Let’s face it—if you are a business owner in 2017, we’re not the first to tell you how important search engine optimization (SEO) is for your brand’s success. You already know that 80 percent of all web traffic begins with a search engine and that if your target audience can’t find you on Google, you may as well not have a website. You’ve probably even installed an SEO plugin to your WordPress site and filled out the search snippet metabox with keywords for every piece of content. If so, we’ve got some good news for you…and some bad news.
The good news: you have completed the first step of a smart SEO strategy!
The bad news: so has most of your competition.
Unfortunately, as SEO becomes more critical to increasing your company’s bottom line, it also becomes more mainstream among business owners. That means that in order to stay ahead, you must continually up your SEO game and stay abreast of the latest trends and technologies.
Where do you go from here? Start with these three advanced SEO tactics that your competition probably hasn’t caught wind of yet—and that will help you outrank them:
- Optimizing for Voice Search
Voice search has been gaining popularity ever since Siri found her way into consumers’ iPhones—and hearts—over five years ago. Now, with the ubiquity of virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, and improvements in technology, the uptick in voice search queries is increasing exponentially. Google estimated 20 percent of mobile queries were voice searches in 2016, and Comscore estimates 50 percent of all searches will come from voice commands by 2020.
This exponential growth cannot be ignored. Because consumers use voice search differently than typed search, SEO must be conducted with a different mindset. Especially for businesses that rely on local search traffic, this trend has important strategy implications. So how can you ensure that your business isn’t left behind when half the population is searching for you through a virtual assistant?
Start by considering and adjusting for the differences in voice searches and text input. Voice search, for example, is typically more conversational, and uses longer, sentence-based approaches that are often in question format. Voice search is also usually performed on mobile and is generally locally focused. Businesses can address the unique particulars of voice search by optimizing for question words and longer-tail keywords. That means going beyond regular keywords to add in common conversational phrases or sentences used when voice searching. Adding FAQ pages that cover these questions and statements can also be a helpful way to capture the long tail of voice search.
It’s also beneficial to use plenty of microdata, which sounds much more complicated than it is. When performing a voice search, users will often reference data points such as a business’s location, phone number, price, and so on. You can make this sort of information easily retrievable for digital assistants by using microdata—or informational code—that includes your address, contact information, directions, and any other pertinent information for which your target audience may be searching.
- HTTPS is the New HTTP
Security is a major consideration for businesses, and not just for organizations that deal with stereotypically sensitive information. Customers and clients feel more secure doing business with a company who has ticked the trusted third-party and encryption boxes. And Google feels the same way.
Back in 2014 Google noted that all communications should be secure by default, and began shifting the search landscape towards HTTPS, the secure version of the HTTP we’re all used to seeing at the beginning of a web address.
What’s the difference? HTTPS uses a secure protocol known as SSL to transfer data. SSL adds an important safety layer to tasks such as online transactions, verifications, and authorizations – all of which form part of our daily online activities.
While using HTTPS won’t give you a huge bump in search engine rankings, it will act as a tie-breaker for two otherwise equal sites. Additionally, 40 percent of Google’s page one organic search results feature an HTTPS website, suggesting that we may see a further push towards HTTPS in future. In other words, deciding whether or not to make the shift to HTTPS should be a no-brainer.
Implementing HTTPS is easy: you simply need to purchase and install an SSL certificate.
Once you have your certificate, it’s just a matter of copying and redirecting the relevant pages on your website to point to an HTTPS address. It’s a simple step to take in the name of security – and to avoid potentially being penalized by Google’s ever-changing algorithms.
- Paid Search is Still on the Money
Paid search is a competitive space, and Google continues to make tweaks to its search platform that allow for more granularity and control. This is great news for marketers and businesses who stay abreast of the latest updates, as a little knowledge can make all the difference in coming out ahead.
One way businesses can put their best foot forward is by using Google Campaign Experiments and Drafts. This “testing playground” allows you to A/B test ad copy, ad rotation, and bid strategies—giving you opportunities to optimize your campaign prior to its launch.
Another area in which paid search has become more sophisticated is audience targeting, which is now a precision science. Businesses can target their ads towards highly specific groups of people based upon demographics, characteristics, and browsing history. They can also build “negative” audiences by tailoring a campaign to weed out unwanted or off-target users – boosting ROI and reducing ad spend as a result. We have had great success, for example, with a client selling women’s health services. By tailoring our message differently for different age groups, and avoiding targeting men, we were able to ensure our ads were relevant to the audience and increase conversion rates significantly.
What’s more, this race towards granularity doesn’t have to be high effort. Tools like Google’s new Customer Match can be used to target an audience based on similarities to your business’s existing clients. Businesses can upload the Gmail addresses of their most valuable clients, and Google automatically displays ads to other Gmail users with similar profiles. Customer Match is currently available across Search, Shopping, YouTube, and Gmail.
Ready to rise the ranks?
Not too fast. It’s important to note that these tactics won’t replace your existing SEO strategy, but rather take it to the next level. With that in mind, make sure you have all of the basic SEO elements in place before you reach for the stars. If, after an analysis, you find that you have a solid foundation, these are only the next steps. The SEO landscape is ever-changing and staying competitive is an ongoing process. Keep up, and your bottom line will thank you.