SEO strategy

Google algorithms have matured in the last few years to become ever cleverer and your SEO strategy has to reflect this. Once you could rely on title tags, meta data, content and links but now you have to get to grips with the term “User Intent”. Search queries in Google have developed from the simple “hairdresser maidenhead” to “good hairdresser near me that does wig extensions”. Here are 8 things to keep in mind as you develop your website content and we will start with the user
Don’t assume you can just wing it

1. What is the intent of the users – what are they searching for and who is your audience?

You need to have an understanding of your audience and what their intention is when they begin their search. For example if your speciality is “family law” and you try to rank for any lawyer term just to get traffic then Google will not rank your site so well. The algorithms try and work out what the user intent is of their search term and you must do the same when creating your content and targeting your keywords

This works in your favour as well. Even if the traffic for “family lawyer” is lower the quality of the traffic will be much higher. If you give Google more accurate, readable content around a precise search term and that term is one that people look for your site will rank better overall

Move your focus from high volume broad terms to lower volume higher quality search terms where potential clients are more likely to engage. Stop matching search terms and start answer your client’s questions

2. It’s not just Google

Of all the searches performed in 2018, 46% were on Google ,54% were on Amazon with 107 million active prime users and YouTube had 30 million visits per day (to be fair though these were probably mostly about cats looking at cats or mimicking their owners)
Customers now use different platforms to access information. Some may use video only (smart TVs showing YouTube) audio requests through Alexa and Google Home, mobile assistants such as Siri
If you are targeting apps then you need to rank in the app stores and if you are promoting a podcast then you need to rank on the platform it’s featured on. A product on Amazon will need an altogether different strategy to become visible
You can also structure information in such a way that it appears as small snippets within conversations or appear on the maps at the top of searches (known as schema)
Your digital strategy needs to clearly identify who you are targeting and where

3. Structured Data Markup helps AI

Information and content is being created and uploaded at an ever increasing rate and AI (artificial intelligence) is being used more and more to assess and categorise it

It doesn’t matter how good your content is if it takes too long for the AI systems to load, read and categorise your site, you will not rank well

Structuring data be using titles, tags, metadata and now structured data markup presents your content in a way that the AI bots can handle. It also allows them to understand contextual meaning of your content and map topics to it

4. Content is still king

If you’re creating a blog just because you’ve heard that it’s good to add content for SEO and/or Google that’s not going to be good enough. In 2018 Google updates demonstrated they were focussing on quality of content and sites that were weak in providing a good quality user experience were going to suffer

It’s no longer just answering a user’s problem – use the language they use and provide guidance to the next action rather than optimizing the page to death just to rank. It’s better to take time and produce well-researched articles every month than it is to churn out a mediocre blog every week

This trend is very likely to continue in 2019 and sites that work hard to provide excellent content will continue to be rewarded

5. EAT – Aspiring to increase your Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness

This is still a bit of an aspiration for both Google and most business sectors as a lot of companies aren’t even doing the basics for readability and on-page optimization. Having said that heavily competitive sectors such as finance and law will see this becoming increasingly important

The algorithms involved here aren’t necessarily being fully integrated at the moment but they do demonstrate where Google would like to take its next generation search engines. They are being designed to emulate as close to ‘human like quality’ when it comes to ranking articles on any given subject. Modern machine learning is very good now at generalising and so is getting closer to this ability to intuitively choose the best article. Do you trust the manufacturer of a product or do you trust someone who is an authority and tests the products themselves?

6. Don’t forget basic SEO - On-page Optimization

With many pages and content not even seeing some of the basic SEO techniques being applied, on-page SEO can still yield some dramatic results in ranking. You should be creating high quality content that answers common questions, your URL menu structure should be providing easily navigable links guiding the user through the subject and you should be structuring your information so that the user is not hopping all over the site searching for the answers. If they do move to a new page it should be to investigate a related topic or to gain a deeper understanding of the subject they are researching

7. “Alexa, what’s the best…” – voice search capability and API’s

For a long time we were going to get AI assistants, voice controlled air cars and hover boards. In 2015 it finally began to happen, well, not the hover boards or air cars, but at least the beginnings of voice control that worked. It is still a bit limited but getting better. You can ask for the weather, the nearest garage or even to translate sentences into another language

It’s arguably too much effort right now for most websites even though it follows the ‘conversational journey’ Google aspire too and although it is good at answering some simple enquiries it doesn’t help in more complex requirements such as product reviews or comparisons

Having said that the increasing number of services, such as Google translate for multilingual sites, API’s (the built-in services that provide complex functionality) such as object recognition, text translation, scalable maps that give local biased ranking and ultimately Google My Business are game changers for those that include these in their strategy

8 Machine Learning – here cometh the dreamer

We saw the beginnings of algorithms pre-empting our queries with the drop-down possible search queries as we typed our question. All this was based on data and numbers and statistics. More recently you have noticed some of the top slots have been taken with questions, questions you may have in you head while typing your query – Machine Learning in action based on millions of queries, your history, your location and everything else that is known about you, your behaviour and digital habits

If your content can be constructed in a way that easily presents itself and has authority you to can be one of the chosen few at the top. Easier said than done but it’s where the AI is going and it is going that way. The only reason that Google is making such a big deal out of “Local” with Google My Business is that national information is so massive it’s almost impossible to rank it and so those smaller more relevant businesses that answer the questions with accuracy, relevancy and locality are ranked higher. You will see this in the “map pack” those three businesses shown on the Google Map results