While we like to pay for advertising, send ‘shout outs’ by email and get lots of likes on social platforms, one of the most important parts of marketing is still your website’s Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO). When people are searching on Google they have intent rather than on advertising or social platforms where they are being made aware of your products via interruption. Also, when it comes to your website it is the property that you own and you have control of, so it is important that we invest much of our time and effort into it.
SEO has changed dramatically since the days of ‘keyword stuffing’ and simple FrontPage websites. It really matters how you structure your content, if you are giving useful information and if your website is getting traffic at all. Google is content updating their algorithm not so they can be annoying but to provide people with the best results possible and the best experience. Your mindset when doing SEO should always be “how can I help customers find exactly what they need” rather than “how do I get the most traffic”. This way you will tend to strive to work with the algorithm and not against it.
Since there has been so many changes and even more to come, I have outlined some of the simple SEO considerations you need to keep working on to stay ahead of the game.
Ok, so I know I’ve been banging on about ‘mobile first’ for the last while, but according to statista.com, 73.79% of Irish people are smartphone users. In 2020 Ireland will also be beginning the rollout of the 5G network which will increase mobile browsing speeds by 100% (however we’ll still mostly be on 3G for the larger towns and Edge if you’re lucky in rural areas). So mobile browsing is kinda important these days.
However, it’s not just me, Google is also banging on about it (and every other breakfast briefing in the last 24 months) and has also decided that we need to make more of an effort to make the internet a better place. Google is currently rolling out the ‘mobile first’ index. This means that if you have two versions of your site, a desktop and mobile version, Google will choose the mobile one as the priority in the index. However, if you have just one version of your site this ‘choosing’ does not affect you.
However, that said, ‘mobile first’ will affect sites that have not made efforts to make themselves more mobile-friendly and lightweight. If your ranking well over the competition but they have a better mobile experience, then you may find yourself getting thrust out of your current position.
For those of you who are working on your own sites or don’t have a lot of budgets, these are the top 3 things that I would recommend you change to be a little more mobile friendly.
- Images – these are the things that slow sites down the most, so make them smaller so they load faster on mobile. If you don’t know how to resize images use this handy link to change them. https://smaller-pictures.appspot.com/
- Structured Markup – Give Google the tools to identify what types of content you have on your page and help classify it; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on. You can do this in a semi-automated way with Google Search Console.
- Responsive – It may be a bit of an ordeal, however, if your site isn’t responsive (changes size and shape according to the size of the screen) it may be time to update. This is really easy to do with WordPress and if it’s been more than five years since you updated it’s time for an overhaul anyway.
Voice – long tail
Voice search is changing how we search, humans change their behaviour and Google has to evolve with it. Google have recently put a massive amount of resources into voice and voice assistant technology, so much so that their rate of inaccuracies in understanding is down to 8%.
The difference between voice search and typing is it is more conversational and natural. When we type a search we will use simplistic language and fewer words, however, when we dictate a search the language will be more complicated, it will contain tone and be phrased as if talking to another person. For example “best washing machine” might change to “What’s the best washing machine that I can get for €300 near me?”.
As you can imagine this means that longtail searches are getting longer, but also the journey to a conversion may be shorter as users tend to ask more in one question and be more specific. Also, don’t forget our need for speed, we also want results faster and have less patents for checking lots of websites for the best deal.
This is a big player as many searches are actually location connected, particularly when it comes to services and products. With the changes and advances in location services on smartphones, we expect our results to be local ones. Where in 2016 we would often add the qualifier ‘near me’ to our searches, Google and your device makes sure you get the closest results to your current location.
This highlights the need for you to appear for your full range of products and services in search. If someone searches “Where can I get a scone and tea”, “Find sony headphones near me” or “Where can I buy flowers near me?”. If you have your products listed on your website and keywords related to your area, this will help you with these local searches. I suggest you set up an e-commerce solution if you have a physical store, this gives you the opportunity to list your products for local searches plus, you may have the added advantage of expanding your market. In addition or as a minimum you should also be on Google My Business and list your star services or products. This ensures that you are listed locally and will allow customers to leave reviews, post photos, save your location to maps and call easily from mobile devices.
I actually tried the search “Where would I get a scone near me”, and the closest I got was 17km away! I know that 1.3km down the road there is a cafe that does EPIC scones! This is a perfect example of where businesses need to get stuck in a start showing what they can really do.
What Still Matters In SEO
Just because ‘mobile first’ (also called mobilegeddon) is here, it does not mean that some of the original methods of SEO do not matter. Google uses hundreds of markers to help add you to the index and see if you are worthy of a first-page listing. However the four that matter the most are still the same.
Tagging your pages correctly and with your most important keywords is still one of the most important parts of SEO. Tagging allows the search engines to categorise and sort your pages, content and products correctly, they help them understand your content.
- The title tag – this is the title of your page, this should describe what is on the page – like the heading of a school essay
- The description tag – your advertising point, this contains keywords and is a summary of what is on the page. It is also what the user sees in the search results.
- The alt tag – this is the tag on images, this helps to describe the images and give them context
- Heading tags – the order of H1, H2 etc is no longer important however using a heading tag is. The heading indicates the context of the content so makes it relevant.
As always inbound links, that are genuine and generated because your site is worth talking about, are still as important as ever. Links to your site from other relevant sites in similar industires act as a thumbs up for your content. The more authority the linking site has the better, if they are spam or irrelevant to you business then they are useless.
Also, your internal linking structure is vital. Internal links allow the indexing bots ‘crawl’ from one page to the other. They also help to tie content together and create relevancy for the engines to understand what your websites subject matter is all about. You should make sure that your anchor text is relevant to your link too, that’s the little bit of text that you make underlined and blue. So rather than putting the text as ‘click here’ have it as something useful as ‘our best washing powder’ instead. By doing this you are describing the content further and helping the bots understand what the connection is between pieces of content.
Content & Keywords
Some things never change and it’s important never to underestimate the importance of having good quality content on your website. Google likes to see the following
- Orignal Content – that’s right you need to get creative with your copywriting. Each and every piece of content you create (including your tags) needs to be orginal, try to avoid copy and paste where ever you can.
- Quality Content – provide your customers with content that has depth and detail. If you are writing articles, make sure they are useful and help the reader in some way. Never create content just for content sake.
- Fresh Content – Google like to see websites updated regularly and keeping active. This is why blog posts are such a good idea, two a month is good, one a day is better, it all depends on your resources though.
- Keyword Focused – know what your site is about, know your keywords and phrases that are most important to your business for SEO and so that you don’t go off topic too often. You should have about 5-15 core keywords that are used to create content. This all depends on the size of your range of products or services though.
Reviews & Social Signals
Google recognises the power of recommendations by friends and family, this is why they have put a combined 14% into their value. Have the option for customers to review your products and services, on each page with star ratings and comments. You can also use this as a survey option, if you are getting bad reviews then you may need to change a few things if you are getting good reviews you can show them off on your social pages.
Speaking of social, there are social media signals that matter too. If your content is getting shares, comments and likes etc on different platforms then this helps to boost your site too. Yet another reason to supply good quality content to your network.
Google is changing to suit a more advanced user. Consumers are expecting more of search and tech companies are providing more technology that is changing how users behave. As each technology advances how SEO works will continue to change further, at the moment with all the integrated machine learning that Google has launched, we are on the cusp of a major change.