Everyone wants to know "what trends will we see with SEO in 2017?"
Well, we have some ideas that we'd like to frame through the idea that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Google's original mantra/marching orders (in addition to "do no harm") is to reward websites that offer a good user experience. We'll outline exactly what this means below for SEO and what you can look for in ensuring that you've got a solid SEO strategy.
What is SEO in 2017?
SEO is neither dying, nor dead, nor a synonym for content marketing. :) This may sound cheeky, but too many marketers assume that if you build it they will come; and, they can't be blamed - content marketing has become its own lucrative industry. BUT, truth is you can create all the content in the world, and if it's not easy to find and easy to index by the engines, you might as well be sending it through the USPS. To that end, we'll discuss the SEO predictions we have for technical SEO, content-based SEO, and off-site SEO for 2017 below.
Predictions for Technical SEO in 2017
We predict algorithm updates with continued favoritism for sites that are easy to navigate, fast, mobile friendly and secure.
If you are paying attention, important items with SEO implications come through loud and clear in the Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console. We just got a warning, for example, that a site we manage may be in trouble because it collects email addresses on a few pages that haven't been ported to the secure part of the site. (now fixed)
Pay attention to these warnings - they're the closest thing you'll get to pre-emptive advice on how to improve your website for SEO from Google.
Prediction for Content SEO in 2017
Content is king, but SEO is its queen. All SEO engagements should begin with a comprehensive keyword strategy that is developed with user personas, pain points, business propositions and differentiators, and competitive analysis. This exercise is usually a great proxy for companies to identify where they're strong in content and where they're lacking.
If you've done a good job with your website, it's likely that you already have some good stuff to work with. What happens after you've optimized existing content though? We always recommend leveraging existing content (even if it lives/is trapped in an email campaign, gated whitepaper, or infographic) to build out new sections to capture demand, but new content creation based on demand (keyword search volume) is a worthwhile activity - especially if you can use analytics to prove its value.
Finally, blogging is still a worthwhile endeavor. Our clients are always surprised at the organic traffic going to blog posts (some of which are old). Blogging is really the easiest way to 1. meet Google's desire to reward websites with fresh content, 2. Create content that doesn't fit neatly into your website's static navigation, and 3. convert visitors! Yes, I said blogs could be a source of conversions. Truth is, most of us - myself included- don't treat blog posts as a conversion opportunity and don't provide users a logical path to go deeper into the topic on the website itself. One of our 2017 resolutions is to take better advantage of our blog traffic!
Prediction for Off-Site SEO in 2017
Branded search results and "off site" SEO go hand in hand. The Google algorithm rewards websites with a strong digital footprint. So what does that mean? Go search for your brand and look for a few things.
1. Is your domain appearing for your brand? This kind of goes without saying but technical SEO snafus have caused many websites to not appear for branded search.
2. Do you have control over most of the properties that come up related to your brand? Have you claimed your social profiles, is your Wikipedia profile well built out and truthful, do you have good 3rd party reviews? Great! This has proven to benefit the organic search of many clients we've worked with.
3. Are competitors showing up for your brand in paid search or organic search? This deserves a closer look and a competitive strategy.
4. Is your brand represented positively and consistently? You can and should control this on your claimed digital properties.
Once you've looked at these elements, don't stop. We really see this as an emerging area of opportunity for brands to make sure that all the hard work they've done on branding is carried through into search results. We recommend both tracking branded keywords and regularly checking search results for your branded terms to identify threats and opportunities (and just to make sure that your site is indeed showing up!)
Closing thoughts on SEO Predictions for 2017
Finally, we predict that in 2017, the importance of SEO will reach a tipping point in its journey up the B2B ladder. Most websites get anywhere between 50-75% of their traffic from organic search and when this goes bad, traffic and leads suffer. SEOs need to move away from focusing on keyword positions as a means to an end and focus on the real business results when reporting out and up.
Clients and execs are more likely to respond to organic KPIs that impact the bottom line - quality leads and sales. For SEOs, this should be like shooting fish in a barrel since typically, organic search traffic produces the "best" on site visits in terms of time on site, bounce rate, leads, sales, etc.
Thanks for reading and happy new year!
According to Google, there are more than a billion Google searches each day, and an active user searches on average 25 times per day. More importantly, for this article on RankBrain and SEO, Google says that 15-25% of daily searches are new. What's a Search algorithm to do?
Today, Google's algorithm relies on 200+ signals to determine how to rank a website in organic search results. These include standard SEO checkbox items like content quality, easy to navigate site, and links, as well as recent major updates to reward sites that are mobile friendly, secure (using https), and load quickly.
