Search Engine Optimization remains one of the most beneficial things you can do for your online marketing. Even with all the different ways of connecting and communicating that are available to us today, 93% of online experiences still start with a search engine.

However, if you’re using the same SEO strategy from five years ago, you may be losing ground. As the online world evolves, so do the signals and signs that Google and other search engines utilize to determine your website’s rankings.  So to help you stay up to date and on top of your game, here’s a rundown of what’s changed – and what hasn’t – with Search Engine Optimization.

Classic SEO Building Blocks Are Still Important

We don’t ever foresee a day when keyword targeting and backlinks are no longer relevant to SEO. These two components will always sit at the critical center of any optimization strategy. Let’s take a moment to refresh our brains about what these two terms actually mean.

What Is Keyword Targeting?

Keyword targeting is the process of writing rich, robust, and evergreen content for your website that includes the words and phrases you want to rank for.

Now, once upon a time, it was sufficient enough to just stuff your pages with your target keywords, no matter how awkward they might read to actual users. That’s not much the case anymore. While you certainly must include the keywords in all the right places (H1 tags, meta descriptions, page content),  Google’s algorithm is a lot more advanced than it used to be. It’s no longer just about content, but context.

These days, whenever you write a piece of content for your site, you’ll want to cover the topic in full utilizing plenty of related, contextual words and factual information to show Google that you’re a true expert on the matter. You’ll also want to consider the phrases people actually use to search for your product or service. This includes using colloquial terms, nicknames, abbreviations, etc.

Then, of course, there’s readability. Does your content read like it was written by an actual human or a keyword stuffing robot who’s obviously trying to rank? Google’s algorithms have gotten a lot smarter over the years, and they can tell when someone is trying to take the cheap route. Make sure your content is clear, concise, and reads well.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks are links on other sites that point back to your site or a particular piece of content. These are critically important because they indicate that your site is an authentic and relevant source of information. The more backlinks to your site, the more credibility you build with Google.

That said, building up backlinks is hard work that takes requires some serious dedication. The first thing you HAVE to do is ensure that you have strong, ranking content on your site already. This will make it easier for searchers to find you on Google, and, by extension, increase your chances of gaining a backlink.

The more aggressive strategy is to spend some time researching the sites you want to link to you, creating resourceful content that includes beneficial information for that site, and then contacting the site’s owners and asking for the link.

So for example, let’s pretend I run a Star Wars fan blog and I’m trying to build backlinks to increase my visibility. I might write a piece of content like “5 Easter Eggs You Missed In The Rise Of Skywalker Trailer” or “An In-Depth Review Of Comic Con’s Star Wars Panel” and then reach out to other Sci-Fi blogs, fan sites, etc. and ask them to consider using my content as a source of information on their site.

New Signs & Signals

As technology evolves, so do the signs and signals used to generate rankings. Aside from the things we’ve already discussed, here are some of the newer signals that are affecting where you landing in the search results.

Mobile First Indexing

This is a biggie. In 2015, Google announced that they would start prioritizing mobile-friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites. Then, in 2018, they started Mobile First Indexing, which is where the mobile version of your site is the first thing Google judges for your site’s indexing and ranking.

Why it’s a big deal: It’s not enough to simply have a mobile site. Google wants to make sure you’re optimizing on mobile just like you would on desktop. So if your mobile site is a pain to use, it could hurt your rankings.

Our advice: Make sure you’re keeping a check on mobile optimization. Take some time to run through your site on a mobile device to ensure that the UX is top notch

User Experience

Is your site easy to navigate? Does it have a fast load speed? Are your links in the right places? Do you have the relevant information? If you can’t answer yes to these questions, then your rankings could be suffering. These days, Google isn’t just looking at the keywords. They want to make sure your UX is on point, which makes perfect sense. The whole purpose of a search engine is to provide users with the resources they need to find answers, buy products, and schedule services.

Why it’s a big deal: It’s what people expect. If you walk into a brick and mortar store that’s dirty, unkempt, and hard to get around, you’d leave, right? The same goes for your website. We’re living in a hyper-digital area. These days, your website is not a part of your business, it IS your business. So treat it like you would your store or office.

Our advice: Take a little time and do a top to bottom assessment of your site. Get some co-workers to do the same. Check all links. Check your load speed. Make sure the content is written clearly and effectively. Have everyone make a list of any issues they find, and then address them. If you find you need a re-design, give us a call.

Voice Search

With the increasing popularity of Siri, Google Home, and Alexa, voice is becoming a critical player in SEO. The good news here is that if your site is already optimized for SEO, then you probably don’t have a ton of work to do. Overall, the biggest challenge will be grasping the difference between the way people speak their queries and the way they type them.

Why it’s a big deal: Voice is all over the place, and it’s only going to grow. So you’ve got to be thinking about the different ways you ranking from desktop to mobile to voice.

Our advice: Optimizing your site for voice is a whole other blog in itself. So for now, we encourage you to read Neil Patel’s piece on the subject. It provides some excellent insights and gives you a few simple tricks you can implement pretty quickly.

Brand Ranking

Brand ranking refers to how often your brand is mentioned across the web, as well as who is mentioning it. It’s basically a test to see how well known you are and what people are saying about you.

Why it’s a big deal: This admittedly an element that can be hard to control. However, it requires you to consider how your other marketing efforts, as well as your customer services chops, play into your search rankings.

Our advice: Set up some Google alerts with your brand name so you can keep track of how often you’re being mentioned across the web. When developing your marketing strategies, don’t just think about what will drive traffic and sales. Consider what you can do to keep people talking about you, even if they aren’t buying your product or service.

WideNet Consulting’s SEO Services

We hope you find something in this blog you can take and apply to your own business. But if you find your head spinning, or if you simply don’t have the time to manage SEO yourself, give us a call here at WideNet. We offer robust SEO packages that fit almost any marketing budget. But more importantly, our process works. Work with us and we will get you on the first page.