SEO. The industry that is ‘always changing’. You’re doing well if you’ve been keeping up so far, but just in case you don’t know your Phantom from your Pigeon, here is a quick update on what’s been happening in the SEO world, and the key things you should be thinking about whilst planning your strategy.
With the release of Google’s mobile-friendly update in April this year, we finally can close the book on the ongoing ‘year of the mobile’. Or can we? The update, aptly named by panicked SEO’s as ‘Mobilegeddon’ ensures that mobile optimised sites appear in the SERPs as priority, and those sites not configured for mobile will get ‘demoted’.
According to Google, there are more mobile searches than desktop in 10 countries, including the US and Japan. We cannot ignore the growing number of searches taking place on mobile, and Google state “consumers, particularly on mobile devices, now have higher expectations than ever before – they want everything right, and they want everything right away”.
As the trend for an ‘on demand’ service grows, it is more important than ever to be in front of your consumers at the very early stage of their search journey; mobile, desktop or other. What does this mean to you? Get responsive or you’re out.
SEO’s Role in the Purchase Journey
Over the last year or two, we have seen search behaviour shift from simple keyword phrases to long tail informational queries, ‘how to’ searches and questions. Last year, ‘how-to’ based search queries were searched 8 times more than ‘who’ based queries, according to research from Google.
Knowing how people search at different points of the purchase journey is integral to your SEO strategy, and this will become even more important over the next year, as we expect to see more people using ad blockers and consuming more media through apps vs the web. But, how can you ensure you’re doing the right thing to appear at every stage? It will be no easy feat relying on organic visibility alone, and not one I would recommend when you have platforms such as PPC, Display and Social at hand, especially during the awareness phase.
SEO should play an important part in the following phases of the purchase journey:
One step on from a customer’s awareness of your brand, they already have a desire, but not a NEED to buy right away. Now is the time to be thinking about informational search queries, and how you might be able to cater for these needs. In the middle of their journey, a customer might be comparing products and brands or looking for reviews about a particular service or product. Do you have these implemented on product pages? According to a study by iPerceptions (2011), 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Not only do reviews enhance the propensity for a user to buy, they also hold many SEO benefits, such as fresh, user-generated content to differentiate your product page over your competitors.
At this stage, start to think about content that enhances the customer’s intent to buy and answers questions that may be hindering them from making a purchase. Use mediums such articles, features, infographics and images, executed via social channels to capture them at this stage.
Comparison and conversion stages
Now is the time where your on page SEO should be exceptionally strong. Not only because an organic listing may be the second or third interaction the customer has with your brand, but because the path to purchase from a product page is key in getting a user to their basket.
Customer experience has always been at the heart of SEO and your site navigation should be clear and easy during the comparison and conversion phases. Product descriptions should be unique and ‘add to cart’ buttons prominent. Have any compelling sales messages? Ensure they are employed on the site at this stage.
Usability metrics are not said to directly impact rankings, but considered ‘signals’ by search engines as to how great an experience your page will provide. Thus, helping them to assess page quality and in turn, determine your rankings. Clearly signposting sales messages, calls-to-action or USPs will increase the likelihood of a sale. It is your unique proposition that will encourage somebody to purchase from you in the end.
Quality is King
Forget content is King. Quality is the King of Kings, after Google updated their ‘Quality’ algorithm in May this year. Dubbed ‘Phantom 2’, because nobody actually knows which quality signals Google are addressing, it has been said that how-to sites with thin content saw a significant decrease in traffic at a page level over the course of the roll out.
This leads me to question, and you probably have too, if ‘how to’ searches increased so drastically last year, why are these types of informational sites being demoted as part of the new algorithm? Are search engines really smart enough to know that these sites may be trying to game the system, capturing the increased search volumes by pumping out more and more how-to content? Or is it simply because, as ever, search engines are putting the user at the heart of their algorithm? A prime example of this is Google ‘quick answers’, which mean a user will never have to leave the SERPs. To ensure a user clicks through from that Quick Answers box, your content must be compelling enough for them to do so.
With regards to content, the point search engines are trying to make hasn’t changed, you cannot get away with serving up crap. So unless you have something of quality and value to say, don’t say it at all.