All posts by Jim Yu

5 massive SEO and content shifts you need to master right now

What can today's industry shifts tell us about the future of SEO and content marketing? Columnist Jim Yu discusses some current trends and their implications. The post 5 massive SEO and content shifts you need to master right now appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

International SEO: 5 ways to scale performance

The digital revolution has truly become a global phenomenon.

In the European Union, Internet penetration reaches over 80 percent, with some countries reaching well above 90 percent. In China, there are 731 million internet users, representing only 53 percent of the population —  leaving plenty of room for growth.

The Internet offers brands an unprecedented way to reach their customers across borders and regardless of language or cultural barriers. Reaching different populations requires an understanding of what people want in these different countries and then producing content to meet these needs.

It’s not a matter of simply translating content into different languages, but of applying basic SEO principles of relevancy and localization on a global scale — while also ensuring technical SEO content is delivered in the correct language to the appropriate population.

As you get started with your international SEO strategy, here are five ways you can scale your practices to maximize your potential.

Understand demand variations from region to region

When completing a global search, you will find that even within Google, content types and SERP layouts will vary from country to country. For example, a particular keyword might trigger a Quick Answer in one country, but in another it will not. In each region, Google models its SERPs based upon local trends and interests to provide an optimal user experience.

Not only will content and SERP layouts change, but so will keywords and traffic rates. Keywords cannot directly translate from one language to another — you must take into account cultural interests, population, slang, and local vocabulary.

Different regions have different expectations from brands within the same industry in terms of what they want to see before they make a purchase decision.

As you develop an international search strategy, you must understand that ranking well for a particular term in one country does not mean ranking well for related terms in another. You must optimize locally and build content and user experience precisely for that local audience. Before taking any steps toward building an international search strategy, you must understand keyword demand and traffic within that country.

Build a global framework for your international SEO

As you create an international search strategy, you’ll find that incorporating technical aspects of SEO will be necessary. Primarily, you will need to employ hreflang tags.

A hreflang tag is a piece of code that helps Google understand the intended language and country for your content. This will ensure your content is displayed in the right region. For example, a Spanish language site written for an audience in Argentina will not provide the optimal user experience for those in Spain because there are differences between the two countries in the vocabulary used, even though both speak Spanish.

The hreflang tag helps to ensure that the consumer audience sees the content that has been written specifically for them to provide the most relevant and helpful experience.

The tags also reduce the threat of duplicate content, because they inform Google that your content has been written for different audiences. Your content for an audience in the United States might overlap with content written for audiences in the UK, therefore, the hreflang tag is necessary to reduce the threat of duplicate content.

There are three main strategies to ensure content is correctly marked with the hreflang tag.

  1. Place the tag in HTTP Header and ensure it is present on every page.
  2. Place the tag in the site map.
  3. Mark up the page itself.

As you begin to mark up content, it is important to use the ISO 639-1 format for all languages, and restrict the size of all site maps to be no larger than 50 mg or 10,000 URLs. If yours will be larger, it is possible to split the map to stay within these guidelines.

Localize the content you create

Once you understand how to create the framework for your global audience, you must also create content for the region-specific site. Recognize that you do not want to simply translate content for one site word-for-word into another language.

The content itself should be localized so that it appeals to the audience within the new region. This means creating content to reflect local search trends and interests and performing keyword research specific to each country. You also want to incorporate local vocabulary and slang, and work with native speakers to ensure your content resonates with those reading it.

If you have multiple locations for a particular business, make sure you implement separate landing pages for each one. Be sure to create content for different landing pages that reflects the region, such as incorporating local landmarks, pastimes, and interests to boost the appearance of each landing page in the SERPs.

Unify differing strategies

For an effective global strategy, you must bring together your global, local, and mobile optimization strategies. Rank countries in order of where you are most likely find customers. Use these rankings to help you identify priorities. Use your global framework to ensure search engines understand where to display your content to maximize your relevance to the intended audience.

Your local and hyperlocal strategies will then guide your content creation process. With local keyword research and by working with a native speaker to identify regional dialects and vocabulary, you can then produce content that appeals to the local audience.

Finally, make sure your content is available for users on mobile devices. Globally, mobile now outpaces desktop, and in some regions, it represents a large segment of the population.

