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.

Why Brands Should Invest in Continuous SEO

Prasad Pillai

Prasad Pillai, Head – SEO, BC Web Wise

The internet is evolving through constant change like any other ecosystem. To succeed, businesses have to deploy well thought and proven strategies to retain or improve their standing vis-a-vis the competition. Day in and day out.

SEO is their primary tactic to deal with this change and stay ahead of competitors. After all, an easily searchable business gets higher traffic. So whether you are a well-known brand or a highly aggressive startup, continuous and focused SEO is an essential part of your marketing mix to tap the online consumer.

However, businesses often implement SEO in a mission critical way. One time scrutiny, painful microscopic adjustments to the website, investment in PPC or other forms of advertising are short term measures that are expensive and do nothing for a website’s search rank in the long run. And it takes just one update from Google to force another round of erratic changes to the website.

The problem with short term SEO it is that when a business stops investment in it, competitors can easily hijack the traffic it had acquired.  The true value of SEO is that it delivers an ongoing RoI over the long term.  It actually helps to get your website in the top search results, where most clicks go, and keep it there – a massive return on your modest investment into SEO.

At BC Web Wise, we work with a number of well known brands on their SEO strategy. Whether you are a digital marketer or an online business, these are some insights on future-focused SEO that can help you build an authoritative online presence.

Continuous SEO is a competitive tactic

SEO basically gets visitors to your site by improving your search rankings for certain keywords. This traffic comes at the expense of sites that were previously ranking for those keywords. So what happens when you stop investing in SEO? Well, your competitors can and will paint the internet in their own colours!

Strong social media presence

Maintaining an active social media presence is valuable for an SEO campaign because social media activity sends ranking signals to Google. But your SEO and social media strategies should go hand in hand. Creating business pages on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and daily follower engagement are some of the basic steps. Tailored content such as infographics or relevant guest blogs can act like magnets for researchers who will link to and reference your website in return.

Put your money where the mobile is

Google penalizes the search ranks of websites that are not optimized for mobile. Creating a smartphone app is one way to tailor the mobile experience for your visitors, but not necessarily the best way to drive mobile traffic to your site in the long term. Mobile optimization takes a look at site design, site structure, page speed, and more to make sure you’re not inadvertently turning mobile visitors away.

Quality Link Building

A network of relevant inbound & outbound links builds up your website’s authority. High quality link building activity starts with your content strategy.  It can drive a lot of organic traffic to your site, helping build brand awareness and credibility. Tight and strategic interlinking of pages within the site also leads to search engines favoring your site, while improving navigability.

Regular Page optimization

People should be able to easily find the information they are looking for on your website. To keep its website relevant, a business has to regularly optimize the basics such as site design, navigation, structure, and interlinking. After all, users tend to return to websites that are easier to use and informative.

Blog and benefit forever

Another great way to share fresh content is by maintaining a blog. Some businesses are too serious by nature to manage a generally interesting blog. But that’s not the end of the road. A blog in a Q&A format that answers FAQs for visitors or customers can work even better for your website than keyword optimizing.  Google analyzes search queries semantically, so when your customers search for answers to those questions, your site will be more likely to come up.

What works for Google, works for your customers

By following these strategies consistently you won’t ever have to worry about Penguin or Panda penalties or losing traffic with new Google updates, since you won’t be engaging in any questionable practices. A consistent SEO strategy improves search rankings because it puts customers first. And if your customers are happy, Google is happy.

Demand Transparency from SEO agency

All said and done, many businesses have no idea what their SEO agencies are doing to get them rankings. They don’t keep track because they think that SEO is complicated. But hopefully you realize now that the difference between good and bad SEO is as clear as black and white.

As a marketer you need to concentrate your efforts on the bigger picture, and demand to know if your agency is adhering to these SEO best practices.

If you are looking for a complete SEO solutions partner or an SEO audit of your website, please contact us here, or you can write to me directly with any questions at prasad.pillai@bcwebwise.com.

Top 13 Trends In Digital Marketing for 2013 – The CXO’s Guide

1. Watch Our For Tectonic Shifts In The Digital Media

Watch out for new technologies, platforms and tools, as well as advancements in that which already exists.

Will Facebook search replace Google in search dominance? Will WhatsApp, BBM, Skype, Facetime, etc. slowly but surely erode Facebook status updates, comments and likes given the way mobile users are using social networks? Will handheld devices suddenly topple traditional computing?

2. Watch Out For Facebook Changes

Facebook gave us a new brand / profile page, and also added the Timeline feature early last year. Expect more changes this year. Facebook is experimenting doing away with the thumbnail images that support the tabs such as photos, friends on individual profile pages.  Expect that this could happen to brand pages too. Facebook is also changing privacy settings for users. Will these changes affect how your brand is engaging with your customers? Keep a watch!

