The Importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

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Our Matter Of Form Group SEO Strategist, Rupert Rowe, offers insight into the value of SEO and current trends.

Many people’s faces distort when the dreaded words ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ are uttered in a strategy meeting.

“It is no longer relevant”, and “spending a large amount on SEO is completely pointless” are some of the common retorts from people who are looking at evolving their marketing and driving up traffic to their site. However, they couldn’t be more wrong…

With 90% of organic traffic going to pages ranked on the first search results page, trivialise SEO at your peril!

SEO is something that should be sought after, enhanced and ultimately set on your digital mantlepiece in pride of place because — and contrary to popular opinion — it can be the difference between success and failure in an increasingly competitive digital landscape.

The manner in which search engines handle users’ search queries is constantly evolving and as such, if we want to get to or stay at the top of the rankings, our strategies must evolve with them.

In this article, I am going to highlight some of the trends we’ve seen in 2018 and the areas to look to in 2019.

2018 SEO Trends
1) FEATURED SNIPPETS/DATA MARKUP

The evolution of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is clear for all to see. Increasingly we are seeing traditional organic results being pushed further down the page and replaced with rich cards that bring more detail from your website to the results page.

This evolution has provided opportunity for SEOs to exploit in that when your site is optimised correctly you can potentially take up more real estate on the results pages. For instance, you might have a paid ad as the first result, below that some of your products can be displayed in rich cards and below that you can have your traditional organic result.

However, even if you optimise your website correctly, there is no guarantee that Google will scrape your structured data onto the SERP, it relies on a number of other factors, the most important being relevance to the query which — guess what — relies on SEO as well.

OUTLOOK: Click Through Rates on rich cards are significantly higher than the traditional results and so increasingly I expect we’ll see new styles of rich cards introduced to the top of the SERPs until eventually, they dominate the whole of the first page.

Read more: Read Google’s introduction to data markup


Mobile

2) MOBILE FIRST

“To the owner of https://diffusion.digital, mobile first indexing has been enabled for this address. This may mean that you see more traffic from Googlebot Smartphone. You may also see that snippets in Google search results are now generated from mobile versions of your content.”

Diffusion Digital are part of the Matter Of Form Group, offering a boutique web production studio, who specialise in beautifully crafted Shopify and WordPress websites. This is taken from an email we received from Google in early September 2018.

Google’s mobile-first intentions have been well known for some time and it is now clear that they are taking their mobile first strategy very seriously and, regardless of the industry or target market, websites will be judged on their mobile version first. For example, despite the fact that Diffusion Digital is a web development agency and over 90% of traffic comes from desktops, it will still be ranked on the mobile version of the site.

Google is helping publishers produce mobile-friendly content with projects such as Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and seeing as it is a Google funded project, their intentions on the direction they are taking should probably take it seriously. In their own words, “AMP is an open-source library that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously for users”.

OUTLOOK: Google aren’t bluffing with this one, mobile first is happening.

Read more: Search Engine Land on Mobile First


3) INTENT

Since Google rolled out Rank Brain in 2015 as part of its Hummingbird update, its machine-learning algorithm has been striving to better understand user intent so that it can match search queries with the most relevant content. As the years roll on, the accuracy of the algorithm is getting better and better making it harder to keep pages at the top of search results; optimising for keywords will become less relevant as it is the person as well as the keyword that Google is using to match its users with websites.

By analysing the past behaviour of the user, location and time of year, Google might display completely different results from one person to another.

Furthermore, user behaviour in general during different times of the year has an effect on the SERPs. For instance, for generic keywords over Christmas, Google will display more products in rich cards on the SERP and bring eCommerce stores to the top of the rankings because it knows that people are more inclined to buy during this time of the year.

As such, when forming a marketing strategy it is more important than ever to put the customer first and, by understanding their funnel through conversion, you can better structure, design and develop the content of a website to fit in with their journey.

OUTLOOK : As the algorithm evolves understanding user behaviour for SEOs will become increasingly important.

Read more: How to create a user intent SEO strategy


Planning a Website
4) SEO & UX – HELP OR HINDRANCE?

In the digital world, you often hear of derision between Search and UX departments with the latter claiming that SEO optimised pages are cumbersome, and the former expressing that design isn’t everything. The reality is that they rely on one another.

With Google now taking into account User Experience (UX) as a key factor when indexing, creating a slick experience is essential. However, you have to get the traffic there in the first place meaning a balance between UX and SEO must be struck.

Inexplicably, we still see businesses who are looking to build a new website, across all sectors and sizes, that are not involving SEO until after the website is complete and then start to question why they haven’t got much traffic. Whilst those bigger brands might have deep enough pockets to survive the drought, this can be catastrophic for smaller brands.

Page and site structure are some of the most important aspects of both UX and SEO and one of the reasons why both departments should be involved (and listened to!) at the beginning of a website build, and not after the fact when these areas are more tricky to change.

Take a site where product pages can be more than 3 clicks away from the homepage. In these cases, it is important from an SEO point of view to include breadcrumb navigation. Not only does this help the user know where they are on the site and move around it more easily (good for UX although generally speaking, they aren’t fans!), but it also helps the web crawlers in a similar manner. Designers also dislike breadcrumb menus so there could be a battle across several fronts here.

Another clear example of the importance of UX and SEO is that site speed is a defining factor in UX and SEO, with 40% of traffic bouncing from a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

OUTLOOK: Google will continue to place greater emphasis on UX, taking into account aspects like speed, time on page and bounce rate, amongst others.


5) VOICE SEARCH

Hey Siri! Alexa! Hey Google!

There is no doubt that these digital friends are increasingly making their way into our homes and whilst they are used for simple searches, they have, as yet, not gained as much traction as many had expected.

Currently, the vast majority of sales made over voice search are aimed at repeat buy products such as washing detergents or dog food – i.e. things that people buy on a monthly basis. However, for those looking for more unique, one-off products that could have many variants across different brands, it is harder to optimise for.

Econsultancy lay down their thoughts on voice search in this article from mid-2018. As suggested above there is room to optimise for voice however it is not critical yet.

OUTLOOK: Whilst this is certainly where we’re heading, we’re not there yet. That is not to say you shouldn’t start preparing for the voice search revolution by preparing versions of your pages with optimised voice search keywords.


Here at Matter Of Form, we deliver expert SEO strategy for our clients. A strong SEO strategy exponentially grows potential success, allowing Matter Of Form to deliver effective, craft orientated work reinforced by data-driven results.

If you’d like to discuss any of the above further, please get in touch: [email protected]


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Also published on Medium.