The ABC’s of SEO & organic search for 2015
Lots of chatter out there in recent years about SEO being dead and that SEO is on the outs. Well that topic is debatable but one thing is for sure, SEO is definitely undergoing a metamorphosis. The tactics and strategies that marketers were using a few short years ago are no longer proving to be effective. Add in some major changes to Google’s algorithms and you can see how “search engine optimization” is really maturing and morphing into a more performance driven marketing channel. Organic Search is evolving beyond traditional SEO and is moving into a more semantic, conversational type of engagement. And it really, at the end of the day, is about engagement.
We thought that it would be fun to look at the ABC’s of SEO specific to key topics that are relevant for organic search in 2015. An A to Z of how to establish, maintain and enjoy organic search success in 2015 and beyond.
That is being an authority in your industry. Preparing useful content that makes you stand out against your competition. Building authority for your brand in the online space can mean additional visibility in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and additional qualified traffic to your properties.
In today’s digital age, preparing timely and relevant content is a must. What easier or better way to create fresh content than with a blog. Whether it is a full fledge blog or micro blogging through avenues such as twitter, blogging is a great way to engage with your audience and promote your brand.
By now content marketing should be a key piece of your online marketing strategy. The benefits to content marketing are many including the ability to increase engagement with your audience, the ability to drive more traffic to your website, the potential to generate more leads, the potential to build authority through social sharing and link popularity as well as the potential to build brand awareness. If you do not have a dedicated content marketing strategy in 2015, you are behind the curve.
Traditionally, search engine rankings favor websites with longer registrations; having said that, it takes time to build your domain authority. Adding fresh content, acquiring social shares and quality links are all items that can help you build your domain authority in the eyes of the search engines.
Isn’t all marketing really about engagement? Organic Search is no different; it really is about being engaged with your audience and creating excitement about your brand and service offering.
There has been a shift into the type of information that Google displays on their SERPs. Google is really attempting to provide answers to users questions and related search queries. With components such as the Knowledge Graph and Quick Answers, Google is trying to provide users with answers to their questions without having to leave the SERP. If someone searches for the “Eiffel Tower”, Google is anticipating what the follow up queries may be, such as “how high is the Eiffel Tower” or “when was the Eiffel Tower constructed”. If you haven’t made the connection yet, FAQ content has become increasingly important. If you have unique and detailed FAQ and “Fact” pages there is a good chance you might just gain some visibility in Google’s search results.
The number one player in Search with an estimated 65% market share in North America. Google is still the Holy Grail for Search marketers. When Google speaks, many listen (and follow). We now live in a world when one of the World’s greatest brands has redefined marketing and as a result defined how marketers attempt to engage with their audiences. With hundreds of updates happening with their search algorithms each year, ultimately Google will dictate who is found for what and when in their search results.
At the foundation of how websites are coding is good old fashioned HTML. In 2015, understanding how to best mark up your web pages is key to the success of your website in search. If the engines cannot crawl your content and efficiently navigate your coding, you will not have much success in the SERPs. As w3.org puts it, “HTML is the Web’s core language for creating documents and applications for everyone to use.”
Here at Mediative we have always tried to focus our organic search marketing efforts around intent. Search intent of the users and have tried to help our clients match this intent with their web properties from content to social and local search engagement. Google is heavily focused on matching user intent with the results that they serve up.
JS is a scripting language that allows website administrators to apply various effects or changes to the content of their website. While the engines are getting more efficient at understanding JS, you want to ensure that your JS is minified and optimized so that it does not have a negative impact on your site’s performance.
Key performance indicators
The ability to measure the success of your SEO campaigns is critical for communicating the impact of Organic Search as a marketing channel. A properly defined organic search strategy can be one of your most cost effective marketing channels.
2015 is the year where mobile search activity surpasses desktop search activity. If you’ve not carved out your mobile strategy in 2015 you are already behind. With Google set to expand mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on April 21, 2015, the time is now to be optimizing for mobile. According to reports from eMarketer, globally speaking, mobile traffic is about 30% of all internet activity. I don’t see that number going down anytime soon. Do you? As a result, you should be taking measures to ensure that your site moves to being a responsive site, which means ensuring that the same HTML is being sent to all devices using CSS to alter the rendering of the page on the device.
Name Address Phone number (NAP)
Three core elements of your local search optimization come simply in the form of name, address and phone number. If you are optimizing for local search you want to ensure that your local content features accurate and up-to-date NAP that can be used as part of your listings management efforts.
