Monitoring market adoption
Instead of simply optimising for today’s algorithm, successful SEO also means thinking about the possible and probable future.
However, while it might be tempting to jump on new technologies (such as voice technology or virtual reality), practitioners need to consider whether or not the tech has been truly adopted by consumers. Only then will technology innovation truly lead to market disruption – a cycle highlighted in the below image.
One way to determine this is to monitor the search volumes and signals of intent relating to key technologies that could impact a business.
While 2018 is tipped to be the year of voice-activated search, for example, SEOs are still unclear what role this tech will go on to play in consumer’s lives, and as such largely remain in the dark about its true impact.
Relevancy of topic
In 2017, Google updated its Hummingbird algorithm to better deal with conversational queries. This means that instead of recognising keywords, Google is able to understand the user’s search intent and respond with relevant, contextual answers.
For SEOs, this means it is going to be much more important to research and optimise around topic relevancy rather than just keywords in future. Longer content, which covers an entire topic in-depth is more likely to rank higher.
Naturally, this might prove difficult for marketers who are trying to rank for something that is not the topic of their site as a whole. However, by writing articles that aim to answer probable user queries – including informational, navigational, and transactional queries – sites can provide relevant information linked to a particular topic.
The overriding purpose of Google Quick Answers and Featured Snippets is to improve the user experience, providing the most relevant result for the user (not just in terms of content, but context, intent, and in terms of the act of search experience itself).
As a result, practitioners should follow suit, prioritising UX and aligning them with SEO goals.
A big barrier to this is likely to be skills and internal structure, however with better integration between SEO and UX teams, performance could be greatly improved across the board.
Local SEO is one area that has continued to grow in importance, with users increasingly using their mobiles to search for nearby services and establishments. In the US, users can now make reservations for restaurants and hairdressers etc. directly in answer boxes and knowledge graphs.
So, how can SEOs ensure they are ranking in local search results? First and foremost, businesses should ensure that they are listed, as well as guarantee that any local content is properly optimised with information such as description, opening hours, categories, and phone numbers etc.
Other link signals such as location proximity, online reviews, hreflang tags and on and off-page signals can also have an effect on how Google indexes locational content. Overall, it is important that businesses recognise and act on the issues that impact local search results rather than do the bare minimum.
As content authority takes precedence in 2018, online reviews can be a great way for SEOs to help build credibility. Meanwhile, review data can also be applied to local business listings, as well as incorporated into Google results for movies, entertainment, and ecommerce products. This might be in the form of a critic review, which an editor has supplied to an authority publisher. Alternatively, it could be rich snippet, which tends to be a combined rating score from reviewers on a related site.
In order to take advantage of this, SEOs should be tracking and optimising performance for search phrases that include keywords like ‘review’. That way, marketers will have more chance of review content to be featured in snippets, which in turn could help to increase click-throughs.
However, SEOs shouldn’t just be keeping their fingers crossed that users leave reviews of their own accord. A strategy that helps to encourage this behaviour is going to be highly useful. This could involve asking for reviews within email campaigns, on product pages, as well as rewarding or gamifying the process of reviewing.