With nearly 63,000 queries processed per second, Google is the undisputed search champion and what they say goes in terms of website ranking. Couple that with about 49,000 gigs of traffic flying around the Internet in that same second, and your search engine optimization (SEO) better be on-point if manufacturers want to remain relevant.
The 2016 SEO best practices you may be leaning on to guide your content marketing efforts are, well, so last year — and that’s a common complaint about SEO. It’s constant evolution (not to mention the shifting Google algorithms) gives many the impression that optimizing content to keep pace is an effort in futility. That’s simply not true. In its Introductory Guide to Search Engine Optimization for 2017, HubSpot frames the issue in sobering terms:
Every second that your website is not indexed on Google, you miss out on hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities in which someone might have accessed your website, viewed your content, and bought your product or services.
Giving up won’t get you above the fold in search results, and it surely won’t increase your bottom line or keep you ahead of the competition. Instead, embrace change and leverage these content and user experience insights to polish up your SEO strategy for the balance of 2017:
Google RankBrain is bringing machine learning and artificial intelligence to the fore in ranking and results, necessitating more sophisticated content. Along with sophisticated content comes advanced content strategy tools like pillar pages, topic clusters and subtopics that help you focus efforts on creating core content that addresses your customers’ challenges and goals and improve your SEO for modern search engines.
But, strategies are moot without meaningful execution that includes key elements that resonate within search engine crawls:
Original topics and tone
Google no longer tolerates spammy, buzzword-loaded SEO techniques. Keyword stuffing is not only an outmoded practice, it violates many search engine guidelines and may result in fines. Refine your choice of topics, align them with well-researched keyword sets and engage internal brand advocates to generate quality, original content (like whitepapers and blogs). Further, it gives you the opportunity to cultivate a unique and authentic conversational tone that leverages the natural way people phrase searches using mobile or voice technologies.
General information doesn’t satisfy users. They want easily found content that directly answers their particular queries. Enter the featured snippet, a summary response to a question that appears at the top of search results. Google doesn’t “make up” these answers. It pulls related material from external sources, ratcheting up the SERP ranking of sites containing search-specific content. Therefore, drilling down into the intent behind users’ questions and developing content that responds accordingly gives you another SEO strategy that improves visibility and builds your brand expertise.
Infographics and other images are perennially popular with a wide range of audiences, provided they’re sized appropriately to load without delay — to do otherwise is to risk increased bounce rates. Beyond user appeal, you can leverage Google algorithms that “read” visuals to optimize all page content to enhance your online presence. It’s a matter of assigning images short, relevant filenames and alt text (a typed description of the visual content that appears if the image doesn’t load). Search engines include this information in their crawls, potentially improving your page search results.
User Experience (UX)
Customer-focused website design and functionality is hardly a new concept, but bear in mind that certain aspects of UX may actually influence rankings:
With 60% of searches originating on mobile devices and Google adopting a mobile-first index, optimizing websites for mobile has moved from ancillary to mainstream in SEO strategies. While much B2B traffic still originates from desktops (like the 79% that view the Weidert Group website from their desktops, for example), migration to mobile is inevitable. Therefore, manufacturers will want to heed these 8 ways to optimize your site for mobile so as not to limit site access or compromise the UX on any screen.
Site speed and security
Elements that enhance the UX but don’t appear as content are weighted by Google in rankings. Site speed — how quickly your site loads — is a critical metric for controlling bounce rates. It is dictated by caching, meaning technology that increases website speed without sacrificing any of the UX. Basic browser caching remains effective, but Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a speedy alternative where copies of content are cached on Google servers for quick information access without sending users directly to a web page. Site security is another rank-booster. Incorporating SSL on all site pages not only gives users peace of mind, search engines reward the efforts.
Interactivity is key for SEO results. Users simply want more than well-crafted words on the page. Content diversity — video, sound, animation — is an excellent way to keep users engaged (and on your site longer), and often leads to higher organic visibility. Like static images, optimizing videos, podcasts, etc., involve using keyword-relevant filenames and alt text, but you can up the SEO impact by being mindful of embedded video captioning, formatting, hosting and even including a written transcript to incorporate more keyword mentions.
Revved up to lean into 2018? For now, anticipated SEO trends don’t appear much different than those for 2017, but stay tuned. Change is always on the way.