The Future of SEO – Why Brands Need to be Prepared

The way we utilise search engines is changing. It’s leading to a major, though mildly unpredictable revolution in how marketers approach Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Search was always about ‘User Intent’; but as more netizens go mobile, search engine results are becoming unforeseeably dynamic. Why? Because people don’t want to research anymore, they just want to interact with their devices.

deepaktiwari

Deepak Tiwari, Team Lead (SEO) at BC Web Wise

Mobile penetration and changing search habits are about to radically transform SEO and SEM tactics of businesses. While most of what lies ahead is beyond our imagination, there are certain scenarios that we can predict and prepare for, based on the trends and innovations we see today.

Deepak Tiwari, our in-house SEO Samurai, gives us his insight on what’s becoming the global norm, and how it will soon be a staple of the Search strategies of Indian brands.

Meet AI, the new Guardian of Search

Search algorithms aren’t just about keywords anymore. Today, every single Google search goes through RankBrain; and it has only started learning. Machine-learning AI algorithms like RankBrain are great for Search because they will greatly improve the quality of results over time.

And if experts are to be believed, there is nothing you can do to ‘optimize’ your website for RankBrain.

Image source: zampedigallina.blogspot.in

Image source: zampedigallina.blogspot.in

Microsoft, Amazon, Apple etc. are developing similar AI capabilities that utilize user experience, big data, and machine learning to produce results that meet user requirements more accurately while learning and improving with every search.

To prepare for the age of AI, brands need to get the basics right:

  1. Create content that’s both informative and engaging for users;
  2. Keep in mind that small things like on-page SEO still make a big difference;
  3. Only legitimate editorial links will produce long-term results;
  4. Build for mobile responsiveness, speed, avg. time on site and overall UX; and
  5. Implement Schema to make content Google-friendly

You asked for it!

If there is one disruption you should keep an eye on, it’s Voice Search. It’s not just the technology itself but also the fact that it’s an entirely new way of looking at how humans will interact with technology in general. As digital assistants infiltrate every device we own, Voice Search is going to become more conversational and automatic making search results more personalized and relevant than we’ve known before.

As voice search becomes mainstream, it is critical for brands to –

  1. Be the first result as opposed to just being somewhere at the top
  2. Build content strategy using long-tail keywords and natural, everyday language
  3. Create location-specific content because voice search queries and results tend to be more location-specific

Local is Focal

Social media is the new filter sorting out and ranking nearby businesses. SEO is now about appealing to those around you and searching for your product. Advancements in Big Data analytics and burgeoning IOT features in devices have led to an explosion in customer and behavioural data. Marketers have the ability to use that information to target the right customer with the right message. From Google Business listings to new Search tools like GBoard, they are all focussed on prioritizing local search results.

Image source: idownloadblog.com

Image source: idownloadblog.com

The best ways for brands to conquer local search are:

  1. Claim your location on as many listing and review sites as quickly as possible;
  2. Use location-specific keywords including neighbourhood names or landmarks; and
  3. Try earning inbound links from local publications and blogs and positive reviews on social media.

AMP Up or Die

Mobile is king! But going mobile-first is much more than just having a responsive site. Users want speed and accuracy, not just something that looks nice on their phones. That’s why Google and others have been pushing the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Further, Mobile Apps have taken over browsers so Google has been indexing the content inside mobile applications (for 2+ years). Soon we’ll be able to see app content without installing the app.

Here’s what brands need to keep in mind about the future of mobile search:

  1. AMP is here to stay. Upgrade while it’s yet an unofficial ranking signal; or at least ensure your mobile site loads in less than 3 seconds;
  2. Experiment with bots that users can use to perform crucial tasks without leaving the app or website;
  3. Watch out for “micro-moments” to engage mobile search users in real time; and
  4. Invest in mobile optimized video content.

Search aka Social

Social Media and Search will become one. Twitter and Google already have a partnership that lets the latter index tweets from accounts with a large following. Google itself uses its Knowledge Graph to serve rich content based on search queries. An official partnership between Facebook and Google isn’t likely, but at the same time, third-party data extraction tools are expected to gain prominence. Ultimately, the web will align itself to users’ social presence and search preferences.

