I was into my 20s when Google was launched. I was a young entrepreneur desperate to get any kind of leverage to catapult our travel start-up above the major tour operators. Google arrived at the perfect time for us. Our friends were coming out of a programming degree (Cheers H) and put us on the right track of how to get a small company immediate visibility and in front of a digitally naive world.
Getting to the top of Google in those days was pretty damn easy – nobody was doing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), and we were. Bang your address into a few directories, change your meta data, and you were outdoing the big boys.
Almost 20 years on, and I have been watching very closely, Google has become an awesome and intelligent beast. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is constantly evolving and digital business consultants like myself have to be on our toes. To get ahead in this new SEO world is to constantly evaluate, conduct research and perform tests so you can see what works with regard to your industry and audience and then act fast before the competition copies you. It is more than just guess work, it is analysis based on case studies, and a set of invisible rules, a digital jurisprudence. I had graduated in Law, and had experience in deciphering precedents.
Thanks to all our faithful clients, I, as Head of SEO at Relevance, have a large group of case studies I can test, analyse, report, and consult on, with our SEO team. We like to share, so here we can present THE most important SEO tools and strategies necessary for a winning SEO campaign in 2017. Obviously it is continually changing, but this is how we feel it stands today. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Content: Make Your Content Phenomenal, Purposeful, and Relevant
- Create genuinely useful content
- Well-researched and actionable
- Pay attention to the design and formatting
- Add great graphics & interactive design
- Amazing content will lead to backlinks and shares which is great for SEO
In 2017, companies really need to up their content game by creating genuinely useful and entertaining content. Make sure your guidance is well-researched and actionable. The design and formatting of content are becoming just as important as the information that it contains. By adding great graphics and a more interactive design, you’ll engage people, thereby generating more backlinks and higher share numbers on social media. At Relevance we have an in-house design team which can help us with the design bits which really make the difference.
Does your content have a purpose?
- Know your target audience
- Answer questions
- Research what other content works
- Revisit old content/relevances and refresh
- Google loves fresh content – make sure you work on it
Tailor your content to serve your marketing purposes. Look for articles and posts on Google that are already high-ranking and answer the same questions that they do, only make your content even better. Posts that are proving popular on social media and attracting backlinks are a good example of the direction you should go in with your content. Don’t forget to revisit old content to update it since Google loves refreshed content with new data.
Is your content relevant?
- Authority is measured according to perceived quality
- Topical depth is important – drill down and down and down
- The more specific the content is, the higher the web traffic
Some authorities say topical depth is more important than the number of backlinks accrued and Google rewards topical relevance above all. The more specific the content is, the higher is the web traffic. It’s even overtaking long-form content for organic growth as long as you keep the content relevant and publish more frequently.
On-Page SEO: Keywords – Understand Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
- Keywords are still important
- But don’t overuse keywords – mix it up
- Optimise for semantic keywords = synonyms
- Make sure the piece has context
- Use synonyms in your web pages and content – mix it up
Keywords are still important, but be careful not to overuse them since Google doesn’t like anything it considers to be spam. Search indexing and ranking are a lot smarter than they used to be and Google uses LSI to crawl your web page to find the most common words. These words are identified as keywords, but LSI also identifies patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts present in an unstructured collection of text. Businesses need to be more aware of this technological side of SEO and the way search engines are becoming more ‘human’ in their assessment of websites. This year, optimising for semantic language and understanding the context of keywords will be more important than optimising content for keywords themselves.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Influencer Marketing HOT for 2017
- Make some friends with a relevant following
- Speak to high authority media influencers
- Provide content they will like and share
- Get them to share your pages, content if possible
- Google is fine with this so no penalties
- Attach to somebody Influential in 2017
Influencer marketing is still huge since it’s the easiest way to get traffic without accidentally running afoul of Google penalties. Nothing beats a word of mouth recommendation, particularly from someone with a large following who seems inherently trustworthy. Influencer marketing opens up a new channel for brands to connect with consumers more directly and more organically. In fact, personal recommendations account for 20-50% of all purchase decisions. This is also called ‘barnacle SEO’ because you’re attaching yourself to someone or something influential. Branded content created in collaboration with high authority media influencers has been proven to seduce a target audience and leverage them for your own SEO purposes. However, you should continually measure which strategies provide the most benefit to refine your strategy.
