Search Engine Optimisation is an ever changing marketing strategy and because of this it can be very difficult to keep up on what works and what doesn't. Over the past year, we have discussed the basics of a good SEO strategy and how to improve your ranking in the organic search results. But, the question should be asked, what is the real future of SEO?
There is no doubt that it is getting harder and harder to rank on the first page of Google just by using SEO alone. This is because of a number of factors:
- Competition is getting tougher
- New technologies come onto the market
- How people search changes
- Google frequently updates it algorithms
- Google promotes Pay Per Click advertising on the first page
This means that businesses have to keep investing a lot of time and money to stay on top, and that doesn't always guarantee results. Should you continue to invest money into SEO strategies that may or may not work?
Many businesses have found that what used to be effective as an SEO strategy no longer works, and can actually be damaging to organic search engine results. For example, when Google introduced its "Panda" and "Penguin" algorithm updates some businesses overnight dropped off the first page. Why was this? These updates targeted sites with poorly written content and lots of 'unnatural' links.
What Google is definitely doing with its algorithm updates is to match search results with what users expect to find as relevant to the search phrase. Because of this, sites that have employed "deliberate" SEO manipulation have been (and will continue to be) targeted.
What Do We Know About the Future of SEO?
Although there are many uncertainties about the course SEO marketing strategies will take in the future, one thing is certain: websites that use 'deliberate', 'artificial', and 'separate' SEO strategies will fail.
Businesses should no longer just rely on SEO as a strategy to rank well and promote their products. Search Engine Optimisation should be viewed as one in a number of business promotion strategies.
What you need to do is establish your Unique Selling Proposition. What is this? Basically, it is what makes you stand out from your competitors. This will boost your business much more than "old-hat" SEO. To define your unique selling proposition, think about why your product or service is better than others' in your industry. Explain clearly how your business will solve a specific problem. Even if you don't have a unique product and are in a competitive market, a unique selling proposition will boost your business online.
So, in essence, you need to have a great website, you need to focus on customer service, you should definitely produce high-quality content, and have relevant links pointing to your site, but you must also know what sets you apart from your competition.
You Need to Understand Google
Before you become successful in promoting you business, you need to know how Google operates. The main goal of Google is to deliver search engine results that are directly related to the search phrase. They are trying to always look for ways to improve "user experience."
Like it or not, any SEO strategy that will work well in the future needs to take into consideration what Google does. But don't despair – Google is focused on user experience. So, as long as you always focus on that, you will continue to see your business do well online. How do we know this?
We already mentioned the 2 major algorithm updates that Google rolled out – "Panda" and "Penguin." Since then Google has continued to make minor updates, tweaking how the algorithms work. The main goal of these updates has been to make sure that users get what they want. So sites that contained high-quality content, were well structured, and had relevant backlinks actually benefited from these updates.
How to Protect Your Website From Google Algorithm Updates
To continue to rank well and safeguard your website from future Google updates, it's imperative that your website creates a good user experience. So, yes, SEO has a place in any website. But now, this should be viewed as the way to structure a site, rather than use it as a 'bolt on' to increase search engine rankings. You can ask yourself this question about your website: when I read the content on the website, does it engage me? Does the content naturally flow?
If you do this, then you will create a website that both your customers and Google will like. You will create a positive chain reaction:
- A great user experience leads to user satisfaction.
- This in turn creates a buzz, so people start sharing your content.
- Then more people link to your site.
- You then receive great user reviews.
- The profile of your business is raised.
- These positive indicators are noticed by Google and you start to rank better.
- You get even more visitors.
- You then have more users, having a great experience.
- This is what digital marketing should be.
Gaining the Edge With Brand Building
For your business to prosper and beat the competition in your industry, you need to think about brand building. Brand building is more than just a logo or a catchy tagline. Brand building encompasses the values that your company wants to offer its customers. It also builds trust with your customers. Brand building is all about quality, and in the end, quality always wins over quantity.
That was the problem with 'traditional SEO.' Its strategies were more concentrated on quantity. So, the more times a keyword was stuffed into a page, or the more backlinks you had (no matter where they were from) were the main factors in ranking well. Now search algorithms are much more complex and have been designed to identify 'high value' sites – ones that have a strong brand. The stronger you build your brand, the better your website will perform in the organic searches.
This doesn't mean to say that you can forget about ‘regular’ on-site and off-site optimisation techniques. The search engines can only crawl sites and index them if they have been properly designed. You need to have outbound links and internal links, backlinks from relevant authority sites, do keyword research and optimise pages – these are all very important factors. But, more importantly, your site needs to deliver on user experience.
Ask yourself: when a visitor comes to my site, what can they do there? If your answer is "read about my products" then you need to think about having more dynamic content there. Think about it, if your site is one of 5 sites offering the same product, what makes yours different? If there is nothing 'different' about your site, nothing of interest, then you should invest more time and resources to create a better user experience.
Here is one real-life example. The company is "The Adventure Company." They are a holiday company and they were one of the first businesses to integrate Google Earth into their website. This allowed visitors to see exactly where they were going on holiday. This meant that when users visited their site they were able to have a much more interactive experience than visiting other similar sites. The result was that other websites started linking to them – they benefited from 'natural links.' This allowed them to compete with much bigger players in the holiday industry. They even, for a while, ranked on page 1 for the search term 'Google Earth'. They saw their website receive much more traffic and their business increased.
Websites That Offer Value
Websites that offer value to its users will always do well, even when algorithm updates happen in the future. So, what is the value that your website can offer? Here are some 'value' items:
- Offer solutions to common problems. Show and demonstrate how your product will be of value to your customer.
- Use interactive features that show how the solution works.
- Explain and show how your product or service can save time.
- Have a video which shows the value a person gets from using your product.
- Have customer reviews on your site. This is valuable to convince new customers.
- Have testimonials from real people.
- Explain what your product does differently from your competitors'.
Mobile-friendly Websites Are a Must
Many are surprised to learn that now internet searches from mobile devices have overtaken those from a desktop or laptop. Because of this, Google has made updates to its algorithms and how takes into account websites that are optimised for mobile devices. This means that your website has to be designed for mobile, otherwise it will not show up when someone searches from a smartphone or tablet.
Make sure that your website incorporates a responsive design so that it works just as well on a smartphone as it does on a laptop.
The Real Future of SEO
The main way that your business will increase is through your website. If you focus on creating high-quality content and backlinks from relevant sources you will continue to rank well in the organic search engine results. You will continue to be visible to your existing customers and to new ones.
How should you invest for the future? If you had to choose between investing in a website, which is similar to your competitors' ones along with some SEO, or a fantastic market leading website – choose a fantastic website. When it is done right, the website will naturally incorporate the best and current SEO principles.
There can be no doubt about it; a website which is built on a strong brand with high-quality content will give you a clear competitive advantage.
It may now be necessary to rethink your approach to how you invest in your website. Use your website to build authority in your industry and gain the trust of your customers. That is much more powerful than an SEO campaign. Plan to give your website visitors a fantastic online experience and you will always be protected against future algorithm changes.