For example, more than 95 percent of the Chinese internet-using population also uses mobile devices. Brands that want to succeed need to ensure that their content is ready for the on-the-go user. This includes responsive design, creating content for the “I-want-to-go” micro moment, and ensuring all web pages are mobile-friendly.

Measure your results

As with all SEO strategies, expanding globally requires you to take careful measurements of your progress. You can use the information from your metrics to see where you still need to improve and build a more effective international SEO strategy.

  1. Take measurements of your presence and ranking in different countries before, during, and after you implement a concrete global strategy. This will allow you to clearly see your progress throughout and narrow down potential areas for improvement.
  1. Track your page rankings to assure pages rank correctly in each country. Errors with your hreflang tags and keyword rankings, such as ranking a term common in the US in the UK, can reduce your relevancy to the local consumer base, ultimately hurting your rankings and ability to engage prospects and leads.
  1. Measure success and impact of alternate digital channels, such as the Twitter account for a particular country.
  1. Consider the potential for PPC when expanding into new markets. When you begin your international SEO efforts, it may take time to gain high rankings for your site. Using PPC can help you gain traction in a new territory. Measure your success with these efforts to better understand search behavior and conversion rates in new territories.

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and the importance of digital marketing spreads throughout the globe, brands looking to grow their organizations must understand how to engage audiences beyond their native borders.

There is more to building an international website than simply translating content, and these tips should help you move in the right direction. Incorporating global SEO should be an important addition in the toolbox of any marketer to help them improve marketing to international customers.

 

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform BrightEdge. On 8th June at Share London leading global brands will be sharing insights on how to build global SEO campaigns. You can register here at Share17.

rich-result-evolution-1024x576.png

Top tips on voice search: Artificial Intelligence, location and SEO

By 2020 it is projected there will be nearly 21 billion internet-connected devices, or “things” in the world.

The explosive ubiquity of this mobile-connected technology has led people to depend on these devices more regularly, with 94 percent of smartphone users claiming that they carry their phones with them frequently and 82 percent reporting that they never, or rarely, turn their phones off.

These numbers fall in line with a trend that is longer-standing, with Morgan Stanley reporting as early as 2011 that 91 percent of mobile users have some kind of mobile device within arm’s reach 100 percent of the time.

Corresponding with this increase in mobile device usage is the rise of what is called “voice search,” as well as the increasing prevalence of devices that contain “personal assistant” software like Alexa and Siri. People have become increasingly accustomed to the idea of speaking directly with computer devices and accessing information on the internet wherever and whenever they might need it.

Naturally, like mobile usage in general, these emergent technologies have begun to influence search, and the impact will likely become even more apparent as usage grows.

Much in the way mobile devices have disrupted search by bringing on-the-go, local queries and results into the equation, voice search is introducing new methods of query and different results-experiences for users. Now, when a person activates voice search, particularly on personal assistant devices, most personal assistant technology will only deliver what is considered the best answer, essentially reducing the SERP to one result.

That means that brands either occupy the first position, or, as far as voice search is concerned, they do not receive any attention at all.

Of course, the single-result SERP isn’t uniformly true for voice search. For voice-activated technologies connected to visual displays like smartphones and laptops, there is a greater possibility for more results. Even so, brands still need to remain focused on appearing in the top results.

When someone uses voice search because they are on-the-go or they need an immediate answer, they don’t intend to scroll through pages. Rather, they’re looking for Google rich answers, such as a Quick Answer (which provides a high-quality, immediate answer to a query), Rich Card (information-rich content previews), or other top-featured results.

Google’s new Rich Cards

Over the past few years, we have seen the transformative impact of mobile on search and consumer behavior, including the shift towards the mobile-first algorithm. Voice search is the next major trend that brands will need to focus on to ensure they remain competitive.

The more we understand about voice search and personal assistant devices, the easier it will be to optimize for them and ensure that your brand is represented across devices.

The role of personal assistants

As devices with artificially intelligent personal assistance software have become increasingly mainstream, so too has the use of voice search.

