FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.


Topic: Are 2015 SEO & Content Marketing Best Practices Still Best Practices for 2016?

This week Erin discusses the evolution of SEO and content marketing, the things that are changing, and how to make sure your practices are evolving to keep up.

Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics


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Erin: Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of FOUND Friday. I’m Erin O’Brien, GinzaMetrics COO. Today we’re going to talk about what has changed, if anything, in best practices from 2015 to 2016.


As the year gets underway, a lot of people are implementing new marketing plans, getting in to show results, and likely making some corrections or changes based on some initial data that they’re seeing. As we start to wade deeper into 2016, there’s a tendency to fall back on old habits or best practices from the previous year. We’re going to talk about which one of those or which of these are still helpful moving forward and some changes that may be occurring this year.


Starting out with Google. Of course, Google algorithm changes and growing participation in content marketing created some challenges in 2015 and will continue into this year and likely for the next several years. 2015 brought us the much-hyped mobilegeddon, quality updates, Panda changes, and later in the year we got RankBrain. Already in 2016 we got an unnamed update in early January that Google will only refer to as a core algorithm update with details remaining somewhat elusive.


What can you expect through the rest of this year? In short, more changes that will continue to affect how your content is ranking and found by your audience. For the most part, we’re looking at 2016 to be more evolutionary rather than revolutionary. While some things will probably change a little bit more significantly than others, most of the basic tenants of SEO and content marketing will remain intact – know your audience and your competitors, create original, relevant content and make sure that your website delivers a positive user experience on all devices and search engines.


Let’s talk a little bit about some things that will probably evolve further this coming year – looking at social media’s importance for search, the continued shift from desktop focus to mobile optimization and the growing significance of local SEO and marketing.


Starting out with social media, currently social signals and audience engagement with posts and content [2:27 inaudible] social channels helps brands rank higher but mostly it’s a channel to drive traffic to your site. Some things that are going to continue to change is social engines incorporating tweets, Google Plus shares, Facebook likes, etc. into certain search results. So having a social media presence will have an increased importance in overall brand visibility and will continue to grow in importance for the SEO community. While it’s still not a major factor across the board for SEO, they are continuing to grow inclusion in results and importance – a good area to keep an eye on.


Some best practices, obviously, keep an eye on your social media presence versus competition. Make sure that you know where your presence is, where your competitor’s presence is, and how that really might affect you versus them in rankings. Keep track of engagements industry-wide and know how your share of voice is growing or shrinking over time.


Say industry-wide, one of the things we talked about on last week’s episode is that competition is not necessarily just people who are competing product versus product or feature versus feature. It’s often just about traffic, as well. What we’re talking about when we’re talking about your industry is where are social conversations happening, how are people creating content and getting this engagement rolling that maybe not necessarily competitors in terms of product creation but maybe more just in terms of overall eyeballs and look at how you can leverage that.


Use target keywords in your posts to reinforce your relevancy around specific targeted topics and continue to work on building reviews online if that is something that your business needs not just Google but across a diverse set of review sites because they all affect your rankings in a similar way, not just Google reviews.


Now, for shift into mobile and the move from desktop-focused SEO to more like mobile optimization, while some folks are predicting that desktop SEO is no longer relevant, that’s not necessarily true especially for B2B marketers. Desktop engagement isn’t going away. It’s just yielding more of its time to some mobile counterparts.


A few best practices or things to look for this coming year is if you’re not already using responsive design, get with it. No better time than now.


You need to be using structured data. That provides search results with rich snippets that are helpful in limited screen space. You can go to to get more information on what that is if you’re not aware.


Optimize your mobile content for local search if your business has a local element. When we’re talking about local, a lot of people talk about local and mobile together, obviously there are a lot of ties there. We have a lot of content on the site about our local and mobile data and offerings and how we see some of those things pairing up. But essentially, once you’re making mobile content, you need to make sure that you’re actually optimizing to include local best practices in there.


Another thing, check up on your page speed because of hardware and connectivity issues. Page speed is really important for mobile users. Things like optimizing images, leveraging browser caching, gamer pop-ups, reducing redirects, etc. will all help your page speed, so pay attention there.


Continue to optimize your site for desktop findability but also be sure that you’re optimized for mobile, as well. So you need to make sure that good SEO recommendations are still good for mobile which is stuff like meta tags, URL length, keyword used, etc. Overall, good SEO solid best practices should be helping you site-wide especially if you’re using responsive.


Now as we move forward into local, which is obviously gaining some importance, reviews and local citations are continuingly more important. Make sure, again as we mentioned with mobile, when we’re talking about reviews, you really want to make sure that you’re encouraging people to do reviews. Even if it’s always necessarily a core function of your business, you want to make sure that you have some element of that present especially if you are a locally-based business or anything brick and mortar, obviously.


