Ok, so officially Q1 is almost over, but that shouldn’t stop you from maximizing the impact of your 2015 SEO strategies. Every year, companies roll out their new SEO best practices cheat sheets and try to make sense of the new rules, prepare for anticipated updates, and separate the important changes from the tom-toms beating on the street. The old days of SEO were rife with snake oil salesmen promising Page 1 SERP rankings, however the last few years haven proven that the most effective way to rank competitively is to provide quality content on a consistent basis and let Google take care of the rest. This year is no different, however there are a the 3 most important SEO trends in 2015 that we must be fully prepared for or we risk our hard-earned search engine visibility.
1. The Year Mobile Mattered Most
Today, 50% of all Google searches come from mobile devices. Tomorrow, that percentage will be higher. Last month, Google sent out warnings to websites that contain “mobile usability issues” encouraging site owners to be more mobile-friendly. Currently, these are just warnings, but expect that to change in the very near future.
Google provides a link their Mobile-Friendly Test where you can verify that you are in compliance with their standard of mobile-friendliness. This is their last call. Websites that aren’t mobile friendly are scheduled to be penalized on April 21st
“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal”, says Google. “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
If you are not prepared for this change, you risk losing varying amounts of mobile traffic depending on your industry and the relevant search terms for which you are competing. Some industries, brands and subject matter are by nature more “mobile” than others. If you want to dig in deep to see exactly how much of your traffic will be affected by Google’s Mobile SEO update on April 21st, here’s a template to help sort it out.
Regardless of whether you’re facing a 30% organic traffic drop off or a 2% disappearance, do you really want to give anyone a poor mobile experience? Here is a link to Google’s Guide To Mobile-Friendly Sites. It’s worth a look because 2015 will be known in the SEO world as the year that mobile mattered most.
2. Content Is King (Not Keywords)
Man, this phrase is overused, but rightly so when discussing the ever-changing way Google provides answers to people’s searches. Over the last decade or so, SEO has evolved to consider more than just the singular, commonly used keywords in your respective industry. Semantic search breakthroughs and a crackdown on black hat SEO tactics have proven that Google is committed to connecting searchers with the best possible content available online. The upcoming updates will continue on this path.
That means you can drastically lessen the priority placed on sourcing backlinks and blatant keyword overkill. Google is working hard to punish those aiming to cheat the system and rewarding those that focus on creating useful, authentic and relevant content.
In order to maximize your exposure and influence in search engine results, pour all of your energy into developing valuable content to your target audience on an ongoing basis. This means researching your ideal customer. Learning about their needs and how they go about finding solutions. What kinds of questions do they ask? Who do they trust? Which brands and publications do they consider experts in their field?
This is also where you can benefit the most by owning your niche demographic. The vast majority of all Google inquiries are what’s called “unique long-tail searches.” In our case, appearing on Page 1 for the search string “how do I easily track my competitors online?” is going to much faster and more effective for converting new clients than topping the results page for “competitive analysis“.
You know when the experts say “SEO is dead“? This is what they mean. By identifying your target audience and understanding their most pressing needs, you can consistently create the content they are searching for and Google will take care of the rest. Don’t get cute. Just give the people what they want.
3. Don’t Ignore Social Media
Remember last sentence when I said, “Google will take care of the rest”? I’m sorry, I lied. After publishing unique, relevant and useful information created specifically for your target audience, you still have work to do.
Here’s a test: Run a Google Search of your company name and see what pops up AFTER your main domain site. Is it your social channels? It should be.
Anyone searching for your brand by name online should not only find your website in the search results, but should also be enveloped by a plethora of your social profiles – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, SlideShare, even Crunchbase and AngelList profiles should appear for the younger companies. This is important. In case your potential client does not click directly to your website, they will still be surrounded by an overarching wave of up-to-date content on your social media profiles. This is invaluable to positioning your brand as experts in your field.
While we don’t know exactly how much weight Google SEO attributes to the actual engagement of your shared content on social media (ie: # of likes, shares, etc), what we do know is that they are giving star treatment to social platforms in general and smart consumers and businesses are paying closer attention to the look and feel of your brand before making their buying decision.
It’s important to note here that you should not get too carried away with maintaining an active presence on EVERY social media platform in existence. The “inch deep, mile wide” approach will have a very shallow impact across the board. Instead, work hard on the 3 or 4 most critical social platforms that your customers use most frequently and shut down the rest. As you allocate more resources and support to your marketing team, you can add more social platforms, but for now put that sorry excuse for a Pinterest page out of its misery.