According to Google’s Gary Illyes, the number of voice queries in 2015 doubled from the number in 2014. Developers are now beginning to understand there are particular types of search queries people are more fond of using voice for, rather than text. For example “when is my meeting?” Users are 30 times more likely to use voice for these types of queries, rather than text.

These personal assistants, which have been put forth by several different brands, have empowered customers to remain even more connected to the internet at all times, even when engaging in hands-on activities like cooking or driving. Customers can ask about the cook time for chicken, for example, while in the middle of preparing the meat without having to remove themselves from their original task.

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report looked at the reasons why customers use voice search, as well as which device settings are the most popular. The report indicated that the usefulness of voice search when a user’s hands or vision were otherwise occupied was the top reason that people enjoyed the technology, followed by a desire for faster results and difficulty typing on certain devices.

Where do users access voice search? It turns out that, more often than not, consumers are opting to use voice-activated devices is at home, followed by the car and on-the-go.

These personal assistants, along with voice search in general, are creating an increasingly connected world where customers expect search to be ever-present and capable of addressing their needs immediately.

Top tips on voice search: Artificial Intelligence, location and SEO

How Artificial Intelligence powers voice search

Artificial intelligence powers personal assistance capabilities for mobile users. AI helps voice search and the associated algorithms to better understand and account for user intent. This intelligence, using semantics, search history, user proclivities and other factors, is able to process and understand the likely context of queries and provide results accordingly.

Natural language triggers, such as “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how,” for example, make it easier for AI to understand the user’s place on the customer journey and the likely goal of the search. Voice-activated devices can then direct users to where they most likely want to be on the web.

AI is essentially able to sift through voice search queries and identify the most important information, as well as the understand the intent regardless of an array of speech errors. For example, a query that changes direction mid-sentence, such as “How was the… what was the score to the White Sox game last night?” will be correctly answered. This enhances the conversational capabilities of the voice search, understanding the reason behind a query even if it is not asked in a precise way.

Voice search in practice

Voice search makes it even easier for customers to ask hyperlocal queries, which is significant in the context of a mobile-rich environment. Consider how users execute search queries differently when speaking to mobile devices rather than exploring the web via a desktop computer.

Voice searches tend to contain slightly different words, such as “close” or “nearby”, which are not commonly used on desktop computers. Why? Because people tend to use mobile devices to access personal assistance software, and mobile devices are most often employed to find businesses or other locations while on-the-go. The aforementioned language triggers, “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why,” are also common, setting the context for the query and what the user likely wants to find.

These queries are also most likely to contain longtail keywords, conversational phrasing, and complete sentences. All of these factors impact how brands should optimize their content to maximize its appearance in voice search.

Voice searches have also become increasingly complex. For example, users might ask, “Find a French restaurant near me” and then follow up with, “Call the first one.” The voice search algorithm is able to interpret the second query as related to the first and act appropriately. The ability of the voice search algorithm to understand the related context of these queries enhances user experiences and maintains the conversational tone.

Voice search and local search: How the SEO marketer can succeed

Knowing that voice search is an emergent technology that will impact marketing at large is one thing. Understanding how to take advantage of that fact is another. For that reason, marketers should develop an array of best practices to ensure success in the wake of this incoming trend. Here are some tips to get you started:

Tip 1. Use keyword and intent analysis to better understand the context of the queries. For marketers to be able to accurately create and optimize content for voice search, they need to know the replies that users expect when they make a particular voice search query. Then, tailor the content to meet the needs of the users.

Remember to consider synonyms and alternate means of phrasing the same query, such as “How do I get to the store?” versus “Give me directions to the store.”

Tip 2. Incorporate important location keywords into the content that could impact voice search. For example, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, or Golden Gate Park might all be landmarks that people use to find a suitable restaurant in San Francisco. Incorporating these terms into your content will boost your hyperlocal presence and make it easier for you to rank for voice search.

Top tips on voice search: Artificial Intelligence, location and SEO

Tip 3. Use markup to ensure that your content is ready to be displayed by Google rich results. Rich answer boxes, such as Google Quick Answers and the Local Three Pack, play a big role in providing rapid answers to user queries on-the-go. Making sure that all your content is marked up with schema will help ensure that your content is prepared to be displayed in any rich boxes that become available.