As the gap between search and social diminishes, brands will have to –

  1. Centralize their digital content and strategy on a mobile-first website;
  2. Adapt different social media optimization techniques and repurpose content for different platforms;
  3. Optimize social media strategy to get better quality leads on their website; and
  4. Keep in mind that social signals impact your keyword ranking indirectly, whether Google admits it or not.

No UX, no gain

Image source: SearchEngineLand.com

Image source: SearchEngineLand.com

UX may be a separate discipline, but it is the future of SEO. If a website isn’t mobile friendly, loads slowly, is complicated to navigate or has a poor visual appeal, then don’t expect repeat visitors where at least 80% of business revenue comes from. For brands to build a long-term sustainable online presence, UX that fulfils user expectations is going to be vital. Without it, your search rankings face a slow death.

To quickly check their UX score, brands can look into the following metrics:

  1. On-Page Time – The more relevant your content is to the user’s search intent, the longer they are expected to stay on the site or navigate it further.
  2. Bounce Rate – Keep this in check; when a disappointed user hits the Back button after landing on your site, it sends a bad signal to Google.
  3. Click-Through-Rate (CTR) – Ranking for industry keywords isn’t enough. Your titles, meta-titles etc. and overall content strategy should be persuasive to make users open your site.

We believe that its important for brands to start preparing for the new landscape, because it will be impossible to win the catch-up game once it becomes the definitive reality. It almost already is!

To find out what new things you can add to your search strategy to achieve better results today, contact us here.

Is SEO Going The Way Of The Dodo Or Is It More Like The Phoenix?

If you are using the internet to search for information then you will probably use a search engine, such as Google or Yahoo. The beauty of a search engine is that you can be as specific or vague about the information you Prasad Pillairequire and it will give you results. As a user this is very useful as it will give you hundreds of pages of potential sites. From a business point of view this is very bad. If, for example, you are running a small bicycle repair website, your website may be ranked 500th on a list. Most users only look at the first two or three pages of search results and you are probably on page 74.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is part of a set of tools grouped under the term Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM can help move your website up the page rankings, but an integral part of SEM is SEO and it is the future of this that we will be looking at here today.

There is talk that SEO is a dying methodology:

If you want to rank high on Google, build a good site and market it the best you know how. Just don’t expect SEO to be the answer to your traffic-related prayers because, increasingly, it won’t be.

But I would tend to disagree, the problem is that there are a lot of people out there who understand the principles of SEO but do not know how to deploy it in their website content. SEO can boost average content up the rankings by effective keyword density. But when people talk about Google being worried by users being ˜underwhelmed with their search results”, this is not Google acting in the best interest of a streamlined globally available knowledge base but Google trying to protect its self-image.

Old School SEO

To understand why this is happening, how this is happening and what we can do about it, we need to understand the origins of SEO. Early search engine algorithms indexed search results using a keyword principle. Going back to our previous example, in the early days of search engines your search for ‘bicycle repair’ would display webpages that have the word ‘bicycle’ and ‘repair’ in their webpage meta tags. Furthermore, it would rank the pages by the number of times those words appeared on that webpage.

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO

Like the hacker term, white hat means ethical. So a white hat search engine optimiser will populate their meta tags with enough keywords to give the page a decent ranking while still being true to the content.

Black Hat SEO

Inversely, a black hat optimiser will flood their meta tags and page with every keyword they can think of, even if it is unrelated to the theme of the site, in order to improve their rankings.

This is probably why people developed a bad taste for SEO. Because it is easy to manipulate, it has an underhanded hue about it.

Google

In 1998, Google appeared on the internet and was an instant success. Google is not a fan of having their search and indexing algorithms manipulated so employ other factors into their indexing. This countered some of the more aggressive SEO techniques and resulted in users having better access to more relevant content. Google also looks at links, the site map of the website, pictures and videos used etc. etc. Google also offer paid services to allow companies to advertise their site or push their site up the rankings.

The end of SEO?

With Google being the weapon of choice for more than half the web searches done, globally, and Google’s abhorrence to SEO, an opinion which they neatly double underlined in 2013, when they stopped publishing data on keyword popularity. After this, web marketing operators and analysts hinted that this may be the final nail in the coffin for keyword based optimisation. This, however, is simply not the case.

Content Is King

In the beginning, SEO was a way of increasing your page ranking by effective use of meta tags, and for a while this was good. Then Google threw a spanner in the works, introduced a whole new set of web marketing tools and began to beat SEO with the wet end.

