Search Engine Optimization has changed quite a bit in the last few years, thanks to the growing complexity of Google’s algorithms. In it’s last update, Google revealed that machine learning was a big part of how its algorithms worked as it was using an artificial intelligence system called RankBrain. This makes it even more important to rethink SEO strategies in the times ahead.
The crux of Google’s algorithms is that if your site helps users achieve their goals, it would rank higher. It gives emphasis on offering a great user experience. A modern SEO expert, thus cannot restrict himself to the backend; he has to be proactive in ensuring that he offers a combination of methods to make the site rank well on Google. Today’s SEO expert needs a combination of technical, creative and strategic skills to be effective.
Offer a great site experience
An SEO expert really needs to put himself in the shoes (or rather, on the chair) of the user. What does a user expect from a site? It needs to load fast and on any device of his choosing, it should be easily navigable, and it should help achieve his goals. Mobile has already surpassed desktop as the most favored device. Also the April 2015 update of Google (called “Mobilegeddon”) made it amply clear that mobile-friendly sites will have better rankings. Thus, it is important to have a responsive design that makes it easy for users to visit and experience the site on their mobiles.
If the site can do all this and at the same time be aesthetically pleasing, you have the job done. The SEO expert needs to work closely with the visualizer, programmer and UI/UX expert to achieve this objective.
Leverage from content marketing
Content development has come a long way from keyword and key phrase stuffing. Today, it is more about writing on interesting topics that entertain and inform. The content on websites needs to be unique, error-free and relevant. It should be interlinked within the site in such a way so as to offer comprehensiveness of information to the user. If the user can achieve his informational goal on a single website, Google will rank it higher. Also, emphasis needs to be given on creating different content formats like visual (videos, graphics) as well as audio (podcasts) content, apart from written content.
Content development should be strategically linked to content marketing. A QuickSprout post gives you ways to achieve this. Some of them are –
- Create content that even Wikipedia will link to
- Create content based on keyword data
- Ask questions to customers to know why they aren’t converting
- Focus on indirect conversions
- Cross link
Get acknowledged as an authority
Linking to other websites is no longer enough to make Google believe that you are an authority. Today, an SEO expert needs to build relationships with other bloggers and site owners to get a chance to publish on their sites. This can happen with the right mix of high quality content and PR. If your content is valuable, it will naturally attract more inbound links. This is seen by Google as a sign of credibility and trust.
Target customers locally
Targeting local customers is the easiest and the least complicated SEO that you can do. If you are a local business, you can target local customers by using highly targeted keywords that denote geographical intent.
When a user searches for a product or a service on Google, local listings are the ones that will always appear on top. Trends show that customers are more likely to click on these listings. You can optimize the Google My Business Page to take advantage of the fact that Google only displays three local listings on the search page.
Use Rich Snippets to increase CTR
From an SEO standpoint, Rich Snippets aren’t important, but they sure are effective in increasing click through ratio. You can use Rich Snippets to show helpful information like ratings, reviews, pricing, etc. in the search results pages to attract customers.
A documented case study has shown that structured markup using Schema Microdata, GoodRelations and Google Rich Snippets increases CTR by as much as 30%. By being creative with the format, you can use Rich Snippets for a variety of web pages. You have to do testing to see how successful your Rich Snippets are in increasing your CTR and how you can adjust them to perform better.
How important are technical skills?
Many experts will have you believe that since all Google wants you to do is give users the best experience and it will rank your site higher. But this is not entirely true. The modern SEO expert will definitely need skills beyond his usual technical repertoire as noted above but at the same time, needs more technical skills than what he needed a few years ago.
It is simply not enough to write quality content and reduce bounce rates to rank well on Google. It is an oversimplification of the SEO expert’s job. A short list of the technical skills that are required by the modern SEO has been put up by Rand Fishkin here.
SEO is a rapidly evolving phenomenon. As an expert, you have to stay abreast of the latest developments to stay on top. Apart from emerging and traditional technical skills, you also need creative and strategic skills to make your site rank better. Also, it will help you to avoid penalizations if you stick to the same old strategies that Google might one day deem as illegal. The margin for error is shorter than ever. Stay informed as you wear multiple hats.