Tip 4. Make sure that each physical business location has its own site and that each site is individually optimized. This means you need to do more than just translate keywords to other languages or optimize all sites for the same terms. You need to optimize each site for the context and desires of their specific targeted audience.

Learn what interests customers in that particular area through targeted keyword and intent research and make sure that each site is ready to compete within its own local sector.

Tip 5. Since a large part of succeeding with voice search is having a strong local presence, paid search and organic search teams can work together to maximize the brand’s presence. Research valuable keywords for the organization, intent, and how the brand ranks.

Identifying the opportunities where having a paid ad would be the most beneficial and where organic search will be able to establish the brand can help organizations maximize their resources.

Tip 6. Do not neglect your apps. Remember that apps dominate a significant portion of the mobile experience. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of mobile minutes are spent on apps. Your data from your research about local search and natural language voice search will help you construct your app to maximize the user experience.

Use deep linking within your app to ensure that customers who engage with you through voice search are able to find the content that originally interested them.

Top tips on voice search: Artificial Intelligence, location and SEO

Source: Smart Insights

Voice search continues to become a dominant force in the world of digital marketing. Businesses need to be prepared to respond and keep their brands recognizable as people become more accustomed to immediate answers wherever they might be.

SEO & intelligent content: Discovery, connection and improved performance

Jim Yu explains how search data can be used to better understand your customers, allowing you to create targeted, "intelligent" content that will really move the needle. The post SEO & intelligent content: Discovery, connection and improved performance appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

3 steps to overcoming site issues that impact performance

Consumers and search engines alike have high expectations for websites, so unchecked problems and errors can have a big impact on SEO and content performance. Columnist Jim Yu discusses how to find and address these issues. The post 3 steps to overcoming site issues that impact performance...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Optimization at the intersection of search, content, social, mobile and local in 2017

The digital environment is rapidly shifting. There are over a billion websites online, and customers have countless brands to choose from when seeking solutions to their needs.

Consumer behavior has rapidly matured with the growth of the online world. Customers access the internet through a variety of different platforms and channels. Two thirds of shoppers report using more than one channel when deciding to make a purchase.

At the same time, customers have also begun to abandon a traditional buyer’s journey. They now interact with brands through a series of high-intent touch points across multiple devices. Customers now guide the relationship, and brands need to be there to serve them.

Search engines responded to this shift by evolving the query algorithm to better understand intent and mold their search engine results pages (SERPs) and provide fast, convenient answers for users.

To succeed in this modern digital ecosystem, brands must do the same. They must understand how to develop content that accurately reaches the target audience based upon concrete goals.

Not only is understanding cross-channel trends within marketing key to reaching customers, but it’s also a key ingredient for brands to achieve greater ROI. Nearly 3/4 of marketers employing cross-channel methods report that these interactions result in ‘major’ impacts to the number of site conversions.

More than half also say that cross-channel marketing helps them improve their retention, and increases the likelihood of customers becoming brand advocates. Customers who arrive at your brand through cross-channel research also carry a 30 percent higher lifetime value. So organizations that go through the extra effort to create the cross-channel atmosphere will see value from their decisions.

Opportunities at the intersection of channels

For the modern marketer, the opportunity for brand success lies at the intersection between search, social, content, mobile and local. SEO is the core driver as it helps ensure material is easy to find online.

Social is then your megaphone. It broadcasts a message across the various ‘watercoolers’ of the online world, helping to engage customers in a personal way, while also drawing attention to content. These two work together to build visibility and traffic.

Next, combine efforts from these two channels with content, mobile and local strategies. Effective campaigns in these three areas grasp the devices customers use and their intent behind searches. Creating material that fills these needs builds engagement and drives relationships and conversions.

The key is creating content ready to serve customers across various devices and platforms. Brands need to meet customers where they are in order to provide them information; but without data, this is impossible. Data can let brands know what their customers search for and what they want to see when they make these queries.

It will also inform them of the success of their efforts and where adjustments can be made.

Our research at BrightEdge shows that organic remains the largest driver of traffic, with 51 percent of the people arriving on a site coming from SERPs. When using SEO as a multi-channel asset that can attract visitors across different touch points, it’s easy to understand how these different types of marketing intersect to spur growth.

