It’s my first blog for February and I thought this year I would try to ensure that I give you useful tips and information about the latest trends in content strategy and digital marketing at the beginning of each month.
This month, I thought I would discuss the topic of SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimisation‘. It is a mine field, but before you get worried or too bogged down in technical detail about meta data and backlinks, word vectors and algorithms (!?!?!), please remember one thing…
Quality content is more important than anything else!
I mean it! From everything I have read, of all the tricks and tips I have seen, well written content will always be the best way to optimise your website. One of the main reasons for Google’s continuing development of how it evaluates websites in order to compile a results page is so that the ‘web bots’ crawling sites can become more sophisticated to analyse whether a website is ‘good’. The technology is trying to become as good as a human at assessing whether a site is easy to read, easy to navigate and easy to trust. So, focus on making your website just that – create well written content that is clear, make the structure and layout of your site logical and only include things that are truthful, meaningful and useful – and do all of this with your target audience in mind!
Even now, most search engines rely on ‘popularity’ as the best way to rank their results. Again, this means that a website which is well written, informative, clear and easy to navigate is a website that will be used, used often, for longer and by a wide and relevant audience, as well as referred to and linked back to – which increases its popularity ranking.
However, having said all this, there is nothing wrong with knowing more about SEO specifically, understanding how the algorithms are ever-changing and how rankings are ‘decided’ upon on the dreaded results pages.
There are lots of really technical developments going all the time, but I have tried to pick out content related trends and focus on giving you tips that hopefully everyone can implement. Here goes…
Your mobile site is important
This is probably the most technical I am going to get…and to be honest I can’t tell you the ‘how’…but I am going to tell you about the ‘what’…
in 2019, Google will be focussing more on the mobile-version of your website for indexing and ranking, over the desktop version. Therefore, you to make sure the mobile-version of your site is still user friendly, meaning that text reflows, pictures resize and it loads quickly over not only a WiFi connection but also when using data.
As I say, I can’t tell you exactly how to do that, and unluckily a lot of platforms and web designs have mobile and table conversion built in, but what I can tell you is to:
- check your website on a range of devices and screen sizes
- think about the length of chunks of text
- be aware of the size of pictures
- use headings to help when ‘scrolling’
For both desktop sites and mobile sites, speed of loading is still really important when it comes to result rankings – so do everything you can to help that, especially in terms of pictures, video and graphic sizes.
Don’t just focus on Google Searches for Keywords
SEO is not just about your website. It is about optimising your content for any form of search.
It is easy to get obsessed with the best keyword for helping your ranking on Google, when writing descriptions, however the top tip for 2019 is to think more broadly. If you are a product-based business, you need to think about how you will appear in searches on sites such as Amazon (if you sell through them). Or if you have an app how searches work on Apple’s App Store, for example. All of the social media platforms have search options too. People search in different ways on different sites depending on what they are looking for. Another good example is ‘AirBnB’ or ‘TripAdvisor’, if you have listing on there, how are you going to appear higher up in the result rankings?
We also need to be considering ‘voice activated’ searches, via smart speakers and mobile phones.
You need to optimise for those sites and platforms where your audience are and think about what they may search (and in what way) and how your content can best help you appear in relation to the relevant words used (both written and spoken!).
Good user experience
Getting back to safer ground (for me anyway), in 2019, good user experience is ever more vital. The speed your pages load on your website, is a good example of giving your user a positive experience. No one likes sitting there watching a ‘circle going round and round’ or an egg time flipping or whatever icon is used! We all want to see instantly the page we arrive on.
Equally your content needs to offer easy navigation and importantly the ‘bots’ are starting to be able to evaluate how ‘relevant’ your content is for your target audience. The use of really specific key words, practically second guessing the user’s intent when visiting a site is being seen as very important. Therefore, understanding your primary customer and writing for your target audience and not ‘generally’ is really key.
Going for position zero
This is likely to become the ‘Holy Grail’ for 2019. Instead of aiming for position 1, companies now hope to be in ‘Position Zero’. This is the name for the result which appears at the top of a Google Search which appears as a ‘featured snippet’ of a website. The idea is that it answers the question contained in the search, without the user even having to access the website. See the picture below for the result of ‘How to build an igloo’:
Before we even get to the list of websites, Google has chosen a website with a snippet of its content to answer my question. Furthermore, it offers similar questions and if you click on the down arrow gives further ‘snippets’ of information.
How can you appear here? Well, by writing content for specific questions, offer steps or bullet points as well as clear headings. Then go in to further depth and include facts and figures, if possible. As always, Google is looking for trustworthy and popular content so you will need to ensure traffic by sharing over social media as well as answering questions that your ‘visitors’ are likely to want read about. It is not easy but it is certainly worth thinking about when creating content, especially blog posts.
As I said near the start, any search engine technology is only trying to develop to give the user good quality results – human like evaluation of content so that the rankings are ‘accurate’ and ‘best matched’ to the user’s original search. Even in 2019, some of the original SEO tips therefore still stand – Google is looking for evidence of a site which is trusted and has a good reputation and this is measured through two key things – 1. backlinks and 2. time spent on site.
- Backlinks remains a strong indicator of trust. If people are linking to your website from their own or from social media platforms then this shows they trust your content (as they are essentially guiding their own users away from their own sites to yours). At the very least, make sure you link to your website from your own social media platforms regularly!
- If your site is useful, informative and trusted, users will spend longer on it. They will be willing to look at more pages, read multiple blog posts and, importantly, revisit the site often. Again, this proves the site has a good reputation. If a site is constantly visited and then left within second, then this suggests a poor reputation (also called bounce rate).
Therefore, my last recommendation for 2019 SEO is to think about how you can grow awareness and get mentions in order to grow the number of backlinks you get. And, in order to ‘earn’ this, how you can illustrate your trustworthiness, show off your expertise, and highlight your authority, to make people want to visit your site and remain there.
Meticulously created content
A quote I read on Search Engine Journal (https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-trends/281053/ ) said: “The sites that provided exceptional depth in quality content coverage literally soared in rankings throughout the year. Sites that were weaker in their content depth suffered in comparison.”
To finish, therefore I must reiterate what I said at the start: well written content, carefully crafted for your target audience, using terms, questions and keywords they would use is still one of the best forms of Search Engine Optimisation.
Some of the articles I have read on 2019 SEO trends: