SEO optimization is facing a crossroads in the very near future. Google has been making big changes to its technologies, and it will force changes in SEO to remain competitive. Users are now looking for information they need within Google itself and not within the website itself. In order to be successful, it is now more important than ever to use local SEO, brand building, and meaningful quality content.
Moreover, it will be the onus of us to keep up with technological changes. Resting back and believing that we are great at SEO will lead to failure, while those who are adaptable will be the ones at the top of the SERPs.
How to Optimize for SEO
Do you ever sit back and think that you have successfully understood SEO optimization? There will be significant changes to SEO coming over the next year, and Google wants to play a bigger role. This will be the defining point of SEO as it becomes the final destination for people’s searches. In order to be successful in marketing, you must become more adaptable and realize that the tools you used in the past, or are currently using for that matter, will soon be irrelevant.
The scope of optimization of SEO is always changing. Yes, there will always be a couple of items that remain; using meaningful keywords in titles along with ensuring that content is optimized for a mobile platform will always hang around. (People always ask me how to get found on Google. Making sure that your GMB page and listings are accurate is very important to getting found on Google.
However, as these few items remain, there will be big shifts in how the Big Boys are playing the game. Platforms like Google are often the end of the road for users as they search. At least, that is what they are trying to accomplish, and they have a great start already. Long gone will be the days of clicking on your site for any simple information.
This is essentially the new normal. The big question now is, “How does this change SEO optimization?” Moreover, we need to figure out how to stay relevant and powerful within the changing Google structure. In order to accomplish this, we need to keep up to date with the ever-changing technology of Google. However, we need to be equally adaptable. Believe me, almost all of the tools you are using today to rank will be obsolete before you know it. Google continues to offer an improved dynamic product, and we must be willing to embrace that fact and embrace our abilities to change along with them.
1. The New Standard for Searching Will Be Zero-Clicks
Over 50% of all searches are currently zero-click searches. This is a result of SERP features like Google Local Packs, featured snippets, Knowledge graphs, and several others. So now, more than ever, users are getting their questions answered without having to click on an individual site. The SERP is providing the answer to the search itself.
Is it time for marketers to start panicking yet?
Not so much. Think about the kind of searches that we are talking about here. These are the searches from users looking for phone numbers, hours of service, addresses, and other answers to quick questions. We are not talking about clicks that were going to convert in any case; so there is no need to worry about losing these ones anyway.
Think about what keywords actually drive clicks to your site. There are plenty of sites that can help refine keywords and searches, and one of our favorites is SEMRush. It is a great tool to save time and refine your work. If you need some help or are struggling, articles on keyword research may help you.
2. You Need to Focus on Improving Your Content for Both Rich and Featured Snippets
So now that zero-click searches are becoming more popular and common, the information on the search engine results page (SERP) is more and more critical than ever before.
A rich snippet is simply an enhanced search result. A featured snippet is an answer to a question that appears above the search results.
Rich snippets may show things such as pricing, reviews, and perhaps images. This is in addition to titles and descriptions. Featured snippets show much more information at the beginning of a SERP. Rich snippets are less difficult to obtain. However, they will bring reduced CTR improvements compared to a featured snippet. Featured snippets, conversely, do great in increasing CTR. But they are much more difficult to get. Schema markups are integral to getting unique data in searches
Okay, so how do we make this happen? The most important factor in success is to make sure that your data is structured. There are dozens of sites out there that can test to make sure all of your data is properly structured. If your site is not structured, Hubspot has a great article to learn more about structured data. Google provides a structured data markup tool to test how your featured snippets appear on web pages.
As featured snippets become more relevant and popular, it is important to understand what tools are important and useful to get there. I will add, though, that attaining that position zero may not always be the best focus. Sure, it is great to be above the first result, but people have spent too much time and effort trying to get to that rank and have lost sight of what they were doing in the first place. However, it is an unpredictable game.
Keep in mind that featured snippets are highly volatile. If you currently have one, it does not mean you will retain it. There may always be someone else who will be able to give a better answer.
3. Local SEO Optimization Is Changing
As discussed above, an enormous amount of zero-click searches are local searches. Often, the results show up on the SERP in what are called Local Packs. These Local Packs sometimes take up an entire screen on a mobile device. As mobile searches become increasingly prevalent, we need to understand how this should change our conceptions of quality SERP.
What can we do to address this?
A great number of searches these days include locality terms within the search, including “around me,” “phone number,” or “near me.” Having an accurate Google My Business listing is the best way to add your business to Google searches. Reputation and local search are two significant portions of local SEO. However, keep in mind that there will still be plenty of people looking to find more in-depth information. These people will still go to your site. This is why optimizing SEO is still exceedingly relevant in today’s and tomorrow’s market.
In addition, backlinks are going to be vitally important for your site. Links are incredibly simple and quite complex at the same time. I have met people with tens of thousands of backlinks, and they wonder why their site rank is not significantly improving. It is not just having links that are important. Google prefers to have quality links that it deems locally authoritative. So sites like news, education, government, and others along those lines will provide authority that will increase your rank.
So what are high-quality links? Here are some criteria that will help:
Having links from local sites in the area you are targeting. (These are far more effective than links from cities across the country or world.)
Having links that have relevance in your field.
Having links that drive traffic that is relevant to your site.
Having links that increase your reputation (these would come from reputable sources and journals)
4. Google’s Technology Is Ever-Evolving
We all know that the algorithms that Google uses have grown immensely over the years. This has been successful as it has created a better experience for their users and has consequently forced developers to make a better product. We do not see pages jammed with keywords. Google has just released its AI update called BERT.
As best we can tell, Google uses a triple-faceted mechanism for understanding and delivering search results. First, they use a neural matching which will interpret the meaning of a search. Second is an AI called RankBrain. This helps Google to understand and deliver more appropriate search results. The third aspect is BART which is a cutting-edge technology that allows its algorithms to understand better what people search. It understands the structure of the user’s query to deliver results better. For example, it does a great job of understanding prepositions.
How does this affect SEO optimization?
Regarding BERT or neural matching, there is little that can be done. They both simply require good-quality content. RankBrain, however, needs to be accounted for. We are shifting away from simply having keywords that rank high. We are transferring into an era of intent. Intent matching is equal to success now. Moreover, if you match a keyword but not intent, you will significantly drop in SERPs. Now, more than ever, we need to figure out exactly what content Google finds relevant for the searches you want to rank for.
If one were to consider how difficult a search query may be, it is remarkable how well Google does. For example, if I search for “Olympic Games,” there could be a dozen different results, all equally applicable. Perhaps I am looking for last summer’s games or next winter’s games. Maybe I am searching for directions to the opening ceremonies. Google does very well determining the intent of my search based on a multitude of factors. However, if I want to rank higher, I must also understand and have clear content that demonstrates intent matching. In other words, once you determine the intent behind someone’s queries, you need to write the content that will most appropriately match that.
No one knows exactly what is behind Google’s algorithms. With all of the information available in line, it is seemingly impossible to categorize it all and create a quality return. Google has created its own search criteria and ranking systems that provide good-quality output.
5. Brand Building Is Now a Top Concern
So, according to Duane, what is the number one most important thing to focus on for SEO? Anyone working in marketing or close by, such as Duane Forrester, can tell you that organic social is a thing of the past. When pondering questions such as, “According to Duane, what is the number one most important thing to focus on for SEO?” and more, it’s important to know that paid advertising continues to bring great results as it continues to become an effective tool. However, we can see more and more companies using social ads these days. Unfortunately, this trend will mean there will be much less return on investment as saturation grows. The future of paid ads will be more expensive and more ubiquitous.
If you are looking for meaningful guidance, such as through answers to “According to Duane, what is the number one most important thing to focus on for SEO?” and more, and find yourself in this arena where competition for ads becomes more fierce, and costs rise, where can you turn? In this situation, brand awareness and brand building will be the new marketing norms. However, we are also seeing a rise in linkless mention importance. According to Google and Bing, linkless mentions are very helpful. Social media mentions can be as powerful as backlinks, as search engines can now quickly and easily recognize them and use them to identify site authority.
What Are the Next Steps?
First and perhaps most importantly, we need to increase and build relevant mentions. In fact, moving forward, it will be equally important to manage linkless brand mentions as it is to build quality link profiles.
Listening to social media will help you to monitor each mention of your site online. This lets you do a few things well. First, you have another opportunity to connect with your clients. Second, it allows you to provide customer service publicly. It also gives you an opportunity to see where your competition is being mentioned. This can provide an avenue for you to find additional campaigns to be mentioned there.
So we can see that social listening tools give us the ability to not only increase our brand awareness and image, but it also allows us to interact with our clientele more often. Therefore, it really makes a great tool that should be in the arsenal of any digital marketer.
Conclusion About SEO
Marketers so often say or think that they have a great understanding of SEO optimization. However, then things change, and we are right back where we started. Just look at local SEO and how it has evolved over the years. It is now becoming almost more important to have Google My Business than to have a website for some local businesses. This is only one symptom of a changing dynamic.
It is imperative that we keep our finger on the pulse of today’s optimized SEO. We need to be adaptable and recognize that changes are inevitable. Those of us who embrace this change will be the ones who succeed.