
Instead, use the meta description strategically. Sure, use your keyword once - maybe use a related keyword too, but understand that this is your chance to convince a searcher to click on your blue link! Don't scare them away with stuffing. Think ad copy instead!
Should I stuff my alt text and headings with keywords?
When you are using alt text on images (you totally should, by the way): describe the image. That is what is most important. It's not important to stuff your keywords in there. If the image is related to your KW, sure go right ahead - but don't if it's not related.
A solid search strategy goes beyond driving traffic to your website.
In the general sense, SEO is lead generation. It’s getting people to notice your website and making the click... but what’s next? They don’t just magically buy something or contact you right? Right (even though that'd be nice).
That’s where usability plays a major (and growing) role in search engine optimization.
Understanding usability can be a tricky but crucial part of any SEO campaign. It all starts with user intent. It's understanding the idea behind the search and crafting a web experience the compliments the user behavior while understanding pogo-sticking (which is bad) and how clicks can influence rankings.
You can do this by creating an easy to use website, making an obvious to use navigation, writing understandable copy and providing an authoritative voice backed up by quality content that people want to share.
It's also more important than ever that you have a mobile-friendly version of your website. If you don't, you could be seeing penalties already. Here is a quick tool to check your own site.
Takeaways you can apply today.
Hopefully you are feeling a little more comfortable than you did before we started -- but let's recap!
- Evaluate your website. Is it okay? Could it be better? How does it compare to your competition?
- Conduct keyword research about your current website and then do keyword research around your niche.
- Do a content audit. Ask yourself, does your website provide value? Is it unique? Would you use it?
- Have you analyzed your backlinks? Have you reached out to amplifiers? Do you know where your audience browses the web?
- Do you have the tools in place to measure your success? Understanding specific performance indicators can help plan your strategy.
Search engine optimization is a very, very powerful tactic for creating visibility for your brand and/or website. Understanding how it works and what is involves is vital for success.
Our team of on-page experts, usability analysts, designers and content strategists can craft a SEO strategy for your business.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to drop us a line in the comment section or contact us for a free digital marketing assessment.