Search engine technology was born in the early 90’s and has directed online marketing practices over the last two-and-a-half decades. While it’s important to regularly evaluate trends and changes to search query analysis, Jill Whalen, a pioneer in the field of SEO reminds us that ”good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.” As an inbound marketing agency, we too recognize that content will always rule SEO, and below you’ll find five trends on the rise in the search optimization landscape and their relevance to your 2016 digital marketing initiatives:
Mobile Takes the Throne
With the 2015 launch of Mobilegeddon, the largest search engine on the planet encouraged sites to be mobile-friendly, and will soon require that sites are mobile-optimized. Mobile searches outpaced desktop queries for the first time ever this year, and mobile will surpass desktop as the primary advertising platform for businesses in 2016, as organizations recognize the importance of connecting with customers wherever they are.
If your site is not yet optimized for mobile in Google’s preferred way– with URLs and HTML staying the same across all device types--your site won’t be indexed as effectively in Google search results. This penalty is Google’s way of encouraging mobile optimization, even going so far as to say that desktop sites are no longer required.
Along with optimizing mobile design elements, page speed should also be a significant consideration in mobile strategy as it is now a known SEO ranking factor across all device types. Current research shows that 40% of visitors will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
B2B marketing efforts are only as effective as the delivery methods for content. Beginning with a foundation of a fully responsive digital platform ensures that inbound content is not wasted due to distribution limitations. If you liken inbound marketing efforts to the construction of a house, our job as an inbound agency partner is to ensure your content is distributed from a solid foundation or a fully mobile-optimized platform, for best SEO results.
(NOTE: For a full timeline of Google algorithm updates that's kept fresh, check out this resource from Moz.)
Conversation meets Keywords
With the exploding use of virtual assistants – Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana – search is more conversational than ever. Organizations will be asked to step fully into their target personas’ shoes and explore how their ideal prospects might ask for advice, research verbally, or search vocally on the fly.
This new layer of search complexity requires organizations and inbound marketing agency partners to optimize content for spoken language queries, which are often very different than typed searches. This expansion of long-tail keywords will reward sites that optimize for colloquial content.
Search Mirrors the Buyer’s Journey
Progressive inbound marketing efforts already segment content for stages of the buyer’s cycle and SERPs (search engine result pages) will get even better at serving results based on a visitor’s buying stage in 2016 – on the client journey spectrum from research to purchase. Distinct sets of customer journey-related keywords will impact results, and Google will begin to understand conversion language more readily. Search engines will continue to take user outcomes into account, noting actions resulting from page specific page views, and serving results that meet a visitor at the appropriate stage of the customer lifecycle. Specific engagement factors that will more readily effect page rank include:
Time on page and whether searchers bounce, view multiple pages, engage interactively by filling out a form or offer, watch a video, or download an app.
Conversion metrics and whether a searcher’s ultimate task (purchase, download) is fulfilled at your site, and fulfilled quickly, measuring the effectiveness of your offers alongside their intent.
User experience considerations including the searcher’s journey deeper you’re your site, and whether your page fill in gaps in the searcher’s knowledge, often measured by spending more time on certain pages as the results of specific keyword queries.
An effective inbound marketing agency partner will map content, offers, and pages to personas along the customer lifecycle, using micro-targeted keywords to fulfill this growing addition to SEO rank consideration. Evaluating evolving buyer persona needs and challenges is key to fulfilling this search engine requirement.
The Genesis of Social Indexing
Prior to November 2015, Google’s capacity to crawl social media pages was extremely limited. A significant shift occurred on November 16th, when Google announced that Facebook would begin allowing more of their pages to be indexed, including in-app content. Search engines have begun to crawl Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites, and social indexing will grow significantly in 2016, with posts soon carrying the same value as web pages. The proliferation of those posts will also impact rankings and in the words of John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing it will be even more important to, “create something people want to share.”
While social media metrics like number of followers, number of shares, and the like are not used directly as ranking factors for SEO, there are plenty of great reasons to invest in quality social interactions, including a connected boost in ranking on the SERPs.
Interactive Content will Steal the Show
Making a slow and steady impact in the B2B space, interactive content is a level of brand engagement that is memorable, personal, and experiential. Online quizzes, assessments, and audits are strategies that combine big data with customized experiences, and yield one-on-one conversations with potential customers.
As part of your inbound strategy, examine how automated, online assessments might more deeply engage your target audience by providing content that fully responds to your users’ needs and interests. Inbound marketing efforts leverage this approach to shorten sales cycles, arming sales teams with specific data to more effectively follow up with leads, understanding their motivations even before an initial conversation.
In this day and age, nearly all information is found through a simple online search, while results are served through a complex, dynamic algorithm. A defined strategy for effective SEO is more necessary than ever. Learn more about how to get found online with SEO, including building inbound links, meta tags and more in our free download: 25 Website Must-Haves for Driving Traffic, Leads and Sales.