Google’s defence is that users should be provided with quality content and not manipulated onto websites which are either poorly conceived but expertly marketed or purely exist for malicious purposes. So SEO needs to evolve, if Google wants content to be king, and let’s face it, if Google is God, then that is where SEO needs to go.

The SEO Phoenix

The current market for SEO related material is for short articles about specific content that has specific keywords in it, the same old SEO we know. But the focus has shifted from keyword stuffed titles and content to the production of actual articles. Instead of writing SEO off as extinct, we should be looking to the future.

Google has been pushing for this for a few years, that is why it surprised me when I came here in January to see that Etsy is using the “Search Engine Manipulation” model of SEO, which Google hates. That is why I am VERY Careful how I list, and title my items, I try to balance the two with leaning a bit more toward Google. (discussion board post: https://www.etsy.com/in-en/teams/7718/questions/discuss/14919048/page/2?post_id=232445881)

From the ashes of failed keyword stuffed articles comes an opportunity for SEO companies and writers to apply tried and tested SEO strategies to a client’s existing content. Keywords are always going to be used by search engines. Instead of employing black hat techniques like Etsy’s spamdexing to counter sophisticated algorithms, SEO needs to evolve into a highly specialised writing craft, a craft where informed creative writing, by quality writers who know how to research a topic, is used to enhance a website’s content and therefore page ranking. As long as the web, as we know it, exists, keywords will continue to be relevant. SEO isn’t going anywhere, it is us, the optimisers who need to adapt in our approach to SEO to make it work for both the companies that employ us and the search engines that scrutinise our content.

Does Your Website Link From Gambling & Porn Sites? Google’s Disavow Link Can Help

Disavow Links Tool: Removing Negative Back Links has become easier now!

Why are my links appearing on this gambling site? I haven’t put them there. Now, how to remove my links from this gambling site? Google is pointing this back link as a link from an untrusted source. How do I remove this from Google’s back link list? My site’s ranking has dropped because Google Penguin update penalized me for spammed back links. Now, what to do?

We had many such questions in the past (before the advent of the Penguin update).

Now, we have an answer for all the above questions. And, the answer is the ‘Disavow Tool’. This is a new tool offered by Google that make the webmaster’s life easy by equipping him to fight against negative linking.

Sometimes, we find negative back links to our website which we have not done or done intentionally to get top position in search. This happens when someone from our team unknowingly or competitors deliberately put our links on any negative sites like gambling, porn, link exchange or paid site or site downloading malware or virus. In such cases, Google can conduct manual check of your website’s back links and if found guilty, Google can penalize your website. This may result loss of your website ranking from search engines for which you have spent lot of money and time.

If your website is verified in Google webmaster, and if it finds any such links, then Google informs you via a message about the unnatural links to your website. Even after locating these links, your attempt to contact other webmasters to remove your links from their site is a futile exercise.

Here, the ‘Disavow Links Tool’ can help you to let Google crawler know that these are negative site links to your site and it need to ignore them in their algorithm for ranking your website.

How does it work?

  1. Sign up for Google Webmaster and verify your website in Google webmaster, if not yet done.
  2. Select your website in Google webmaster.
  3. In the left hand side click on option ‘Traffic’ and it will expand.
  4. Now, select ‘Links to your site’ option.
  5. Make a list of back link sites which are coming from a negative site or from a site you have not done and appearing suspicious.
  6. Your file format and its contents should look like:
    Verification on Google Webmaster - bcwebwise blog

Note:

  • Lines beginning with # are the comment lines and Google ignores them while reading.
  • Domain: represents that we want to disavow the links that are coming from the each pages of this domain.
  • We can also disavow links coming from any specific pages as shown in the case of spamdomain2.com.
  • Currently Google supports only one file per site so for new disavowal request any time in future just download the existing file update it and upload it again.
  • File size should not exceed 2 MB.7. Once you are done with your list of negative back links, click this URL: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main and the following screen appears:
    Disavow Links - bcwebwise blog8. Select your website and click on Disavow Links. The following screen appears with an important message:

Disavow Links - bcwebwise blog

Now, fighting against the negative links has become pretty easy. Thanks to Google.

For more information on Disavow Links visit:
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.in/2012/10/a-new-tool-to-disavow-links.html