Google makes about 300 small changes to its algorithm every year, with about one or two major algorithm rollouts coming every year. As such, the Google you knew in 2015 will not be the same Google as the next few months come and go. SEO strategists within enterprises are, therefore, left with the all-important task of revamping their SEO approaches every so often, and there’s no better time to do this than the beginning of a new calendar year.
Below is a list of guidelines you can use as you build your strategy going forward. This will ensure that you give due attention to the most important aspects of SEO for best results for your client and/or organization.
1. Keyword research is no longer the same
Some may hold the opinion that keywords are no longer relevant to search, but nothing could be further from the truth. The only difference is that keyword research today is a lot more sophisticated, thanks to Google’s algorithmic advancements in keyword interpretation. This is not a bad thing, given that Google has reported that about 70 percent of searches by users involve synonyms of the most targeted keywords within various brands.
As such, Google’s algorithmic adjustments are more focused on understanding user intent rather than serving up results from specific keywords. This is further complicated by the advent of Google Now, Google’s voice search capability, which will see searchers use more conversational language in place of the short-tail keyword-based searches that dominated the last decade.
For an enterprise in business today, your SEO team must work closely with the PR and/or editorial teams to create relevant themes and topics to focus on, rather than basing strategy on a word or phrase. From there, your brand should develop content that caters to the audience’s needs/interests according to the topics developed above and including all relevant things users may need from you as a brand.
2. Content development comes with new rules
Content development is one of the most important SEO strategies going forward, with Google setting the bar higher and higher for optimal first-page content as the months go by. As you develop your content strategy for 2016, consider this list by Searchmetrics which outlines 2015’s content ranking factors. Some of them include keyword distribution, word count, internal linking and use of meta-tags and headers. You can also take a look at this infographic summarizing those factors, with a full report here for further reference depending on what you need.
3. Improving UX is imperative to success
Search engine optimization cannot exist outside of user experience. Search rankings are directly affected by both site speed and cross-platform compatibility – two important aspects of user experience. However, these are not the only features to care about, there are many more aspects to good UX, including relevant internal linkages and well-structured content.
In the past, SEOs found themselves hard pressed because search engine optimization and Web user optimization had contrasting goals. Instances such as these are set to occur less often, with Google working hard to bridge the gap between search engine requirements and user requirements.
In order to succeed, there must be close collaboration between teams – SEO, design and development and UX – right from the outset. This ensures that all relevant factors are accounted for to serve up a user-friendly site with valuable content for the consumer.
4. Public relations is key
While link-building is still vital for search engine ranking, gone are the days when strategies like listing website links in Web directories, forum comments and low-authority Web 2.0 domains have any impact. In fact, such techniques are a surefire way to attract an algorithmic or manual penalty from Google.
That being said, legitimate, high quality links, mentions and citations from high authority sources within your niche remain important if you want to get and/or maintain top page rankings. One of the best ways to earn such links is to have dedicated members of your marketing team whose job it is to identify and reach out to niche influencers and publishers. As your brand ambassadors, such people can help you build long-standing associations and high quality links on their platforms.
It goes without saying that such link opportunities will only be possible where there is great content to be shared. Great content can be defined as being well researched, opinion-forming, long-form, curation and list posts or “Why” articles. Such content tends to be evergreen, highly useful within your networks which, in turn, may attract social shares and natural citations from various sources.
5. Local SEO and social still matter
Even if you’ve got a multi-national business going, it would be grave misconstruction to ignore your local search engine optimization efforts. According to research, Google ranks local search results as the top positions more than 93 percent of the time, a stark difference from the 25 percent it did a few years ago. As such, all your branches must claim their local spot on the map if you want to retain high rankings, especially in location-based searches.
Part of your SEO budget should be dedicated to improving your local search presence, which can be done in many ways. These include maintenance of local listings, local citations, claiming Google My Business profiles and growing your reviews on social media and other local directories.
In addition, social profiles are an all-important part of any marketing strategy. In 2016, work on building a co-ordinated business profile as well as leveraging all the social advancements to give your business a valuable edge over competitors. These include native advertising (sponsored posts), employee social advocacy, social messaging apps and social video sharing among others. Remember that highly sharable, quality content must be the backbone of every social post shared.
As the year wears on, we expect new information that will provide more guidance on how your SEO strategy should be shaped for the future. Nonetheless, the successful business will be one whose teams work in closer collaboration with one another, taking advantage of new information to increase their edge over competitors.
Lalit Sharma is a SEO consultant who runs a SEO house called Ranking By SEO. He is specialized in link building and other SEO related activities. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+ and his personal blog.