Technical SEO: Being Technologically Up-to-date is Essential
- Technical SEO is a vital 1st step for your website
- It may be worth hiring a professional SEO company for this
- Don’t try this at home or in-house 🙁
- Search Engines analyse site and page structure
- Be mobile friendly
- Have a fast website – custom CMS is usually best
- Slim down unused modules (WordPress)
- Build AMP pages – 2017!!!!
- Make sure your site is secure – HTTPS
- Add social integration everywhere
- Hire a good technical SEO company to pre-plan & help build your website or get them to audit what you have already
The usability and speed of your website are extremely important. Most websites should be mobile friendly by now and Google has repeatedly warned businesses that it will penalise your site if it isn’t mobile optimised. In fact, on-page technical SEO is more important than ever now since search engines analyse the site and page structure just as much as its content. Having a technologically-optimised site should be the foundation your website is built on, particularly for highly competitive niches.
At Relevance, our technical SEO guys work hand-in-hand with website developers to make sure the website has a logical structure, keywords are planned out, and the code is fast.
It’s also essential that you use a high-quality content delivery network and check your website speed with GTmetrix. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are going to be huge this year and reward AMP with a lot of SERP leverage. Encryption and security is a hot topic in 2017 since Google has recently changed the way non-https sites are handled in Chrome – Google Chrome is starting to show a security warning if you don’t have HTTPS set up.
Social: Use Social Media to Promote Content Fast & Far
- Social media community building can increase content reach
- Get relevant influencers to share your content
- Use social advertising to promote your best content
- This helps brand mentions, shares, and backlinks
- Use social media to get a great SEO result in 2017
With tools like Buzzsumo, you can find authority social media accounts in your industry. If you make a connection with them by commenting on their content and complementing their brand, they’ll be more willing to share your content at a later date. Quality over quantity is the priority with this method of SEO marketing. If you target the right influencers, you can sometimes get a natural link from them when they write about your topic. The more people read your work, the higher your SERPs (Search Engine Positions) rankings will be.
This is pretty difficult and very time consuming, so you can always advertise your content to get the targeted reach you need. At Relevance we use, depending really on the client industry, Twitter to get to journalists and high authority media influencers, and other social media for B2C.
SEM: Have an Intelligent Backlink Strategy
- Backlinks are key
- Promote your content on relevant blogs/publications with links back to your site
- Hire a good press officer or press agency
- Create links with partners
- Make sure links are relevant and give you traffic
- Dare I say it – add your site to relevant/non-spam directories
- Link to suppliers and ask them to link back
- Deep link to other pages than just the home page
- Keep your anchor text natural
- Have a mix of follow and no-follow links
- Quality not quantity
- Backlinks are still a huge part of the Google Algo – be pro-active
Backlinks are the core of the Google Algorithm. Any company/website doing well in the SERPs will have a good selection of quality relevant backlinks that send referral traffic to the website where they spend quality time on the site which they find relevant to them. Anchor text is important, try to mix it up as best you can, and keep a natural balance. I have no problem with a follow or no-follow link or just a mention – all digital PR in 2017 is good SEO in my book. Quality not Quantity though.
Advertise on Google in 2017: Get Advertising Now or Lose out
- All new businesses will have to advertise to get immediate impact from their campaigns
- To get top positions in SERPs you need to advertise on Google
- Visibility in organic, paid, and local search leads to higher conversion rates
- SEO isn’t dead but Adwords is not either
- Use Google Adwords with all SEO Campaigns
Getting visibility for your business via SEO is a vital business objective in most cases. It is a long-term play, but can get you lots of relevant traffic, that usually has a high conversion rate. However, Google is making it harder for SEO rankings to appear above the fold (what you see on your computer/phone without scrolling) – the top 4 listings are ads, and then there is usually the Google Local Listings – then SEO results are after this. Luckily for us SEOs people do actually use Google for research – they do not just tap on the first listing and buy.
However, if you want to increase sales or get any immediate traction, you will have to advertise as you work on your SEO campaign and it will be advised to make sure the two campaigns are running side-by-side.