3. Mobile Marketing Will Be The In Thing

This year will be even more `mobile’ then 2012 with 900 million plus mobile phones out there. A Nielsen NM Incite study reveals that 46% of all social media users use their smartphones to access their favorite social networks and 16% use their tablets for the same.

In India, mobile phones are increasingly becoming the `smarter’ variant. Last reported there were 27 million smart phones in the country. What is interesting is the extensive usage of search, social media interactions and apps on mobile phones.

4. Visuals Will Be The Name of The Game

Visual messaging, visual engagement, visuals speak a thousand words and multiply your reach! It is actually just going back to basics. Why is photography/cinematography so critical in the success of a movie, or the making of an ad? The visuals are necessary and empower messaging more than just words can. Photos on Facebook generate 53 % more likes than regular posts. ‘Virals’ are not made, they `happen’.

5. Content Continues To Be King

It’s the 30-second ad that will run for the next few months v/s content everyday that engages, and aims at content excellence. As digital marketing blogger Jeff Bullas puts it: “Create online buzz and virality through liquid content. Content so contagious that it cannot be controlled.”

Plus content that’s hot out of the oven. Your brand, your company is doing things every day. Your content should consist of news, updates, or content from the brands universe that touches relevant and recognizable touch points with the consumer.

Keep the hot news ready to be served as it comes. On your website, in the social space, and all findable on search engines.

6. Breaking Digital Clutter Will Get Tougher

With more brands and corporate realizing the power of the web, they are all out there doing there SEO, SMO, Website updates, etc. etc. The digital clutter will only increase. Getting the audience to engage with you will not be easy. Getting them to click on your link will depend ultimately on what you have to offer. Refer point 5.

7. On-set of Real Time Marketing & Internal/External Communications

Yes, we know we can do real time media planning and buying. But what is going to be even more exciting is real time marketing. Buyers are engaging real time on company websites and social media with the sellers, and in every product segment. What’s more digital is becoming all pervasive. So it’s use is not just restricted to marketing any more but PR, sales, CRM, corporate communication, et al.

Brand pages on Facebook get posts that relate to purchase enquiries, and on another extreme even employees or hired help talking about low wages! CXOs have to say goodbye to advance campaign planning and traditional modes of interactions, and look at nimble-footed communication plans.

8. Importance of Off Page SEO Will Increase Thanks To Social Media

With increase in social linkages, sharing, fragmentation and spread of what is being said about your brand, your off page optimization has to be robust. Linking, monitoring, seeding content, targeting influencers and addressing the audience where they are will increasingly start counting for your Page Rank on search engines.

9. Contextual Content Marketing Will Emerge

Serving the right content in the right context of what your customer is seeking will become increasingly important. More and more `targeted marketing’ will be the name of the game.

10. Marketing Will Become More Human

A face to the voice that speaks will become increasingly important. Be it the profile of who is tweeting on behalf of your company, or the CEO’s blog or twitter account or the way you respond to your audience on twitter. A face adds credibility and the audience will increasingly look for this credibility in a highly competitive environment.

11. Opt-In Email Lists Can Give A Marketing Edge

Email is not out, email is in, we check it everyday. We click on offers from mailing lists, we read articles that interest us in the weekly news digests we subscribe to, we click on links forwarded to us via email. Smart marketers will focus on building these email lists and getting the consumer coming back for more regularly. The bigger and better your list, and better the targeting you do with it, the better your marketing returns.

12. Lead Generation Budgets Will Shift To Digital

As opposed to 2 per cent response rate in mass media marketing, digital media marketing can give 10 per cent or even higher responses. Topping this is the fact that you pay only for media that delivered, CPC (cost per click) deals are dominating digital media spends. What’s more you can control what you want to spend for the lead.

13. Device Agnostic & Device Independent

Be it through responsive design or sheer investment in content that can be served for multiple screens, marketers will realize the need to invest in either or. While compatibility across screens is any digital content designer’s dream, it will take a while. Not in 2013 at least.

But equally important, will be the need to go digital at new touch points, be it through mega-digital activations across outdoor media, at point of purchase, at events, malls or even in sub-way stations. Tesco increased their sales without increasing the number of stores by creating virtual stores at subways, considering that where the hard working Korean may actually consider shopping as they waited for their daily commute.

How the Marketer Can Prepare

Leaders of all types must have at least a high-level understanding of how social and digital technologies work. Even if your corporation is not pursuing the digital media, social and new technology – opportunities there are possibilities of unavoidable challenges and risks. Either posed by your end-consumer who has adopted these, or by the competition.

As Courtney Hunt, Founder of Social Media in organizations aptly posts in her post on Social & Digital Tech Trends : 9 Take-Aways For YOU: Being digital dinosaur is a luxury few people can afford.

What trends do you see emerging in the months ahead? We would love to hear. Please post your comments or mail us on info@bcwebwise.com