In 2015, Google's RankBrain was confirmed as a new(ish) part of the algorithm. This is one of the 200+ elements mentioned above, but it only kicks in when it "sees" a search query that has never been used before, so approximately 15-25% of the time (which isn't that infrequent, actually).
How Does RankBrain Work?
There are many sophisticated articles about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and RankBrain, but all marketers really need to know is that RankBrain uses machine learning algorithms to try to predict what a better search result might be based on historical data. RankBrain evolved into this use from its original purpose of query analysis.
What Queries Trigger RankBrain to Kick In?
The 15-25% of new queries are almost exclusively long tail queries, which is not surprising considering how precise and refined our search behaviors have grown over the years.
RankBrain's Implications for Marketers
Although keyword optimization is still a key component of SEO, and even for PPC Quality Score improvements, marketers should continue to focus on creating high quality content that addresses customers' pain points, that is written in the customer's style of speaking. This useful content for the end user will naturally be optimized with long tail search queries.
Are you offering information your audience craves on your website? It's clearly an important element of Internet marketing/content marketing and even more so in the era of RankBrain.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. So it goes in life and in SEO! To simplify SEO, we've put together some best practices for 2017. The first post about general SEO best practices got really long, so we are going to break it out into multiple posts, the first of which is keyword research best practices.
SEO Keyword Selection Best Practices
Deciding which keywords to target organically is an art (research, reading and hypotheses) and a science (keyword volume, analytics and conversion data).
The art part (aht paht if you're from Boston) requires a deep competitive review, as well as an awareness of your own product and how your customers talk about it (looking "outside in" in marketing speak). It can actually be a fun exercise to go to Google search and see what longer tail terms show up when using some of your core keywords with Google's autocomplete. For example, if you offer accounting services, you could go see what people are actually searching re: this:
This is a good place to start, but which SEO keywords are really "worth it"? Well, that depends on your business and whether you have the content to support it (note: keyword research is a data-driven way to identify content development needs and strategies - use it!).
After free-associating with the Google autofill tool, get ready to use the SCIENCE piece of the puzzle and find keyword data for the keywords you think are the best fit. To find search volume, competition and expand your list, use the free Google AdWords keyword research tool or others from paid subscriptions to Moz, BrightEdge, Authority Labs, Spyfu, etc.
Once you have a list, we recommend separating keywords for SEO targets into categories and subcategories.
Keyword Funnel for SEO Keywords - Best Practices
We like using different types of keywords in our SEO strategies to target people in three broad funnel categories from interest-seeking to ready-to-buy. (side note: if you're also using the list for PPC, make sure the terms align to your PPC KPIs - likely further down in the funnel)
Best Practices for Measuring SEO Keyword Success
After creating your master SEO keyword list (which we like to call a universe), upload it into Moz, Authority Labs, BrightEdge, or whatever your chosen keyword tracking tool is. This is really important to measure success. Establish a baseline by running an SEO keywords rankings report prior to making any optimizations.
After you make your optimizations, you should check these rankings reports regularly to measure how search engines accept your SEO efforts. You ought to be able to see a correlation between an improvement in keyword SEO positions and traffic to the ranking page (and hopefully conversions!) with a good SEO strategy. A way to prove this out is to look in Google Webmaster Tools for the Pages report and view the queries that have led to that page.
Click here to see our next post about SEO in 2017 - SEO Predictions for 2017.
Google has so many awesome secret weapons - many of them living within the Google AdWords platform. Semi-recent additions like Expanded Text Ads, all kinds of ad extensions, and the ability to build image ads and dynamic ads right within the platform have cemented AdWords as a force to be reckoned with - even for huge publishers.
But, real time Google Ads? We saw this in our weekly Think With Google email last week and had to save it to take a deeper look. Here's a brief synopsis:
Google's Art, Copy & Code project used existing programmatic ad technology to create a prototype ad unit that pulled highlight clips from a hockey game that were uploaded to YouTube and served them to a targeted group of fans with the advertiser's overlay. The link sent users to the Rogers NHL GameCenter LIVETM site - a subcription site for watching NHL games to "sample the goods" as it were.
By serving this proprietary content that already exists to an audience that wants more access to this type of content, the advertiser found that the users spent on average 63 seconds in the ad, which was about 4X the time spent in a more traditional expandable ad. Additionally, they saw a 30% year-over-year increase in subscriptions during the period the ads ran.
You Have the Goods, Show Them Off
We love this because it blends existing exciting content with targeted delivery. Repurposing is a beautiful thing! Especially when marketers are expected to deliver multichannel strategies with limited budgets. Any type of asset you create is an opportunity for multi-channel marketing and lead generation.
