Search engine optimization (SEO) has been a cost-effective marketing strategy for nearly two decades, but the tactics necessary for SEO success seem to change every year. Google releases new updates and consumers jump on new technologies, forcing webmasters to change their strategies to keep up with the current landscape.
Now that we’re a few months into 2017, we’re starting to notice how the search landscape has changed since this time last year—and it’s time for your business to adapt if it wants to survive.
Techniques for Optimization in 2017
In addition to much of the baseline work you’ve already been doing (including onsite technical optimization and ongoing content production), you should shift your strategy in the following areas:
- Improve reader engagement. According to data pulled from multiple studies by Single Grain, there is a positive correlation between a page’s bounce rates and its rankings in the SERPs—even though Google has never formally announced bounce rates as a ranking factor. That suggests that user engagement, indirectly measured by bounce rates, could play a role in how your pages eventually perform. You can decrease your bounce rates by giving your readers more incentives to stay on a page (or at least within your site). Interlinking to other pages, providing more detailed content, and giving your users interactive features to engage with can help you in this area. Be sure to test your pages against each other too, so you can learn from the pages that perform best.
- Optimize posts for mobile readability. Readers are relying on mobile devices now more than ever, and their engagement with your content will depend on its readability. Google demands that websites are mobile optimized—and there’s a handy test to take if you’re unsure—but the vast majority of sites will pass Google’s minimum technical specifications. Instead of focusing on that passing grade, shift your attention to making your content as convenient and accessible to mobile users as possible. That includes breaking your article up into shorter sections and paragraphs, and writing shorter sentences that can be read quickly. It also means using a highly legible font and style, and including images and video whenever possible.
- Focus on “deep” content. According to a joint study by Moz and BuzzSumo, most content never earns a single link or share, but a small percentage of content ends up earning a disproportionately large sum of links and shares. This is in part due to the increasing “quality gap” in content; as more businesses gravitate toward content marketing, the market becomes flooded with mid- to low-quality content, and the value of this content sinks, while the value of high-quality content grows. Instead of investing in high volumes of decent content, invest your time and money into smaller volumes of the best content you can come up with. You’ll see a higher ROI over the long term.
- Spend more time on video. Thanks again to the mobile crowd (and increasing sophistication of video streaming platforms), videos are becoming more popular than ever. Demand is high and quality supply is relatively low, so this is a prime opportunity for your brand to get some extra visibility. The benefits are even more lucrative if you extend your search optimization efforts to your own YouTube channel. If you’re looking for some extra help optimizing your YouTube channel and videos, Buffer has an excellent guide.
- Limit your keyword-specific optimization. Keywords have been a major part of the SEO game since its inception—and make no mistake, they’re still important. However, they’ve declined in importance steadily since 2011, when the Panda update made its first move against the keyword-stuffers and content spammers of the internet. In 2017, it’s more dangerous than ever to stuff your content with designated keywords, so it’s best to avoid the temptation entirely by focusing on “topics” or themes as your keywords, so your verbiage is more natural, matching users’ search queries and avoiding Google’s spam filters.
Refining the Fundamentals
These new techniques aren’t the only actions you need to take to preserve your rankings, however. Most fundamentals that applied in 2016 still apply, and you’ll be lost without them—these include things like ensuring the proper indexation of your site, correcting site errors, earning backlinks, and creating regular content.
When you dedicate time to reevaluate your SEO priorities, spend some time addressing these fundamentals, and how you can better accomplish them. Without a proper foundation, the new tips and tricks won’t do you much good.