Search engine optimization (SEO) marketing has changed the inbound marketing game, giving the modern marketer the opportunity to increase organic traffic and convert higher quality leads.
Granted, it’s not the fastest of inbound marketing strategies to drive conversions as Maile Ohye of Google stated in her video here, but nevertheless, it’s a novelty marketing tactic befitting our fast-paced client websites.
And, thanks to HubSpot's annual State of Inbound 2017 report, we’re able to get a glimpse of what the future of marketing and sales strategies will look like for 2017 — at least according to their 6,000+ respondents.
One of the key findings you'll glean from this report is that SEO is still a top priority for marketers and there’s still a LOT of work to be done when creating an effective marketing search strategy.
Ahead, check out the 6 SEO strategies I’m betting will take over your inbound to-do list for 2017. (I suggest bookmarking this blog post.)
1. Optimize for the Mobile-first Index
This whole idea of a mobile-first index may seem daunting, but if your site is already responsive, you can scroll down to the next section. If it's not, read on...
When Gary Illyes announced at Pubcon last year that Google is going to a mobile-first index, I was shocked. And, I’m pretty sure I saw jaws drop in that conference room.
I have a love-hate relationship with the mobile-first index.
On the one hand, it forces websites to become mobile-friendly. On the other, attempting to convert your SEO strategy to mobile can sometimes feel like trying to crack a nuclear code.
While Google did not give a date for the launch of the mobile-first indexing, there are a few strategies SEO marketers should be prepared to implement.
Let’s take a look...
- Add structured data to mobile websites.
Many developers often skip this step because it can reduce page speed, but Google uses this information to detect what the page content is all about.
- Revisit the user experience (UX) and conversion funnel on your mobile website.
Mobile users behave differently than desktop users. Mobile is not meant to replace desktop. For instance, Google announced that content in accordions or tabs would have full weight once the mobile-first index rolls out.
- Begin developing a new link building strategy if you have a separate m. mobile website.
It still isn’t clear what will happen to your desktop links, but it’s best to play it safe.
- If you’re receiving a large volume of mobile traffic, create AMP versions of your web pages.
I should point out this is only useful to blogs, news, and recipe sites.
2. Mobile-first Index Will Increase Local Search
If the announcement of a mobile-first index can tell us anything, it’s that in 2017 local search is going to become more important. Google has upped the ante with updates to Possum, the acquisition of Urban Engines, personal assistants, chatbots and other changes to local search in the recent months.
Also, as mobile users use voice search more, we’re going to see long-tail keyword terms take the lead.
For example, “inbound marketing companies” will now be searched “inbound marketing companies near me” or “inbound marketing companies in Los Angeles.”
If you’re pairing your organic SEO strategies with PPC (which I recommend below), you can monitor how your traffic from mid-tail and long-tail keyword terms perform on mobile devices.
Learning from this paid search data can lead to some serious wins in your SEO strategy.
3. Voice Search and AI Will Change Keyword Research
Don’t lie. You’ve spent a moment or two asking Siri to tell you a story or what her favorite animal is. Nothing has as much excitement in the search marketing world as voice search and AI, which is transforming traditional SEO tasks into major real-life experiences.
Once John Giannandrea stepped into the Senior Vice President of Search position at Google, it was an obvious sign of the direction that Google executives want to take the search engine powerhouse. Giannandrea’s past projects at Google include the Knowledge Graph and RankBrain. And, let’s not skip the patents his Natural Language Understanding Team published like Google’s understanding of metaphors.
There’s also other key indicators that Google is pushing more into the AI space with the announcement of Voice Search coming soon to Google Search Console. When it comes to voice search and AI for 2017, SEO marketers are going to want to rethink their keyword research strategy.
Here are a few tips for keyword research in 2017:
- Go beyond exact-match phrasing. Google understands related concepts like plurals, abbreviations, acronyms, synonyms.
- Begin grouping content topics together. I like to choose three rich keyword phrases to build content. These rich keyword phrases are typically long-tail keyword terms that represent a variation of the short keyword terms.
- Build a strong brand SEO strategy. This may sound obvious, but Larry Kim shared an article on Search Engine Journal about how branding is driving conversions.
- Add structured data to your mobile website.
4. Build a Better User Experience
A good user experience can be the saving grace of a low performing website and poor search engine rankings.
