SEO continues to be a major focus for digital marketers because it’s so effective. In fact, 82 percent of them say SEO effectiveness is on the rise, with 42 percent of them saying its effectiveness is increasing significantly.
But one of the biggest obstacles for marketers is the constant state of change in the search engine world. SEO updates are regularly cropping up, making it hard to stay on top of your game.
We asked leading experts in the world of SEO and digital marketing to weigh in on what the biggest SEO changes have been recently, how these updates are impacting their SEO strategies, and how marketing professionals can stay in the know.
The Biggest SEO Changes In Recent Memory
Let's go through the top changes that experts think you should be aware of:
Voice Search and Featured Snippets
“Voice search has changed the way people search and create content. And featured snippets have dominated the top search in most search queries during the last two years.
"There are two featured snippets available on the article '5 Advantages of Account-Based Marketing' we published. In this article, we added short, concise conclusions so that they can be understood and easily spoken by mobile devices.
"Consider adding more related keyword phrases into your keyword list. In other words, because audiences ask questions in various ways and intentions, having various keyword phrases that are related to your topic makes your content more optimized than having a single keyword in the content.”
“The biggest changes I've seen within the last year or so is in the fleeting power of irrelevant backlinks. I've watched sites lose rank overnight that had previously adopted a quantity over quality approach to backlinks.
"I'm glad Google is taking this approach because the quantity can more easily be hacked and not provide relevant search results.”
"Loading times continue to be a significant factor in user experience. Google's PageSpeed insights tool has received a major overhaul, but has also made it more difficult to score highly.
"Mobile interstitials/pop-ups are increasingly penalized by Google. The user experience in viewing the main content of the webpage cannot be obstructed by interstitials that are hard to dismiss. It appears to me that those signals have been more influential in recent months."
“Google is now using the mobile version of your website for ranking and indexing. This does not mean it indexes mobile versions solely; both mobile and desktop versions are still indexed.
"But with your mobile version being the primary one for ranking, mobile-friendliness has never been more important.”
How Changes Impact SEO Strategy
With all these changes in search engines and algorithms, marketers need to know how to evolve their SEO strategies.
Here are some expert tips on what to do to keep your strategy up to par:
Answer Snippet Queries Directly
“Since the addition of featured snippets, we've tailored sections of content to match exact snippet queries to improve our chances of appearing above the rest in these cases.
"Using keyword research and the predicted questions from the snippets has allowed us to add relevant supporting content to our articles and improve our rankings by securing some featured snippets.”
Showcase Expertise Upfront
Kim says it's a good idea to highlight why you and your team are experts so readers understand your credibility.
“We have gone to great lengths to built out solid About pages, author profiles, and to showcase the qualifications (or everyday experience) of our contributors. The sites now do a better job explaining why a user should listen to us.
"Efforts have been made to increase the quality of the written and visual content to bolster professionalism and trust. For example, we have shifted to using stronger writers and product longer-form, more comprehensive content.”
Be Less Disruptive on Mobile
As Kim mentioned about Google rewarding websites that deliver great mobile experiences, he suggests using lead capturing techniques on mobile that don't hurt the visitor's experience.
"Interstitials and pop-ups are very effective for lead capture, but there must be a clear way for users to dismiss them. Google is said to demote sites with interstitials on mobile. The value of interstitials must be carefully balanced and monitored against any impact on rankings.
"When we suspect the interstitials are affecting the ranking, we can adjust the pop-up to appear after more than 10 seconds after pageload (the script rendering time of Googlebot), or by displaying the interstitial on the second page of the session."
Commit to Sustainable Processes
Additionally, Kim notes the importance of seeing the big picture of SEO efforts, instead of executing short-term, low value initiatives.
"The most important advice I can give is to build websites for success from the ground up. SEO is a long term investment, and it takes time to built trust, authority, and expertise.
"Focus on researching the needs of your users, and meeting those needs better than your competition. Avoid chasing short term gains from black/grey hat tactics, and instead build sustainable businesses by following best practices. Search algorithms will continue to evolve, but the mission of the search engines stays consistent."
Use Smart Topic Tagging
"One of the top changes I have seen in SEO in the past few years is the importance tagging topics on your site. This creates a more formal hierarchy of information structure on your site that will help Google better understand what is on your site from top to bottom. This will also strengthen your internal linking."
Create Mobile-Friendly Content
Underwood encourages marketers to cater their content format to how their users prefer it. In his case, that means breaker up long-form posts into more digestible pieces.
“Due to this evolution, we now put great emphasis on how users our interacting with our mobile app. In terms of content, we use Google Analytics to segment our top landing pages by traffic source, which allows us to see which of our previous content works best on mobile and what keywords are in demand.
"We found most mobile users interacted less with long-form content, so we broke it up into bite-sized chunks. This led to much more mobile user interaction with short-form content.”
Update Existing Content
"One big change is that we make a concentrated effort to make our website and client websites leaner. That means killing off thin, outdated content and consolidating similar content assets (to create one larger mother asset). In other words, we spend more time improving existing assets than creating new ones."
Be Consistent and Follow Through
"A valuable tip for marketers would be to follow their strategies completely. It is not enough to just have a strategy in place if you’re not able to follow through with it. By consistently following your strategies, you’ll start seeing results in no time."
Tips for Staying In the Loop On SEO
In the fast paced world of SEO, you can't afford to be left behind your competitors. This is why we wanted to know how experts stay informed on all things SEO.
Check out their tips:
In-Person Meetups and Workshops
Roger Maftean, the content marketing specialist at Zety, an online resume builder, highlights the value of meeting and talking with SEO experts in person.
"Attend SEO meetups and have SEO workshops every week to discuss articles, blog posts, and the sort, kind of like a reading group within your own agencies."
Read, Read, Read (Every Damn Day)
Speaking of reading groups, Kim encourages you to become an avid read of all things SEO.
"I spend 10 to 30 minutes daily reading on new developments to stay up to date. My preferred sources include Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal, but I also monitor chatter on social media and WebmasterWorld."
"The best way for marketing professionals and SEO experts to stay informed is to setup a feed aggregator that includes the most reputable industry sites and blogs. By doing this, you’re distilling professional commentary on all of the latest SEO developments and best practices at no cost (except time).
"I make it a point to read at least 20 minutes worth of industry information while eating lunch every day. When you find a great idea, set up a rough process, and test it to see if it’s worth scaling."
SEO Thought Leadership Alerts
Barker suggests using tools to stay up to date on algorithm changes.
"There are a handful of ways through which you can stay up-to-date with the latest happenings in the world of SEO.
Underwood frequents industry blogs, but also stays informed by signing up for alerts.
“We keep up with SEO changes and trends by paying close attention to trusted blogs such as Search Engine Land and Crazy Egg.
"We also set Google Alerts. Just enter your keywords into the Alerts Bar (e.g., SEO trends), and you will receive emails containing a list of new articles based around your keywords. We find these two techniques sufficient for keeping our fingers on the pulse.”
Get to Testing
While reading frequently is important, you have to take action, as Gotch advises.
"The only way to truly stay ahead of the curve is to constantly test. By the time you hear about a new strategy' or some type of news, it's too late."
You can listen to podcasts, subscribe to blogs and read widely, but your knowledge isn't enough to drive results. Study the SEO updates, then start taking action.