I was at SMX London 2014 (Search Marketing Expo) last week and was struck by how much more difficult SEO has become as a marketing practice. This is mostly due to the growing complexity of ranking algorithms, diversity in SEO project scopes and increasing competition for organic rankings. How do we solve this? SEOs across the world have to use more creative and diversified strategies to stay ahead of the game and lead successful campaigns for websites and brands. Below are my top takeaways from the conference:
PEOPLE ARE KEY
Search engines are increasingly looking for factors on how fast, useful and engaging a site is. Particularly, they focus on how often people find what they were looking for when a search result is served and selected. Are users spending time on the site or are they going back to the search results? Do users share content and recommend sites to their contacts on social media? User signals are becoming more and more important for search engines, as they are more difficult to manipulate than any traditional signals.
The process of un-optimization has become necessary for many over-optimized sites in order to make them search engine-friendly. This covers removing keyword heavy copy, highly targeted text and navigational elements as well as removing/demoting unnatural links to landing pages. Sites that focus on search engines only better think again and take a sharp turn towards optimizing for user experience instead.
DON’T KEEP CHASING THE ALGORITHM
Get the basics right and spend more time on improving/tweaking the platform (website) and the content. Focus on this as a long-term strategy instead of trying to figure out what makes the search engine algorithm tick at any given moment.
Optimize and test content to improve user experience and site performance. Use conversion optimization for content to test different copy variations to see what performs better.
LINK BUILDING IS STILL IMPORTANT
Links still matter for SEO and they always will. I intimated as much in my last post where I went into detail about changing strategies. Even though links are not as important as ranking factors anymore, they are valuable from a traffic-driving perspective and should be built with this in mind.
With the introduction of Hummingbird, the notions of Entity Search and Entity Optimization have evolved. Entities are concepts that can be described with a series of attributes and relationships between them. Google has built over three billion entities into its semantic index so far, in a bid to truly understand the web and convert more data into usable structured data. It is the responsibility of search engine marketers to exploit the opportunity in this and optimize for structured data. This requires driving the change to focus on the bigger picture when it comes to improving online visibility.
SEARCH SPECIALISTS NEED TO BECOME DATA SCIENTISTS
Making sense of data and using it in smart ways has become one of the most important skills for search engine marketers in today’s information overload. Therefore, prioritizing training and skillset development around data analytics is key for any SEO specialist.
Keeping these tips in mind will help make SEO less complicated to understand and more effective in delivering value to your search objectives.