26 Apr SEO Insights – What Marketers Need to Know
Last week, I hunkered down at the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit hosted by Capitol Communicator and Potomac Tech Wire. As you might have seen from earlier posts, there were a few of us SpeakerBoxers covering many of the great sessions. Couldn’t make it? Be sure to take a look at the other sessions we blogged (here and here) and others that we covered on Twitter.
This post recaps the the “SEO In 2017: What Marketers Need to Know” panel, in which leading Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts in the DC area discussed the state of SEO. We all know that SEO is constantly changing, so how do brands stay up-to-date with what is going on to best optimize their campaigns? Let’s see what the experts had to say
Potomac Tech Wire’s Co-founder and Publisher, Paul Sherman moderated the panel and the speakers were:
- Brian Paterson, Co-founder, Go Fish Digital
- Steve Wanczyk, SVP, Search & Social Media, RepEquity
- Kurt Lambert, SEO Director, Silverback Strategies
The panel started off discussing the larger trends over the last six months.
- Search volatility was most mentioned repeatedly by the panelists. This means that SEO is constantly changing, to the point that Google is no longer naming their algorithm updates anymore. This constant change creates uncertainty and instability as brands try to implement effective marketing campaigns.
- Mobile first. Mobile continues to be a huge driver for brands to rethink their website strategy. It used to be that companies were encouraged to have a great desktop experience but optimize for mobile. Now, companies are being pushed to design for a mobile experience first.
- Machine learning is popping up in more conversations as everything moves to automate more. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be important for SEO to help evaluation and crawl websites for information.
What is important for user experience?
- Website speed continues to be important. Users are too impatient to wait for a website to load and anything longer than two to three seconds will cause a user to click off or away and go somewhere else for information. “The longer your site takes to load will hurt Google’s reputation [for search results] so your site ranking could end up lower on the page,” said Brian.
- Another piece of advice for enhanced user experience is to make sure important information is highlighted on your website and easily searchable. This will help people find your site faster when looking for information.
- Kurt noted that Google only wants to show high-quality results. As you build your website consider these three things: you want the actual build to be technically sound (development first), you want well-written content, and user experience (quick load, easy-to-navigate, well-linked) should be a priority.
As mentioned earlier, what should marketers know about a “mobile-first” experience?
- Historically, desktop and mobile sites have been optimized differently. Desktop sites are generally more text heavy while mobile experiences have less text. This has created different standards for SEO practices. As everything moves to a mobile-first environment, Google will scan all sites for the same criteria, thus all websites should optimize for a mobile-first experience.
How will a mobile-first experience affect organic SEO?
- “It doesn’t unless Google wants to get in trouble with the government,” said Steve. The regulations that have been set in place are the reason why people trust natural search results. Recently Google has started to find ways to push these natural results further down the page with things like “answer boxes” and “knowledge graphs.”
Let’s talk about answer boxes, what do they mean to marketers?
- “Answer boxes can give so much visibility to a company if they’re able to get their content inside,” said Brian. “The trick is not to give away the full answer, but just enough to encourage the user to click through to your website for the rest of the information.”
- Answer boxes are perfect for how-to’s, lists, bullets, etc. Marketers could rewrite the content on their website to more easily fit an answer box, therefore increasing their chance of getting into an answer box.
- “Answer boxes can be great for advocacy groups. They can extend their message and use the boxes for education and awareness of their cause,” said Steve.
- The challenges that answer boxes possess is 1. not getting your content inside and 2. the visibility is harder to measure because not everyone clicks through. It doesn’t mean the majority of the content isn’t seen though.
What’s your advice on paid versus organic campaigns?
- Paid ads are getting more real estate these days so there is some obvious need to budget for Adwords campaigns.
- SEO takes a good six months to start seeing results, so if you can run an Adwords campaign first, the data from the campaign will inform a better SEO strategy.
- Ads take up more real estate on mobile devices while desktop devices have the opportunity to show more organic results within the same view.
How do images or videos come into play with SEO?
- Images have become a key component for social. Google seems interested in how different social engagement is affecting search results. Therefore, images, video, and social engagement are important. Google wants to make sure the sites they are crawling and giving rank to are legit sites and not just some random person with a website. Google wants to see consistent engagement, otherwise, your site could incur a ranking penalty.
- Images go a long way to help click-through-rate (CTR) results.
- Steve noted, “YouTube is the second biggest search engine. People are constantly wanting to know how to optimize for YouTube. Meta tags, among other things, are very important.”
What should marketers know about measuring SEO?
- Metrics like impressions, CTR, ad performance, etc. are all important for measurement.
- Some brands have started moving towards a notion of only wanting to be synonymous with a handful of words rather than having lists of hundreds of words. This only works out well if your brand has enough money to battle it out in Adwords with the competition.
- “The frequency of tracking has changed. We used to track weekly and now we track daily,” said Brian.” We may have specific goals that we’re tracking against, but we need to pay attention to everything. We’re better able to spot trends (negative or positive) and develop a response plan more quickly.”
How important is content marketing for SEO?
- “Content marketing drives and fulfills your company’s message. SEO is about highlighting the most important keywords of that message to bring it to the audience that needs to see it,” said Kurt.
- “Sometimes the SEO budget is just about brand marketing (brand awareness). It’s less about the conversation – just to get your brand seen. The next step is the content marketing,” said Steve.
And lastly, what are some of your favorite tools to use for SEO?
I hope you all found this session as informative as I did. Make sure to check out some of the other recaps from the 2017 MAMSummit!