For all brand new businesses, you will definitely have to advertise, as most SEO campaigns only start taking effect after 3 months, and can even take up to 2 years to kick in for the most competitive keywords.
At Relevance we find conversion rate increases if you are in strong positions for Google Ads, Local Listings and Organic Search.
PR: Engage with your Community
- Offline is the new online 😉
- Offer training
- Do an event
- Get active in the community
- Support a charity, cause, local community for long-term benefits
Sometimes an offline personal involvement in your community, whether local or industry based, can work wonders for your online reputation. Instead of blowing your budget on link building, you could support a cause close to your industry, offer free training or organise an event. The business will get plenty of good links and mentions via the local media, social media and press releases.
SEO: Improve your Internal links
- Increase your contextual internal links
- Improve page authority
- Add breadcrumbs
- Help user navigation around the site
- Use your anchor text optimisation
- Lower your bounce rate
- Use an optimised internal linking strategy
Internal links are the perfect free way to improve your web page authority and lower your bounce rate by pulling your visitors deeper into your site. By linking to your own web pages, you get complete control over your anchor text and you can choose old pages with good authority from which to link from.
SEO – Focus on User Experience UX & Navigation
- Low Bounce Rates
- High Page Visits
- High Time Spent on Page
- Blinding Navigation
- Google will reward you if your users are happy – Be great at UX in 2017
This should be at the forefront of everything in SEO practice from content to technical SEO. If your visitor doesn’t have a good experience on your page they’ll bounce and won’t come and this, in turn, affects your search engine performance. The same applies to content; no matter how well-written a piece is or how great-looking an infographic is, if it doesn’t answer the visitor’s question or keep them engaged, your rankings will fall.
Get on the Map
- Get on the map
- Map listings beat organic listings
- Keep your data correct and the same for all listings
- Get reviews and citations
- Get on Google Maps, Google Business
Google Maps are much more important these days and are usually ahead of the organic listings SEO. You need to get on the map – it is easy enough. Once you are there, you will need to build solid citations (directory listings) and make sure all your details (names, address, phone number) are correct and all look the same. Then you will need reviews and it is probably wise to keep your listing & G+ up-to-date so you look fresh. Google advises 50% of people clicking on the map lead to in-store purchases!!!PR: Hire an SEO Agency with a PR department
- PR is the fuel of SEO
- get links back to your site from authoritative and relevant media
- Brand mentions, follow & no-follow are all OK
- Make sure to ask for a link back irrespective of the anchor text
- Hire an SEO company with PR
PR has, for a while now, been the fuel of SEO. Google measures websites on the brand mentions, and backlinks (dofollow or nofollow) from authoritative and relevant media. Your SEM is going to find this pretty difficult, so help them with a PR team who specialises in getting brands into large publications. And make sure you ask for a link back.
SEO: Measure, and Test
- Test by keyword by page
- Use Google Analytics
- Use great SEO software
- Hire an SEO Agency if you really don’t have enough time to commit
- Test you campaign Daily, Monthly in order to make strategy decisions
The Google Algorithm has over 200 Ranking factors; making little SEO changes will lead to changes in your positioning in the ß so you really need to have your finger on the pulse by monitoring little changes here and there. If you only have one site, it will be hard to make lots of different changes, even within 3 months, and know which changes led to improved or deteriorating visibility. However with a strong SEO site map in place you will be able to measure particular pages, and particular keywords assigned to those pages to get a better idea about how your campaign is working. There is some really great SEO software out there such as MOZ, and Searchmetrics which will really help. Google Analytics isn’t bad either 😉 If you don’t have the time to commit, you will definitely save money by hiring an SEO agency. It really depends how much time you have to commit, and I suppose the on-going know-how. Keep up with it as it changes every day.
This article is jam-packed with SEO strategy ideas, but really only touches the tip of the SEO iceberg. It gives you my best practice SEO for 2017. There will of course be differences in opinion, as the Google Algorithm is a unwritten rule, so everyone might have an opinion. If you have any questions about our SEO, are interested in getting advice from Relevance SEO consultants, or would like to organise a brainstorm with myself, please feel free to get in touch through my LinkedIn.