It’s that time of year again; where we all promise to radically change our lifestyle and more than likely vow to get fit, stop smoking, eat less chocolate etc. You only need to look around to see that the usual resolutions are undoubtedly underway in your workplace and at home.
Of course, these resolutions don’t tend to last too long, as that Friday post-work beer proves to be too damn tempting and the gym membership card is lost at the bottom of your bag.
But remember, resolutions are essentially about improvement and what better place to apply this ethos than in your digital team? Your 2015 digital resolutions are critical and the temptation offered by that Yorkie on the shelf simply cannot apply to your resolutions for digital… it’s cutthroat out there; you need to set your strategies and really stick to them.
Buzzwords are a big thing. In fact, ‘buzzword’ is probably the biggest buzzword around. ‘Reem’ and ‘well jel’ have thankfully subsided somewhat from society (or maybe I just don’t pay attention to anyone who says them anymore), however some buzzwords are buzzwords for good reason and I’m going to throw some your way right now - it’s no coincidence that they also form the sub-headings for this post!
This New Year, think about all of these buzzwords when formulating and developing your 2015 digital strategies…
1. Importance of responsive design:
Site design has come a long way, especially in the last couple of years with features such as infinite scroll, flat design and parallax coming to the fore. These features are of course user-focused, but as digital marketers we need to look beyond this and think about what Google sees too.
In 2013, Matt Cutts said that responsive design wouldn’t hurt your SEO but this has moved forward even more since then and it can now give you tangible benefit.
Not only is mobile usage still increasing, meaning it is imperative that your site works well on phones and tablets to generate maximum on-site engagement and ultimately conversions, but it now has a search benefit too. Google has begun to label mobile-friendly sites in the SERPs themselves, so not only can you engage users better once they are on the site, you can get more visitors to visit via the click-through benefit of being labeled ‘mobile-friendly’.
The example below shows search results for the ‘Get The Label’ fashion brand. As you can see, Google has highlighted the mobile-friendly nature of the site, inevitably encouraging click-throughs from users…
We also now know that getting this mobile-friendly label could even help you rank better, which is always a plus!
Google’s mobile recommendations are of course wider than just responsive design…
2. Be aware that mobile search results are changing
As mobile technology like GPS and connectivity improves, Google has to keep up with its mobile search offering. Our MD Simon Penson has written extensively about Google’s improving intelligence and its ability to enhance your search results based on not only your history, but also your circumstance.
The example Simon uses, in the post linked to above, is:
‘The results will be different when I search for something like ‘bingo’ than when you do and that’s because Google wants to understand not just the explicit part of the query (in this case "bingo"), but also the implicit reason for me writing it.
Clearly if Google knows the implicit ‘stuff’ about you it can present a much more useful result and in the example we see above the "bingo" search may bring up bricks-and-mortar bingo halls near Peterborough as opposed to branded online game pages.”
In other words, your circumstance and in particular your location, will begin to change the results you see. It will go further too. If you search for ‘weather this weekend’, Google might check the weather in your area, see that it will be hot, and suggest a search for BBQs or sun tan lotion.
The tip here is to be aware of this shift and how it might affect search results for your brand or competitive terms within your industry. Might a competitor be shown above you because of their relevance to the searcher’s circumstance? And what can you do to combat that?’
3. Mobile domain setup
Is your mobile site on an m. or .mobi domain? If so, ditch it. Now.
Running a single version of your site on one domain/TLD has many benefits, including those mentioned in point 1, and the following:
4. Algorithm variants
Google has one main algorithm now in the Hummingbird era, however they have variants of it that are used for different types of search, most notably mobile. If you don’t meet the criteria of the mobile algorithm variant, you cannot enjoy its benefits and you will likely suffer in overall rankings as a result.
Responsive design and TLD/domain setup are really key, but clue up on all Google mobile recommendations to ensure you can get the most from mobile search.
5. Local results in SERPs
Whether it’s on mobile or desktop, all of us have undoubtedly noticed the inclusion of local results in SERPs. Similarly to the mobile point above, this is essentially based on your circumstance in a more basic way. You are searching for X and your Google account says you live in Y, so Google will ensure relevant results for X in/near Y will be prioritized.