A quick update to the content hierarchy categories and you have a website that's much more likely to keep visitors clicking. But, creating content hierarchies can be difficult — who hasn’t come across a site with multiple drop-downs to thousands of pages of content? Suddenly, your perfectly designed website is looking more like a Yellow Pages phone book than curated piece of art.
When a new client comes to us at Firesnap, here are some questions we often ask ourselves about their user experience:
- Is the main content broken down into broad categories?
- Are their content hierarchies?
- Are there too many content hierarchies?
- Is the cross-linking between content hierarchies?
- Is your website navigation above the fold?
- Do you have huge drop down menus?
Many times drop down menus with tons of links can be difficult for search engines to crawl. There are too many content hierarchies involved.
If website navigation had characteristics, I think it might resemble something similar to this...
Hamburger menu knows she likes to be aligned left and muted in the upper left corner. People say she’s too cool for school. Then, there’s drop down menu. When you ask her if she’s Taylor Swift or Rihanna, she laughs because she’s clearly Beyonce.
Below are some of the user experience trends marketers will see in 2017. You might want to start adding them to your to-do list ASAP.
- Optimize for all channels from mobile to desktop. Luckily, since Firesnap is a HubSpot Partner, all of our websites are responsive, so we typically don’t have to worry about this one.
- Create an easy, clean navigation with siloed internal linking structure.
- Create blog posts that can be linked internally to main content siloed pages. For example, I've linked this article to our SEO services page earlier in this article.
- Make content scannable with shorter sentences. Again, this is an impact of the mobile-first index.
5. Brands Will Invest More in Content
Too long, too short, too salesy, too off topic — the quest for the perfect amount of high-quality, relevant content can seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s listed in the number two spot on HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing 2017 Report for top priorities marketers are focusing on this year.
And, the latest Google algorithm pushing this trend to the forefront? Meet Fred. He's the newest algorithm that is targeting low-quality, ad-heavy websites with thin content.
So, what’s so awesome about the idea of more content?
In an unscientific breakdown, let me put it to you like this: It’s not too long, but it answers all search queries and remains on topic. Or, for those of you who have a doctorate in content curation, it’s the happy place between search engines and consumer behavior.
First things first, let’s start with fixing pages with "thin" content.
This marketing strategy never really left — it’s been a buzzword for many years now. Of course, there’s more to it than just writing a more content on a web page and calling it a day.
I’ve rounded up some of the key elements I look for when optimizing pages with thin content:
- Pages with 600 words or less.
- Pages with a high bounce rate of 60% or more.
- Pages with a low time on page of 1 minute or less.
It’s important to note that if pages meet all these criteria, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. I mean, if you have a page indexing with four words listed, then we’ve got bigger things to discuss.
However, if your page does meet all the criteria above and it’s not focusing on the page topic, it does need to be rewritten to offer a higher quality, more relevant page of content for the search engines and the user.
Also, another tactic I use is updating old blog posts that are the lowest performing blog posts with the highest potential keyword return.
To do this, I cross-check the articles in Google Analytics and the keyword terms they are ranking for (if any). Then, I utilize Google’s Keyword Planner (or SEMrush) to determine the value of those keyword terms. I choose the top 5 blogs to rewrite blog and update the anchor text, switch up the title tag, and change the time of date posted.
6. Integrate Paid Search and SEO
Why go for just SEO or PPC when you can have both?
Together, they can improve any website from Jedi Knight to Yoda status. Plus, Google and Bing have made significant changes to their ad formats by introducing IF functions, expanded text ads, and extensions.
To encourage our favorite combo, I like to show our current PPC clients the data we can use to personalize content and keyword research for our organic search strategy. And, I’m able to align our online advertising campaigns with our other inbound marketing efforts to gain further awareness.
While it might seem weird to compete for organic keyword terms and PPC terms, it boosts the potential for a website to be seen in the search engines, making your site even more clickable.
PPC and SEO: it’s always better when we’re together (cue Jack Johnson song.)
Make the Most of Your SEO Strategy
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a problem hoarding all of our monthly inbound marketing efforts at Firesnap to be centered around SEO. Of course, I think it’s entirely justified after reading HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing 2017 report.
This report reminded me that it’s close to impossible to control all the changes to the SEO landscape. But, you can control how you react, what strategies you implement, and help guide the searcher’s intent.
At the end of the day, the search strategy starts with us marketers. It’s our job to do our best to keep website's ranking in the SERPs and opportunities flowing in.
Do You Know The ROI Of Your SEO Campaigns?