Keep an eye out for this changing review site structure and what the actual competition in review sites look like. Original things like Yelp and Foursquare and some things like that are continuing to update how they conduct reviews and what’s going on there, but there’s also additional competition in that space and those new sites are coming in. It’s probably a good place to keep an eye on.


Geographic-based searches. Interestingly, Google reports that “near me” searches are up four times more prevalent now than they were in 2011 and it even doubled over the last year. Once again showing that people are using these local-based searching functions, so make sure you’re getting out there, including things like neighborhood level relevance. I think a lot of this is specifically for anybody who tracks Foursquare and Swarm and what they’re doing. You can really find out a lot about what’s going on near you. Facebook is starting to do a lot more with this, as well. As all this grows in terms of social importance, it continues to be woven into local importance.


Another thing that I think will continue to grow and happen over 2016 is that local search is going to need to be accountable for its impact on the bottom line much the same way paid and social and SEO all are, as well. While a lot of people feel local is a layer on top of a lot of different things, there are going to be some parameters around the measurement of its efficacy in terms of your marketing mix. Keep an eye on how people are starting to measure this.


If you don’t have a way, set up internally at your organization. If you are starting to employ some local tactics, start thinking through a couple of different things that you might do in order to measure overall effectiveness of local marketing and local SEO efforts as a whole, but also individual locations if you are looking at different geographies or neighborhood-by-neighborhood stuff.


That’s one of the things that we’re working on addressing here at GinzaMetrics. When we released Local last year in terms of an offering, not only did we say, “We’re just going to include at all price points,” so there’s no additional charge to use it because we wanted everybody to have access to it. We wanted to give you ways to quickly at a glance both on a heat map view and in grid and table formats to look at your local performance at the keyword and content level to really understand how different places are performing in different things. I think that even at those levels, that’s a really good place to start showing how your efforts are contributing in terms of different things because at some point – and I’m thinking it will be this year – this will be something that executives and management are going to really want to know what they’re talking about allocating resource-wise, whether it’s time, money, new employees, new technologies, etc. are giving back to their organization.


There are a lot of things that aren’t going away, we mentioned in the very beginning, like really good content marketing best practices are still good SEO best practices, and really good SEO best practices are still good content marketing practices. Interestingly, Content Marketing Institute reported in their latest research that the effectiveness rate for B2B went down from 38% down to 30% from 2015 to starting into 2016. Joe Pulizzi who’s the founder of Content Marketing Institute attributes this failure to brands that either didn’t have a strategy or didn’t execute it well.


What’s interesting about that is we always talk about why creating a strategy is really important both at the organization level, at the individual department level, and at your own personal level. When you start to filter things down like this – we’ve done a bunch of episodes on how to create a good strategy and the fact that it doesn’t need to be this big, a 50-page document, it can be just be one single page. A lot of times that’s even better. Go back and check some of those older episodes where we talk about building that strategy.


As we’re talking about things like the growing importance of social and the proliferation of mobile and local elements into a lot of these SEO practices, there are not only external factors like algorithm changes and new technologies to contend with but there is the entire depth and breadth of your site that you need to ensure, I’ll say comply, but are really optimized for all these things. Not just the new content you create but older content as well, especially the evergreen stuff that’s still driving traffic to your site, as well as core content elements and things.


For folks who have a really large site portfolio and are contending with these growing changes, if you haven’t already started, now is a really good time to say, “We need to spend some time going back and making sure that everything is really well optimized.” A lot of times that’s not a very sexy thing to say. Inside the organization people will be like, “We really want to focus on creating new things. We don’t want to spend all of our time going back and messing around with old things.”


But what you can point to especially if you even just take a couple of weeks and work on some things is going back and really focusing first on those pieces of content that continue to be driving a lot of traffic to your site if you just prioritize recommendations by those particular pieces of content first. Just optimizing or improving those alone, if they haven’t been optimized for mobile, if you haven’t been really looking at social media elements, if you haven’t refreshed your SEO best practices in a little while, you’d be really surprised at how much traffic you can gain and optimize conversion rates just paying a little bit more attention there.


I would say in terms of 2015 to 2016, we’re looking at really more evolutionary than revolutionary unless of course search engines decide to surprise us, which is always their prerogative. But really go back and focus in on what we were talking about at the beginning of 2015 which is really solid SEO best practices, generating the content that is unique and relevant for your audience as well as focus in on that social, mobile, and local pieces as maybe newer additions into your search and content mix and be sure that you’re measuring all of those. Go back and check out the episodes on medium, method, and message, as well.


With that, we are done for this week. I hope everybody is having a great start to the year. We’ll catch you next week.

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