Still important for communicating semantically relevant topics to the engines and your audience is on-page optimization. While the days of placing keyword “A” here and here on a page are long gone, ensuring that your on-page elements convey semantic ally relevant themes is still beneficial for Organic Search. On-page elements include your meta data, heading tags and page copy. But it also includes page coding as well. Still talking about meta data in 2015? Yup, but the importance of meta data has changed. It’s not just about titles and meta descriptions anymore. There are a number of uses of “meta data” that can be useful when promoting your website. After all, meta data is really “data about data” so things like schema markup, if you will, are a form of meta data. Marking your pages up with schema can be very useful when communicating the subject matter of your content to the search engines.
Performance based strategy
SEO in 2015 needs to focus on performance. That’s not just page performance and load times (although that is part of it), it is about driving qualified traffic to your web properties so that they become engaged with your brand. It is enticing them to take an action whether it is to sign up for a newsletter, make a purchase, download an App or coach them into taking an offline action (phone call or reservation booking). Your organic efforts should contribute to improving engagement with your audience.
SEO in 2015 is no longer just about only attempting to understand user search queries but also how they are conducting the queries. Think voice activated searches or mobile app usage. Think conversation search and semantic relevance.
Everything that you do from a marketing perspective needs to be relevant to your audience. This includes your SEO efforts. The type of content your serve up, when to serve it up and how you serve it up needs to be relevant to their needs of your audience. Timing plays a key role here as well. Being relevant at the right place at the right time can ensure that your business enjoys the visibility and engagement that it deserves. Marketing is all about making a connection. Be relevant.
Schema is a Greek word that means shape. Your content and how you convey it on your websites should take some form or shape. Schema markup which is really glorified meta data help communicate the shape, structure or topicality of your website to the search engines. It helps the engines better understand your content. You can markup your HTML with Schema to which the engines may use this to improve your listings in their search results. schema.org
At the heart of organic search is the technical aspect. Without a website that the engines cannot access, crawl or index you simply will not be able to acquire visibility in search results. The “stuff that is under the hood” is key to optimization of any website. From common coding issues to page load times, optimizing the technical aspects of your website can have the greatest positive impact on you being found in the search engines for topics that mean the most to your business and your audience.
Having a clean, descriptive web address for each of your pages is still important when it comes to organic search in 2015. Your URLs should be reflective of your site’s hierarchy and should be descriptive of the topicality of your pages. Longer, dynamically generated URLs can cause issues with search engines. Optimize your URLs accordingly and you should see a positive gain in your website’s visibility.
Technology in some ways has made us a last society no question. But how cool is it that you can speak into Google and have some relevant results returned? Ask your questions out loud and get answers spoken back whether you are out and about or sitting at your desk. Voice Search is an area that continues to develop and provide users with another option for finding the information that they are looking for.
Ok, this is just a fancy way of saying “Location”. Local Search should be a key component of your digital marketing efforts (providing that you have physical locations). Whether it is via desktop, but more likely mobile you should be working to improve the engagement of your audience at a mobile level. Whether its optimizing for Calgary, Alberta or Boise, Idaho ensuring that you have useful content with local intent can help drive residual business to your brick and mortar locations.
What better way to get the search engines to more efficiently crawl your content than with an XML sitemap? If you have indexation issues, you should be looking to update your XML sitemap to communicate which pages of your site you want Google to index and crawl and ideally rank well in their results.
Still one of the top three key players in Search for North America. Since 2009, when Microsoft and Yahoo struck a deal whereby under the terms of the deal Microsoft’s Bing powers Yahoo search, Yahoo has floundered. However with ex-Googler Marissa Mayer now at the controls at Yahoo, they have turned their focus back on Search and more specifically on mobile engagement. Is Yahoo still relevant in 2015? We think so, but they are going to need to hire back some of their Search engineers. We suspect (as do others) that Yahoo is building an entirely new mobile search product which definitely makes them relevant in 2015.
Trends in search activity in Google are something that you should be leveraging as part of your keyword research or topicality research for your websites. There is tremendous value in understanding what people are searching for and when. Being able to predict search activity can help you get a jump up on your competition. Over recent years we have seen Search morph from 10 blue links to mobile and tablet to app engagement and voice activated searches. Google’s Annual Zeitgeist Trends from 2014 sheds some light into search activity by asking “What do these searches say about us?” Is search predictable? Well, there are patterns that emerge so, depending on your industry, you may be able to use this data to enhance your content marketing efforts.
There you have it, my ABCs of Organic Search for 2015. I say Organic Search, because in 2015 I feel that the term SEO is just not descriptive enough of what true online marketers do. As an Organic Search Strategist we wear many hats and play various roles from content developers to digital strategists and educational trainers to UX advocates and brand managers, Organic search in 2015 is not about gaming the algorithms. It’s no longer about keywords and building links. It is about technical prowess and understanding how people consume content and when. It’s about social interaction and being in the right place at the right time. For m,e the term SEO died years ago, it meant nothing, however the thought of organic search as an effective digital channel still remains and the tactics and strategies defined have become more complex and quite honestly necessary when it comes to being found online.