Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved a great deal since it first emerged nearly three decades ago. Once a simple matter of picking target keywords and placing them somewhere on your website, it has grown to accommodate increasingly complex search engine algorithms.
As user preferences change, technology adapts to meet consumer demands. Naturally, web crawlers and search engines must stay agile and flexible to keep up--and so must marketing teams. Despite the fast pace of technology, there are ways to future-proof search rankings and optimize your digital presence. Here are a few simple ways to get started.
Think “topics” instead of just keywords
The goal of a search engine like Google, for example, is to show visitors the results that will deliver the right answer. Because of this, Google cares more about the meaning behind the search queries that visitors use--not just the text they type in. It is called semantic search engine technology.
Marketers can play to the strengths of semantic SEO by thinking not only of the logical keywords that a visitor would associate with their product or service but also of the related topics. To pinpoint those topics, you can either use a keyword or competitive analysis tool, or you can start by simply typing in your most obvious keywords.
Type one letter at a time and pause after each to notice which phrases automatically populates in the search list. Take note of which topics relate to your business and your target audience. Those are the topics to target for SEO. By broadening your keyword strategy to include relevant topics and phrases (known as latent semantic indexing, or LSI), you can cast a wider net, but with the benefit of attracting the right fish.
Optimize for local search
Whether you run an e-commerce site or offer B2B services, it is wise to market to a local audience for the simple fact that Google and other search engines use GPS technology to return search results that are in close proximity to the searcher's geographic location. It promotes growth and brand awareness within your local market.
As if that wasn’t reason enough, consider this: 18% of web visitors who use local search convert to customers compared to just 8% of those who use non-local search. To ensure that the search engines recognize your local presence, set up a Google My Business page with complete, accurate information. Next, set up a landing page with relevant information for prospective customers in your city or region. Finally, pay close attention to keywords that local visitors might use when searching for a product or service like yours.
Understand user behaviour
Consumers will only continue to visit a site as long as it is useful for them. To make sure that’s the case for years to come, you need to fully understand how and why people visit your website and how to keep them actively engaged.
The first step is in creating content that relates to your keywords and topics so that users don’t feel misled once they reach your site. After that, it’s important to note where users spend their time. Which pages have the most time spent per page? Which buttons or calls to action are visitors responding to most? For even deeper analysis, try using a “heat map” tool to track user movement across pages. By knowing what resonates with users (and how their preferences might change over time), you can future-proof your search ranking through targeted, engaging content that keeps visitors coming back for more.
Don’t forget about voice search
As consumers increasingly use voice search with applications like Siri and Google Now, it’s critical to optimize your content so that users can easily find it if they speak their search queries. The key is in using sentences that equate to how a user might pose a question to their smartphone or home assistant.
Content in the form of a question and answer is heavily favoured when it comes to search engine results pages (SERPs). Google even offers an “answer box” on results pages with Q&A-style content.
Home assistants and smart devices will only continue to gain popularity. While every page doesn’t need to be optimized for voice search, ensuring that some content is designed for spoken searches is a great way to set your website up for ongoing SEO success.
Expand your network
You already know that external links make your website more attractive to search engines. One of the most effective ways to secure those precious links is by building a network of content creators and thought leaders who are willing to share your content with their own readers.
You can grow your network by asking other bloggers or business owners in your industry to offer a review of your products or services or even to launch a joint campaign with you if they have a complementary product or service that would benefit both of your audiences.
Industry experts are also willing to share links to interviews or thought leadership content that you contract with them. Because of their (usually) large following and high credibility, it can be a quick way to see the benefits of external link sharing
Lastly, look for collaborations with other brands that are already well-established and have a large audience. Ask if you can run a joint contest, competition, or marketing campaign to promote both brands (and ride the coattails of their success a bit through the links they share with their audience).
The first rule in building your network is to reciprocate. Be sure to pay it forward to other brands as you become more successful and grow your community of thought leaders and content creators.
Remember that search ranking begins and ends with great content. By thoughtfully connecting your copy with your keywords and phrases, you’ll set your site up for SEO success--now and in the future.