There’s no doubt SEO is very much the grey area of digital marketing. There are plenty of SEO suppliers in the market and plenty of SEO self-help courses, but few detail exactly what you should be looking at to achieve SEO success in 2017.
To help build your capability, we’ve detailed the four key pillars of quality SEO. You’ll find that most of them are marketing 101 – Google’s crawl bots are smart enough that you can’t bamboozle them with backlinks or spammy HTML structures, so let’s delve into what will set you ahead of the pack.
Build and run a great website for SEO success.
Backlink building at all costs was once the key to the SEO kingdom, and sites that focussed on volume of backlinks, regardless of quality of those backlinks, often shot straight to the top of search results in very short time periods.
As search has become increasingly sophisticated, platforms focus more on the quality of experience that the user has when they find your site and start interacting with it. The better the user experience with the content they find, the more likely the user is to return to the search engine and use it again.
In light of this, the first step down the SEO path should be to build a fantastic website. Start by considering what your typical user does when they land on your website, and the types of information they are engaging with. Take a 14 day sample of your web activity using heat map tracking to identify areas where they are interacting – this will arm you with knowledge around what you need more of, and what you need less of.
Marry this data with broader search volume and trends for various keywords to paint an overall picture of what success looks like. After all if you gear your entire site to precise interest targets that are actually only reflective of 5% of your total target market, you’re leaving an awful lot of potential revenue on the table.
Once you’ve got this data go about designing your website to reflect it. You might really want a 2,000 word feature page on the history of your local business, but if no-one reads it, what good will it do for you and your sales pipeline?
By the end of the design and development process you should have a site that features plenty of the things people want and need, and little to nothing of the things they don’t.
This achieves the first step in SEO success – delivering a web experience that is incredible for the user, and gives them a huge amount of value without them having to do anything other than look at and engage with your site.
Rapid content iteration on-site for SEO success.
A proverbial country worth of blogs and how-to have covered off long form content production, link building and how they can assist in driving your SEO strategy, but there’s substantially less information available around localised content strategies on your actual live website.
Before working on content iteration on site, start by building out your level of general content on your site, and identifying gaps in your current content and the desired list of keywords you’re aiming to rank for.
Once this is cleaned up and looking good, you can start to look at producing A, B and C versions of content for each page. These can them become different iterations of the same page, relying on slightly varied versions of each keyword (long-tail keywords, misspellings etc).
Rotate these on your live site every 90 days, and look for new ways to add the best performing content into your existing sitemap, and you’ll start to drive some incremental gains over and above a more standardised content marketing approach.
Value delivery long before the first sale for SEO success.
The average user sees over 5,000 messages per day.
That’s a lot of content.
As content has risen and risen we’ve seen the user’s attention span diminish, and their desire for unique messages that deliver huge amounts of value to them from day one increase. This is the key premise of content marketing – delivering ‘something for nothing’ to the user – content that adds value to their lives and is relevant to them but doesn’t call them to action on any direct response sales style message.
The challenge most businesses have is finding content to write about – generally the exact comment is how can we find that much interesting content to write about, and how can we possibly produce pieces that are that long and in-depth?
The reality is when you start to look at what users want (use keyword planner in the Google Adwords console to get basic search volume trends) there are an awful lot of subjects out there.
And when you really start to dissect your business there are also far more engaging topics to write about than you may have first considered.
Lets use TALK as a case study here.
Our core business is the building and managing of apps and websites, and digital marketing using SEO, SEM, marketing automation and social media.
But when you break this down further, there are some core periphery areas that we may not do direct business in, but that we have certainly developed significant expertise in.
- We are involved in tech start-ups and have worked with Founders in capital raising and digital product design
- We know how to start a business from scratch
- We have been involved in M&A activity
- We have been involved in sales planning
These periphery areas to your core business, where you may have just as much IP as your core business itself, are often a gold mine of content opportunity. If you’re operating in a fairly traditional category you’ll find some of these periphery areas are also less competitive in the digital space than your core business, so your content will find an audience faster, and you’ll likely realise an ROI at a fairly rapid rate.
Mobile first, not just mobile responsive for SEO success.
There are 2.9 million white collar workers plugging away at desktop and laptop computers every day in Australia.
But while we’re covering off what we did on the weekend and brewing that Monday morning coffee, the other 21.5 million Aussies are browsing just about everything on their mobiles.
Take those numbers global if you’re selling SAAS, cross-border or consulting, and you’ll quickly see the opportunity that lies here, and is still not fully adopted by Webmasters around the world.
As of 2017, 60% of all device use is exclusively mobile.
What does this mean for marketing, and in particular SEO?
Mobile now needs to be at the absolute centre of your SEO strategy. Your website should be designed mobile first, rather than mobile responsive, particularly if you’re in a B2C category such as FMCG, automotive or similar.
If you’re happy with your current site or aren’t looking to rebuild at the moment, you should focus on optimising it to within an inch of its life for mobile. Load speeds, image composition, clickable phone numbers (you don’t want to miss out on leads to your competitors, do you?) page structure and scrolling process / UX should all be front and centre of mind.
The best way to proof what you’re doing from a mobile point of view is to open up your website on Google Chrome, head to developer tools and mobile view.
You’ll get an immediate picture of how your site looks and what needs work from both front and back end points of view.
Google have been actively penalising sites that are not mobile first since an algorithm update in 2015, and this is reported to be increasing throughout 2017 due to continued adoption of mobile first and mobile only users around the world, so be sure to review your mobile site strategy as an SEO priority.