The future of SEO lies between content and technical strategies

Monday, 12 October 2020  |  Posted in: Most Recent, News  |  8min read

If you have a website, it is likely that you’ve heard how important SEO is a thousand times. There is no way around it though, it just is that important. Search engines like Google are just a part of modern life that we rarely think twice before going straight to them for news, entertainment and, of course, commerce.

In fact, 81% of people search online for a product or service as part of their background research, so if you are not optimised for discovery and ranking in search engines then you will not get found when it matters.

While almost every developer and digital marketer agrees that SEO activities are essential it can often be hard to define clearly what SEO work actually is. SEO was once a balance between making a website people could use and a website a search engine could find, but Google’s introduction of the Core Web Vitals Assessment is looking to close this gap entirely.

With Google performance now tied to user experience, there are new opportunities to optimise your website content being created that require your web development and content teams to work closer than ever to achieve the best possible optimisation results.

In this blog, we look at some emerging areas of SEO that require your content and technical experts to come together to achieve increased levels of performance and search optimisation


Optimise for voice search

The goal of SEO has traditionally been to get ranked in the top spot on the first page of Google. However, if you missed out on that coveted top spot, users could still find your organic listing further down the page or you could pay to occupy the coveted top locations. The world of voice and home assistants is changing all of this and optimising for voice search is becoming ever more important.

Voice search is growing rapidly due to its simplicity, speed and convenience. As users become more comfortable with voice search it is finding more and more applications too. We are using the hands-free nature of voice search to answer questions and provide information when we can’t (or shouldn’t be) using our phone, like when we are driving, cooking or even while in the bath. In fact, in 2016 Google announced that 1 in 5 queries worldwide were voice searches, by the end of 2020 that is expected to have grown to 50% of all queries being voice searches and 30% of all searches being performed without a screen present at all. This change is coming and it is coming fast.

Clearly the need to make sure your content is technically and structurally set up to allow it to be discovered in voice search is incredibly important, but it is more than that because the way we use voice search, compared to traditional search queries. When you type in a search query you are returned a page of results in a list, when you perform a voice search the top ranking response is read out loud, so if you are not top of the voice search results then you will likely not be returned to the user at all.

So how do you optimise content for voice search?

Optimising your website content for voice searches is a combination of content and technical strategies. The first step is to understand that people use voice search differently to text search. Voice searches are more likely to be questions such as, “where is the nearest coffee shop?” instead of, “coffee shops Adelaide”. Blogs, product and service descriptions need to be written in such a way as that a question and answer can be clearly defined by a search engine crawling your content.

While this will involve adding questions and answers to your content it also means that including information like location and opening hours prominently to your pages and metadata will also help search engines looking for simple data in response to common questions. This kind of information also becomes valuable when you consider questions like “where is the closest hairdresser?”, without available location data you will miss out on this kind of local search.

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Use schema markup for your structured data

For a long time simply having the content on your website was enough for it to be found and categorised by Google and other search engines but this approach is no longer enough. Search engines are constantly refining the way they select and order search results so that they can return better results to users. Content age, relevance, publisher history, backlinks and reputation all play a part in this algorithmic process so the easier you can make it for search engines to understand your content, the more likely they can serve up your content to the right users at the right time and drive them to your website.

Content producers need to work closely with your technical teams to include schema on your website content, especially if you want to automate as much of it as possible.

So what does schema look like, here is an example:

Screen capture of a basic schema for a company contact page

In this mocked up example we have a simple schema that clearly indicates to the search engine what website this information is from, the nominated contact phone number and when the page was last published, alongside some other helpful information such as page descriptions.

This is a very simple schema and could easily be expanded upon to provide even more information such as opening hours, physical locations and images that search engines can display as part of search results.

The power of schema and structured data is that it is a curated and managed set of categories that provide some consistency across the web and all the information it can display. Search engines rely on this consistency to make search better and more targeted to the users queries. Because your schema is often drawn from the webpage content or needs to be consistent across the entire website, it is a good idea for both the content and technical teams to be familiar with the full range of schema options and support each other in developing this metadata content.


Improve page loading speed

Page load speed is becoming more important for search engine optimisation every day, especially on mobile. The reason for heavy weighting on page speed comes from several years of data indicating that a lack of speed is the key reason users get frustrated on a website and eventually leave.

As a slow website experience is typically a poor one, and search engines want you to have good experiences on the pages that they recommend to users, it makes sense that they would use page speed as a signal (among many others) and avoid recommending slow websites with potentially bad user experiences.

Creating a fast website requires a combination of tactics from both content and technical teams. Technical teams can focus on hosting configurations, how the code of your website is packaged and delivered to the browser, what version of the code language is used and the order of how elements load on the page.

Content teams can also play their part in creating fast websites. Avoid writing inline code or styling where you can, make use of embedded resources such as YouTube videos instead of dumping them into the page and, most important of all, optimise your uploaded images. This is one of the most common things to address on websites when trying to improve page speed. Images that have a large file size (either with lots of image data or because the file is too big) can slow your website considerably as the file needs to load entirely to display properly. If this is a cosmetic element of your page you may be slowing down your entire experience for an image that a user might not even notice.

This is especially frustrating as there are many tools available to optimise images. Content teams can create images designed for websites directly from software such as Photoshop. Images can also be run through tools like TinyPNG which can compress your files before uploading them. There are even tools like Smush for WordPress that can perform post-upload compression of images plus a range of other modifications to reduce image sizes on your website and significantly speed up your page load.


The future of SEO is UEO – User Experience Optimisation

SEO is a vital component of any website and digital marketing strategy but the direction it is being driven in by companies like Google is that traditional SEO should come second to a better experience for your users. Stuffing your website full of keywords won’t make for a better voice search experience and will certainly not help when looking at future technologies like virtual and augmented reality. Instead, your content and technical teams need to work closely and bring in customer and user experience teams in order to better mould the website to user needs, knowing that SEO improvements will flow on as a result.

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