There was a time when SEO was simply about keywords and links – the rest didn’t really matter. As you probably know those days are long gone, and now SEO companies and any business who is trying to pursue or stay on top of their Google rankings understand this is a challenge as the rules for SEO are constantly evolving. Google’s objective remains constant and that is to always improve relevant search results for the searcher and must take into consideration not just content or linking building but also technology advances. Of course, links and keywords still matter, but now there are several other important factors that also have to be at the heart of what we do.
As the director of an SEO company myself (Digital Marketing Specialists), I’m passionate about staying up-to-date with all the latest developments in digital marketing, so that I can ensure my clients are reaping the rewards of increased lead generation and sales. Here are some of the main Google ranking considerations and challenges we face as we have passed the midway point of 2017.
The mobile-first index
Google has long prioritised mobile-friendly websites over those that aren’t optimised for mobile, but this year it’s gone one step further. Its Mobile-First Index ensures that the mobile versions of websites are always crawled first for the data that determines a site’s search engine rankings. From now on, desktop sites will only be crawled when no mobile version of the site can be found.
This means that if your site isn’t already optimised for mobile (which it should be – almost 60 percent of internet searches are now performed on mobile devices, after all), then your brand’s online presence will become virtually invisible to anyone searching organically.
However, it’s still important to make sure your desktop site isn’t neglected – in Australia, 81 percent of product research is still done on desktop computers, making your desktop site highly influential in purchase decisions.
Voice Technology and Search
The invention of Artificial Intelligence (AI) online “assistants” such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa, has made it an everyday occurrence for us to talk to our mobile devices. So much so that voice technology is now having a direct impact on SEO.
Roughly one in five Google searches is now a voice query, and on Bing, the figure is even higher – 25 percent of those searching on Bing for Windows 10 is now using voice search.
This means keywords have changed, as people using voice search are more likely to ask a direct question such as “Who can help me optimise my website?”, whereas a user typing into the search bar would probably type “Expert SEO in Sydney”. They’re also highly likely to ask for local results using the phrase “near me”; for example, “Digital marketing companies near me”.
This means companies are now having to think differently when it comes to keywords, by trying to predict what people will say or ask, rather than what they’ll type.
Google’s machine learning AI, RankBrain
As if predicting what your customers are going to ask their phones wasn’t enough, there’s also an increasing expectation for telepathy if you really want to see your SEO efforts rewarded. Google’s machine-learning AI, RankBrain, is now used in almost all search queries and is becoming highly adept at cross-referencing searches. It enables Google not just to look at a user’s actual search when providing results – it now also looks at other similar and related queries that have already been searched on the topic, to yield results that provide the most value to the user.
This has led to an increased effort to complete SEO for my clients, as all the content we create on behalf of our clients now has to reflect these changes by answering as many related questions on the subject as the user is likely to ask. The less users have to go elsewhere to find the information they’re looking for; the more the website or web page will be rewarded in search results.
No more “fake news”
The rise in content that provides real value to the reader by answering a variety of related questions has had a positive effect on search engine results, as it means the content being created is actually useful and relevant. Meaningless content stuffed with keywords is now penalised, and won’t be nearly so visible in search results.
In addition, due to the increased circulation of “fake news” over the past year, search engines are now making it their responsibility to weed out content that is misleading. Google and Facebook now ensure that much more content is reviewed by humans as well as bots, to improve the amount of genuine content on their platforms.
Unlike many of the stories circulated online in recent months, this one has a moral lesson – if you want to retain your search engine rankings, don’t spam and don’t lie. Ensure whoever is responsible for your google rankings that they become extra meticulous when it comes to fact checking, to make sure your content is beyond reproach and will keep you riding high in search results.
Rich snippets are the answers to search results that Google displays directly in search results. For example, if you search for a recipe for a cake, the actual recipe is now often displayed at the top of the results page, usually accompanied by a picture. This is taken from what Google considers to be the most relevant website, with the other results displayed in prominent positions also containing highly relevant information relating to the cake recipe, such as its nutritional values, for example.
Appearing as the information source at the top of these search results can be achieved by implementing what’s known as Structured Data Markup, or Schema Markup, on your website. This is an area of SEO that we are now taking advantage of with reviews and snippets where possible. Most companies are not taking advantage of this feature and so we believe this still presents a wonderful opportunity to stand out from your competitors online, even with a compromised ranking.
The need for professional SEO services
In the past, many people have chosen to go it alone when it comes to SEO, with varying degrees of success for a variety of reasons. Now, with all the latest advances in search technology, it’s never been so important to consult an experienced professional who knows how to implement all the relevant strategies to keep you ahead of your competitors and keep your time focused on your core services.
For more information about SEO, feel free to get in touch by visiting Digital Marketing Specialists, a Digital Marketing Agency based in Sydney or calling Sonia directly on (02) 9239 3113. We’d love to hear from you.