SEO is constantly evolving. Search engine algorithms update multiple times a year to emulate user behaviour more and more. We’ve seen Google updates like Hummingbird, Panda or Penguin have a major impact on digital marketing. Each update is inching closer to user behaviour indicators and moving away from keyword variations.
When it comes to on-page SEO, there are two trends that marketers should get familiar with today and start getting their websites ready for.
Before we dive into the two trends, there is one element of SEO that will never change: you need to understand how your audience searches and what they expect of search results.
User behaviour sits at the heart of search. This means you must understand your audience, what they care about, what problems they are trying to solve, what success looks like for them and what format they consume content in. For example, if your buyer persona is one with little time, eager to get to the point quickly a good search result should reflect this by utilising effective formatting and condensing copy. Consistently think about what experience your buyer persona(s) is expecting and you are halfway to achieving success.
Any search engine will endlessly follow links on the pages of your website until they are all indexed. What happens here is that quickly any relevance is lost as random topics and themes are linked through your navigation and blog / articles. Relevance is an important ranking factor and expressed by grouping content topics together.
Let’s have a look at a graphic to illustrate this:
*Image source: HubSpot
Here, we see the example of the busy HubSpot blog. It had a hierarchical approach and search engines were likely to understand it to the third level. Everything under this level (all the shapes) are unclear to search engines and what relevant topic to associate each blog post with. During indexing the search engine would move from triangle to circle to square. However, none of these shapes relate to each other on a topic level.
*Image source: HubSpot
In the second image we can see the content restructured into just two layers. The main URL and then topics (orange, red, green pink and yellow). This is simpler for search engines to understand.
Search engines want to see relevancy. This means they want to see how the content on your site relates to each other. Imagine you are selling fruit. One content pillar is “Apple” and linking to it are pages that describe different apple types, recipes, how to make Appletinis as well as your blog posts about apples. The next pillar is “Pear” etc. Search engines will understand that you are an “Apple” and a “Pear” expert as well as understanding that both of these sit under the larger topic of “Fruit” (aka your homepage). By providing expertise through great content and relevancy through connections, search engines will be more likely to show your content over other pages that cannot prove this level of expertise.
Internal links (Anchor Text) should be part of your existing on-page SEO strategy. Now consider how you can build internal links based on topics. Ensure you create pillar pages that define each topic and act as a hub.
A great way to start this work is by running a site audit and listing each page available on your website and sorting them by topic. This will help you identify your pillar pages and which content should link to each.
There is nothing worse on a website than looking at a great page, wanting to find out more about the topic and not knowing where to click. Stickiness refers to ensuring you keep visitors on your website.
If user behaviour is dictating our rank, then factors such as bounce rates, time spent on site, number of pages viewed etc become more important. These elements allow us to demonstrate that visitors are enjoying the experience we are providing and are happy with the referral they got from the search engine. In turn, if a search engine sees pogo-sticking (a user jumping from search result to page back to search result), they assume a bad experience and therefore reduce ranking.
A great tip here is to work with clear links and call-to-action buttons to always give people options to continue on their journey on your website. If appropriate, you can test engaging visitors with a chat functionality or even pop ups. The latter may have a bad reputation but you might be surprised at the results they can achieve for you.
Key to stickiness is understanding your buyer persona(s), what they are interested in and the journey that they undertake to arrive at a buying decision. Translating this into your website content and user experience (UX) will become more and more important in SEO.
While search engines want to move closer and closer to rewarding pages that offer great user experiences, they are not quite there yet. This is why keywords still matter and why we can’t forget about them just yet. Keep optimising your page titles, URLs, headers and images to your desired keywords.
Today, SEO is about getting the balance right between keyword application, content clusters and a sticky user experience.
Keeping your digital marketing skills up-to-date is an ongoing task as trends come and go, and audience habits change.
About the Author
Evelyn Wolf has built a 15-year marketing career focused on the digital space and has been an active part of the Irish Times Training Team since 2014.
Evelyn is Co-Founder and Inbound Marketing Strategist at BusinessBrew.io. Here she helps business grow through inbound marketing and GDPR solutions. When she’s not driving strategy, she rocks sailing boats.
We’ve been in the professional development and education business for over 25 years. As a subsidiary of The Irish Times we work with a broad range of people and organisations to deliver the highest quality training available. The people who’ve benefitted from our expertise span HR departments across business, government, large corporations and SME’s as well as individuals.Call us today / 01-4727101