6. Attracting local traffic safely
Don’t use gateway pages, i.e. pages of no value designed to target specific terms. If you have multiple locations, great. If you don’t, then don’t assume you can piggyback on location search terms just by having a page for it on site.
As Panda has taught us, every page on your site should be unique, authentic and have value.
Use location schema to mark up addresses on your site.
Ensure you link addresses and your site with your Google Plus profile in the correct way to get the best presence in local results and also appear in Google Maps.
Google’s new algorithm applies understanding of ‘meaning’ to search queries. Essentially, Google is becoming a question answerer rather than a document retriever. For you, this means all your content needs to answer a question, not just fulfill SEO best practice in terms of keywords. Be valuable, be genuine and write for the reader, both on and off page.
Again, our talented MD Simon has written on this subject, specifically about how Google is, or at least will be, starting to look beyond links. Simple mentions of your brand (once you are established as a brand in Google’s eyes – someone has searched for your brand name and clicked on your site) will become more and more important as a ranking factor.
This is worth considering, especially as part of your off-page strategy and especially if you have suffered any link quality penalisations in the past.
Speaking of citations…
9. Social as a ranking factor
One of the biggest grey areas of SEO at present is the real impact social has as a ranking factor. Do mentions of your brand in social contribute to search? Does social audience size add weight to your brand presence in search? Does high social engagement act as a validation for your brand, just like links do?
What is in no doubt is that social contributes to search presence. Whether this be at Facebook page level in terms of engagement rates or at on-site level through shares of your blog or product content, it is something that simply has to be considered. Ensure sharing buttons are present on the site and that your social platforms are well maintained with a focus on engagement.
10. Use your content to answer the questions being asked by searchers
Above, in the ‘Hummingbird’ section, I mentioned how Google is now looking for sites to answer questions. The important part is knowing what those questions are. The tip here is to understand your long tail and ensure that every piece of content you add to static or blog pages on your site is to answer a specific long tail query. Long tail terms by nature convert and engage better, so ensure you supplement your brand and head term traffic by attracting the long tail too…
11. Value over vanity
Whether you’re agency or in-house, we’ve all had THAT conversation after a head term has dropped once place, and it’s seemingly the end of the world. In reality, the combined impact of long tail can be as great or even greater than a head term.
So, when setting your 2015 targets and objectives, focus on valuable terms, not vanity terms. Not only can they just as effective in terms of traffic, they can also convert better too.
12. Identify long tail opportunity
I mentioned ‘value’ above, but it is of course essential to understand what is valuable. Use tools and metrics to understand where the value lies in your long tail. Consider factors such as:
The Holy Grail is, of course, high volume terms with low equivalent CPCs (meaning low competition). These are gold dust, so try to find compromises between volume and competition to ensure you are chasing achievable goals.
The level of competition is the ‘risk’ and the search volume is the ‘reward’. A lower reward term with lower risk is often more valuable than a higher reward term with a higher risk. And of course, as is the nature of long tail, there tends to be more of the former around!
All clients/bosses/heads/seniors want to see their sites rank highly for vanity terms, but if you can prove the opportunity in long tail it can make that conversation a lot easier to crack.
13. Consider switching to https
Google has recently said that using the https protocol is now a ranking factor, following positive results in recent algorithm tests. In their words:
“We’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from http to https to keep everyone on the safe”
This is a huge indicator that https is something all sites should consider. You may already have https in place on parts of your site like login areas and checkouts, but extending that across the whole site may give you a ranking boost now and in the future.
From a user perspective, the comforting padlock symbol in their address bar for their entire experience on your site could also improve conversion for you.
We’ve had two clients make the total switch, with very positive results.
For more on how and why to switch, there’s some great advice from Moz here.
Here’s what Google has to say about the matter:
In other words, block them and you won’t rank as well. Take heed!
Now, it’s time to fish around in the bottom of your bag for that membership card and get down to the gym!
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