Recently, I shared five essential basics that all good search engine optimization (SEO) programs should include yet often miss. While implementing the basics represents a critical first step, advertisers striving to excel will undoubtedly ask ‘what’s next?’ Search engines routinely reevaluate their approach to ranking sites and are constantly evolving; your SEO program should do the same. Let’s take a look now at five emerging SEO concepts that advertisers and their agencies should be following.
- Mobile is now
- Semantic search
- Structured data – keeping it organized
- Assigning authority – authorship markup
- Staying social
Mobile is now
Look, we’ve been hearing this forever – mobile is the future. Research firm comScore revealed way back in April 2013 that over half of all Internet users access it on both a computer and a mobile device. Despite all of this evidence of mobile penetration, I’m still shocked at how many sites present a horrible mobile experience. Clearly, optimizing your site for mobile has graduated from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have.’
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is one result of mobile’s rise. Hummingbird rewards original, well-crafted content that speaks clearly about your product and service, conveying it accurately to the consumer. Instead of one or two word queries, users now ‘ask’ their mobile devices complex questions. Hummingbird focuses on distilling the meaning of these questions.
Marketers need to ensure their sites are not only mobile friendly but are organized properly to take advantage of what Hummingbird is trying to do. Keep content around important page topics separated into succinct ideas representing central concepts of the business or service – more on this below. Include multiple variations of key phrases within this content and ensure proper on-page coding and tagging is optimized to reflect these concepts. If Hummingbird cannot properly connect your core ideas to complex search queries, your site won’t rank.
Largely due to the meteoric rise in mobile search, semantic search is quickly increasing in importance for SEO gurus. Through algorithm updates and overhauls, search engines are creating complex concepts and ideas which supplant keywords as the optimization target. On the surface, little about the approach changes – marketers should continue to focus on crafting original, compelling and authentic content. How best to communicate that content to the search engine and by extension, to the consumer, represents the tricky part.
For SEO professionals, this means shifting from a keyword-centric approach to a content strategy centered on conveying the core ideas behind what the website represents. First, organize your content into the central ideas that deserve focus by pulling out the critical keywords you would normally focus your SEO strategy on. Then, combine these keywords into the primary topics that the page is about, optimizing towards those topics, keeping multiple keywords and phrases in mind. Finally, make sure to organize the page code effectively to highlight those topics correctly.
Structured data: keeping it organized
Structured Data allows you to help search engines interpret and understand the main ideas and concepts for your sites.
The Structured Data approach represents what the major search engines have adopted in terms of how objects, ideas or entities should be structured, identified and coded within a website. It describes, in code, what a ‘chair,’ ‘Empire State Building’ or ‘Albert Einstein’ is to a search engine. Agreeing on this universal framework means that data can now be structured across websites using the same organized approach. Ultimately it allows search engines to rank their results based on what entities or ideas users are searching for.
SEO professionals should take care to code the most prevalent concepts and ideas of their site using structured data to capitalize on the latest algorithm updates.
Assigning authority – authorship markup
Proper authorship markup enables search engines to connect written work with the author – thereby providing a critical link between established online profiles for authors and their blogs, posts, articles, and other content. Search engines assign greater authority to results that are properly attributed to authors whose identity is known. Theoretically, more authority will be provided to content penned by recognized experts. As authorship markup continues to evolve in search algorithms, expect all kinds of additional considerations including, for example, whether or not a piece originates from an established academic institution. Used properly, authorship markup can build on offline success and will enhance any social marketing and SEO campaign.
While the debate continues over just how much social signals impact your SEO rank, all agree that SEO programs should include it. Like mobile, the rise of social media provides an additional channel through which advertisers can reach their audience. While standard ‘likes’ and links from blogs will help your social authority, the most important benefits come from positive reviews, shares from experts in the field and endorsements from established institutions and websites. Search engines pay special attention to these signals – particularly if they are further identified with authorship markup. The critical takeaway is that if it makes sense for your business and website it should be in social.
All of these individual concepts reveal the overall shift occurring in the way search engines evaluate website content – shifting from keyword based relevance to a holistic, topic-based approach. This trend will to continue to evolve throughout 2015 and beyond. As marketers, it is important to keep in mind that while many of these trends appear complex, they remain united in their intent: to increase the relevance and consistency of search results to the user, regardless of what device they are using.
Oliver Nelson is currently the Associate Media Director, eDR across several healthcare, pharmaceutical and OTC categories with a focus on digital display, social media, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO.) Most recently, Mr. Nelson worked on the largest drug launch in US history. While Mr. Nelson’s passion lies with SEO, he has over ten years’ experience in retail and corporate marketing, sales and advertising and has managed both online and offline media campaigns for several private and public organizations.