While it can often feel like Google and co. are tripping us up, it's important to remember they're just trying to make the SERPs (search engine result pages) more effective.
This does mean we all have to keep an eye on the latest algorithm changes to make sure our SEO efforts are in line with current search trends.
As a forward-thinking marketer wanting to rank higher in Google, where should you start?
Spotting the search trends
Right now, Google's biggest search trends favour inbound marketing strategies. In other words, marketing for people. It's no use trying to appease the search engines anymore; their concerns are for how helpful (read: engaging) and how user-friendly you make yourself for your visitors.
You can improve the quality of user experience by focusing on things like:
Are you solving the searcher's query?
Worrying less about keywords and more about including phrases and related language closely associated with your pillar page or cluster topic (see below)
Delivering rapid site speed
These will help you to rank higher on Google for your favoured keywords and topics. Google can literally see that people are spending time on your site and getting value from your content.
Google trends compare the relevancy of your topics
In 2019, Google is no longer looking at exact keywords but topic clusters. Linking related content together shows the search engines that you're writing with authority on a topic. Over time, you should start to see yourself ranking higher and higher for the topic covered. You're effectively weaving your content together to create a site architecture that's easy to navigate and crawl.
When it comes to this strategy, you'll end up dedicating a lot of your time to creating, distributing, and promoting content to your audiences, but if you’re looking to increase the number of leads that close, this is exactly what you need to be doing.
Ranking for topics, rather than keywords, means learning how to create topic clusters that boost your organic ranking. These topics are formed from comprehensive pillar pages and surrounding cluster content (or subtopics, as we like to call them), long-tail keywords directly relating to the main topic. HubSpot calls these topic clusters.
The growing importance of mobile search vs desktop search
Mobiles and social platforms are changing the game. In 2018, 52% of all worldwide online traffic was generated through mobile phones, up from 50% in the previous year.
Whether it's carried out on a smartphone, a tablet, or another handheld device, mobile search offers a different experience to desktop, further highlighting that quality needs to be the focus across your visitors' viewing preferences to help them engage with your business up quickly and easily.
Have you noticed the little ‘Trending’ section on Facebook? How does Facebook decide what has received enough traction to be featured here? Ultimately it has to be the quality of the links, and this means how useful they are considered.
Current SEO trends to watch
Maintaining easily crawled, accessible URLS. This is a fundamental one — Google needs to be able to crawl your pages quickly and easily
Research keywords around topics. We've explained this above. Google wants to see you are writing about a subject authoritatively and in-depth
Intent-matching. Again, we referenced this earlier. It means reviewing the SERPs to make sure Google is returning your kind of content for that keyword
Authority. Who is posting your content? You want both Google and the people engaging with your content to know they know what they're talking about.
Title tags and meta descriptions still matter. Google has been playing around with the lengths of these this year, so keep abreast of current best practices.
Employ related keywords. Don't just focus on the primary. Review Google's related search terms to see the kind of language and topics you should be using.
Page speed. Speed matters. Google and human visitors want a seamless, uninterrupted search experience. Quality isn't just the nature of the content.
SEO is responsible for bringing new customers to you. This doesn't just mean leads (what's the value in a non-qualified lead, really?) but the right prospects who are willing to at least consider your products and services. If you don’t think about your SEO then you are limiting the reach you could have with your products or services. And that means decreasing your potential ROMI.
Keyword research can be time-heavy, even if it doesn’t take long for an expert to implement their recommendations on-page. Optimising your website technically shouldn’t be brushed to the side; your website’s health will directly impact the success of every campaign it touches.
If your customers can’t find you, then your marketing strategy might need a review. Focus on your pages' quality. It makes life easier for search engines, social media platforms, and your actual readers to perceive (and rank) you as a reliable source. In turn, this makes it easier for you to generate leads that actually close. We don't need to tell you what this means for your bottom line.