Confession: I am personally obsessed with all things SEO. And for good reason, too.
When the editorial team at my company Masthead Media creates a great piece of content on behalf of a client, we want to make sure that content is positioned to reach and engage with as large of an audience as possible--this is an essential step in ensuring those clients receive a strong ROI.
I recently attended the Content Marketing World conference, and--in addition to doing a ton of networking--I had the pleasure of sitting in on Moz founder Rand Fishkin's presentation on the biggest SEO trends of the year. SEO-optimization is an ever-evolving beast, and the new trends Fishkin presented are game changers. While landing at the top of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) was once primarily about keywords, it's evolved into a more thoughtful process that favors strong, robust content and multimedia.
These seven key insights blew my mind, and we've already incorporated them into content strategies of many clients. Read on, and you'll probably want to do the same!
1. Google Search Results Now Read Like Spoiler Alerts
In a change reflective of making desktop search mirror mobile platforms, Google now puts more answers to questions right at the top of the SERP, meaning clicking on a third-party link (read: your carefully SEO-optimized blog post) is not always necessary.
The takeaway There are two approaches ensure this shift actually drive traffic to your site. The first is to confirm Google isn't already answering a keyword search right on the results page. If the answer is already there, try a different keyword that only features organic results. The second--which is a traffic boon if done correctly--is to make a play to become a featured snippit by very directly answering the question that people are typing into search engines. You may even beat Wikipedia and other large players if you do it right. Fiskin confirms that in many cases, people still click on the source of an answer, even if the information is displayed on the search engine results page.
2. AdWords is No Longer Reliable
Google now rounds their data and presents search volume in a few "buckets" and ranges rather than actual numbers of searches, which makes it harder for Google Keyword Planner--better known as Adwords--to determine if there's a lot of search around a particular keyword term. The downside of this is that it makes it difficult for you to determine if its worth it to "go after" a particular search term.
The takeaway Sometimes the answer is a simple one. If you want to know what people are really asking Google, just pull up the search engine and begin typing your potential keyword term. Google will start filling in the blanks around what people are really searching for. If you need real numbers, use the Adword numbers and Google Trends data comparatively (not as standalone indicators), or pay Google Adwords for the exact number of searches around a topic.
3. Even Google is Done With Google+
The downfall of Google+ may not be mind-blowing--we've been watching it happen from the beginning!--but even Google doesn't use Google+ anymore. Twitter has replaced the ill-fated + as Google's chosen social media and real time search result, showing up in 6.5 percent of Google SERPs vs. 5.9 just six months ago according to Mozcast.
The takeaway Start tuning into how Twitter is used in searches your brand cares about. Engagement and recentness affect Google's display of tweets, so use Twitter to bring you traffic! Don't stop sharing on G+ just yet if you have a big following there, but there is no need to invest any time growing a Google+ following if you don't already have one. Phew!
4.Google Demands Multimedia
Only three percent of SERPs display 10 text-only results (think blue links with no images, videos, or sidebars). So while your written content is important, you'll need more than that to search-optimize it.
The takeaway To win at search, add "extras" to your content, including well-optimized images, charts, graphs, illustrations, and interactive maps. Make sure your video content is Google-ready, too: the search engine only displays YouTube and Vimeo results for video, so include that in addition to your own player.
5. Google Is Reading Our Minds
Thanks to machine learning, Google has figured out exactly what info you're looking for when you type in a search. So, even when you don't type in a "right" keyword phrase, Google can send you to the right place.
The takeaway As a marketer, your job is to figure out people's intent in searching--and develop content that directly and masterfully answers their questions. The "winning" content no longer just matches the searchers keywords to your keywords--it the content that best answers the user's question, whether that query is stated or implied. In order to do that, Google looks not only for a specific term in the headline (ie, "top things to do in Paris") or meta description, but also, all of the other terms someone might expect to find in an article that truly answered the question ("Eiffel tour tours, Seine river cruises, etc).
6. Google Will Kill Your Content If People Navigate Away
Sneaky click bait isn't going to cut it anymore! Google now looks to see how people react when they click your article from search. If more people abandon it to return to the search engine results page, that bounce rate will push your article down in search ratings. If people stay with it, you content is considered high-quality and will rise in search rankings.
The takeaway Keep creating great content, and stay away from click bait titles that are only loosely related to your content. If you really want a page to index before a specific event (e.g., Mother's Day, Christmas) publish it several weeks early. This gives Google enough time to determine if your article is truly valuable--and serve it up to readers during that key period.
7. Your Worst Pages are Killing Your Best Pages
You are only as strong as your weakest link...literally. Google will downgrade your site's reputation, and therefore overall ranking on SERPs, if you have too many links that are broken or not getting clicks.
The takeaway We often focus on making the "winning" pages on our websites--but rarely look at the pages that get little to no traffic. Run a list of your weakest pages (i.e., those with the highest number of bounces), and periodically update well-performing pages so they continue getting clicks.