One of our mantras is "if no one can find it, it doesn't exist". Maximize the visibility of your hardest working assets with SEO, Social, PPC, and Display to magnify impact. The return on one asset may be exponential and is provable with Google Analytics or other Analytics suites.
We all know that videos, images, and locked assets aren't great (in and of themselves) for SEO, but when they are presented on a website alongside descriptive content that's findable by search engines, their organic power is amplified - both on the website and in social profiles and posts. As well, paid search can drive to a landing page where an asset is teased for a lead capture. Finally, the dynamic, "real time" Google ads referenced in this article shows that Display can drive serious increase in conversions when it uses exciting, proprietary content as a hook.
Are your assets working as hard as they could be? It's worth a test for sure.
Time decay, linear, data driven attribution models. The options are many, but some are definitely better than others. We've experimented with all attribution models, and are seeing some really interesting things in the data driven option in Google Analytics Premium.
Let's take a step back for a minute, though, and talk about what an attribution model is. From Google "Data-driven attribution reveals the real path-to-purchase, allowing you to fine-tune strategies based on real customer behavior."
There are 3 traditional buckets of "rules based" attribution models which include: single touch (credit assigned to one source), even (conversion attributed across all touchpoints), and custom (assigns more credit to first and last touchpoints, but also gives some credit to the middle points). A few years back, Google introduced data driven attribution, which is algorithmic and dynamically builds attribution models based on actual conversion path data. This is really the gold standard now. Consider the opportunity:
So, what do YOU need to get started with data driven attribution? Google recommends making sure you have a strong internal champion to ensure the attribution program is set up properly, and who can analyze and disseminate findings.
Data Driven Attribution Model Requirements for Success:
1. Define Goals - what are the true conversions, a sale? a lead? Nail these down and make sure you are tracking them.
2. Cross Departmental Budget - Since multiple sources will be credited with driving conversions, it's critical to be able to have some fluid budget allocation to optimize performance.
3. Cross Departmental Buy-In - You're going to need cooperation from marketing channel owners and their trafficking/tagging folks (if a different group) as well as from IT to make sure data is clean and accessible.
4. Mechanism to Disseminate Information - show your stakeholders that their contributions matter and how.
Google states that "industry standard assumptions suggest that returns on an attribution solution will typically be 10x the cost of the solution", so it's almost a no-brainer to begin understanding your customer journey(s) better, and to ensure your marketing mix is best in class.
A report from the Harvard Business Review, sponsored by Google, hit my inbox the other day and quantifiably confirms that marketers who use data to inform and influence campaigns see the biggest payoff. A quote from the article that I really like is "the biggest challenge that companies face isn’t talent. It’s the ability to move from data to action." Getting buy-in from the top is key.
The types of Analytics the report considers, include:
1. Digital analytics, including customer journey analysis
2. Marketing analytics, including demand forecasting, attribution models, budget optimization
3. Customer analytics, including lifetime value, propensity to buy and segmentation
4. Sales analytics
5. Consumer surveys & research analytics
It's all well and good to measure and report after the fact, but we believe (and this paper proves) that using data prior to campaign execution promises an undeniable ROI. We are huge proponents of Google Analytics and have used it to unlock information about the customer journey, channel attribution, customer/audience data, and so much more.
What is key to measurement with any Analytics is knowing what counts as a true, valuable conversion. Once this is set up in a tool like Google Analytics, it's remarkably straightforward to trace the path (even down to the search query) that led to the purchase, sign up or lead, both on and off the website.
How can companies deepen customer relationships in the age of commoditization?
The report also said that "many companies are not gaining competitive advantage from analytics because they are still focused on product-centric strategies." Netflix is highlighted as being successful in turning the product-centric model on its head. Instead of casting a wide net like traditional cable companies, it has used viewer data to create series like House of Cards that fulfill the desires of their "best" customers, cementing the company's quality reputation.
Customer relationships are really important in healthcare (obviously), so HCA Healthcare's digital marketing team has used analytics to measure the impact of online marketing on new patient growth. Also, they use tools to analyze social chatter about their properties, leading to improvement in many areas from parking to patient accomodations. Measuring all of this has also empowered the digital marketing team to create replicable best practices in managing patient acquisition and satisfaction.
What to do with all this data?
The report has lots of great graphs and anecodotes about how companies are dealing with data, but we will end with a good point from the article: "Instead of building data science capabilities, companies often bring on increasing numbers of analytics specialists" This results in what Peter Fader from Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) calls a “data firehose”. Companies are beginning to understand this, moving data analytics specialists onto the BUs and teams that need specific data to drive marketing objectives and report success or pivot strategies. We are on board with this!
Our mantra has always been "measure what you need", so let us help you get on the right track. Get in touch.
See the whole report here.
If you read yesterday's Napoleon Dynamite quote post, you'll know that I can't resist clicking on Facebook's trending topics. Today's is cheese advent calendar. OMG! Unfortunately, after cursory research and fixing myself an omelette, I discovered that these aren't available until 2017. :(
I love a good advent calendar. As a child, I delighted in opening up each door to discover a cute picture inside, and as a parent, I've realized that the real thrill of the advent calendar is the countdown itself to the BIG DOOR behind which, of course, is Christmas morning. This year, my kids and I are forgoing a typical "open the door" advent calendar, and doing a really sweet 24 Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar. I look forward to it.
Advent Calendar Keyword Research Example
As a certified Search Geek (tm), I couldn't resist going to Google and seeing what autocomplete had to suggest about different types of advent calendars. What a great - albeit seasonal - product idea for the cool people on etsy, the grommet, uncommon goods, etc. to get into production for the coming seasons! Here's a head start on your "advent calendar type" keyword research/consumer demand measurement which we would use as part of our SEO and PPC process. Type in "advent calendar with" followed by any letter of the alphabet. Here's w, for example:
So, what should we make for our etsy advent calendar shop? Wine advent calendars, whiskey advent calendars, white chocolate advent calendars, or wooden advent calendars? And this is only w!
Now, let's go to the Google AdWords volume estimator and see which kind of advent calendar we should start on for the 2017 Christmas season :)
Wooden whiskey advent calendars it is, friends!
In all seriousness, customer demand is a hard thing to gauge and it's a moving target. As a Marketer, I've never seen any data that is more real time than what I just did above. Add into the timeliness of the data, the fact that it's drawn from what is likely the largest repository of our deepest desires (GOOGLE) and you've got a pretty solid foundation. Thanks for visiting!
I admit, I use my Facebook feed as a primary news source. Is that bad? Not if you are one of the first to see #napoleondynamite trending! I am not too shy to admit that this is my favorite movie of all time. I love it so much, in fact, that I hope there's never a part 2, BUT that doesn't mean I'm not kind of in love with Napoleon & Pedro's reunion in this BK commercial for cheesy tots.
Napoleon Dynamite Search Query Leads to Google Autocomplete Discovery!
So, what the heck does this have to do with SEO? A lot! Thinking back to 2008ish, when I was trying to remember all of the best quotes from Napoleon Dynamite, I Googled "napoleon dynamite quotes" and magically saw my search query grow to include more words like "about tater tots", "about llamas", "about skim milk", etc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Google had done half the work for me.
How Does Google Suggest Work?
This was the advent of Google Suggest, one of my favorite tools for keyword research for SEO AND PPC.
Google Suggest (or Google autocomplete) suggests search queries based on a few things, including:
Try it yourself! I just did, Here are today's autocomplete results (11/30/16) for "Napoleon Dynamite quotes". It appears that the Tina quote (Tina, come get some ham!) is the most popular today, but if you Google "napoleon dynamite" by itself, you'll see Napoleon Dynamite Burger King as the #3 auto suggest result. Talk about real time. Thanks, Google!
In my Facebook feed this morning, I saw Adweek's article Spotify Crunches User Data in Fun Ways for Outdoor Ad Campaigns. Just one chuckle-worthy example from the article is ""Dear person who played 'Sorry' 42 times on Valentine's Day, what did you do?"
So Much Information at Our Fingertips.
This makes me think of the (sometimes bizarre, often good) search queries we are able to see in our own Google Search Consoles. So many times, websites rank for keywords and search queries that they haven't even optimized for, just by virtue of the fact that they've used these words in their content.
Search Query Report, A Practical Application
It's always an a-ha moment for us and our clients at Simple Search. Finding those high volume/high impression keywords a website is *already* ranking for that may be close to ranking in the top 30 search results is a HUGE OPPORTUNITY. Moving from page 3 to page 1 of Google is much easier than moving from no-man's land to position 1. Achieving these higher rankings usually includes a combination of on-page optimization for existing pages and content development in target areas.
How Do I Find My Queries?
All websites have access to this search query-level ranking data, but few know where to find it. We do! Let us give you a tour. Or, see it for yourself. Verify Google Search Console on your website and then navigate to (see below) Search Traffic in the left rail > Search Analytics. This will allow you to look at Queries according to the Impressions (# of times your site has shown for the query), Clicks (clicks from Google organic search), and Position (average ranking in Google organic search). There are a dozen other ways to filter, slice and dice the information and it's a hugely illuminating, wonderful playground for SEOs.
Feel free to reach out with questions directly or in our comments section. Thanks!