Making a success of the intersection of search, content, social, mobile and local

Step 1. Analyze your current website

As companies adapt to a mobile-first world, they must create web experiences that are responsive and driven by rich experiences. However, without understanding or adhering to SEO best practices, content creators can inadvertently cause technical errors, duplicate content, or orphan pages.

These issues severely impact organic search performance resulting in decreased traffic, conversions, and revenue.

To best understand how the intersection between these various elements will work for your brand, you need to look at your site currently and gauge how leads arrive. Ensure that you break down traffic, including by device, to better understand the motivations of your existing customers.

This will provide insight into where to focus more of your efforts and safeguard your content and website.

Step 2. Perform keyword research

Looking at statistics behind applicable keywords will reveal traffic rates and competition levels, helping you better understand the terms and topics that most interest your prospects.

You also want to monitor trends as part of this research. Trends will reveal rising topics of interest, allowing you to create and promote content of interest before all of your competitors, establishing your authority and ranking.

Step 3. Look at the user intent behind keywords

Marketing today is about understanding the micro-moments that dominate user activity. Customers reach for their devices when they experience a particular type of need they want fulfilled. The better you understand the intent of these customers – whether they want to go, do, buy, or know something – the better you will be able to tailor your content to meet these needs.

Search engines have been tailored to predict the intent of customers, which explains why some searches have features such as local 3-packs, featured images or videos and Quick Answers. Understanding the intent behind searches allows marketers to create content messages and formats that will most likely appeal to customers.

Step 4. Make sure all content is mobile friendly

Customers today are on mobile for a large part of their digital experience. More searches today take place on mobile. Compared to desktop, mobile devices now account for 65 percent of all digital time spent. All content produced should serve the needs of customers on these devices through responsive web design, fast mobile load times, page navigation and layouts that reflect the needs of mobile users.

Remember that mobile also strongly overlaps with the need for local optimization. Over fifty percent of on-the-go searches have local intent. Local mobile search can be a powerful step in the conversion process. In fact, 80 percent of these searches result in offline purchases.

This means that as brands optimize for mobile, they should also pay close attention to the local and “I want to go” intent for particular keywords. Optimizing for hyperlocal search can be critical for attracting these customers.

Step 5. Optimize all content through SEO best practices

Remember, SEO is the driver of this explosive intersection between channels. As you create content for different user intents and devices, you must optimize it. This means more than just including keywords. You should also pay attention to meta descriptions, title tags, image alt tags, layout and how the content fits in with the rest of the website.

Familiarize your content creators with basic SEO practices and ensure they work closely with the SEO team to create material that will rank as highly as possible from the moment of publication.

Step 6. Broadcast content through social media

As you create optimized content for different channels, ensure your content and web teams partner with the social media team to develop a promotional strategy. Followers on your social media platforms have already revealed some degree of interest in your brand. A strong posting strategy will enhance this relationship and encourage more to enter the sales funnel.

As you publish content, promote it on the social media sites where the target audience most likely resides. For example, highly visual content developed for young adults in their late teens and early twenties might best promoted through platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. The better you understand your audiences, the more highly targeted your content strategy will become to generate returns.

Such promotion will broadcast your content, encourage sharing and increase visibility before it even ranks highly on SERPs. As an added bonus, promotion can also drive traffic and attention to your site, increasing the odds of others linking to your page from their own websites.

This can then help boost your reputation and authority in the Google algorithm, potentially increasing your position on SERPs. As you rise in rankings, your content will naturally attract a wider audience, showing how the different pieces of this strategy work together.

Although the dangers of siloed marketing have been apparent for several years now, the potential implications of relying on these outdated strategies cannot be more apparent than they are today. The customer does not live on one channel or one platform, and brands must meet these needs with a consistent voice.

Understanding how these elements intersect can help brands create an effective strategy. Follow this six stage process and see how using content, SEO, search, social, mobile, and local can spell success for your organization in 2017.

Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top

As mobile continues to grow, consumers are conducting more searches with hyperlocal intent -- and Google is refining its results in response to this trend. Columnist Jim Yu explains how local businesses can optimize for this hyperlocal reality. The post Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
search-intent.png

The psychology of search intent: Converting moments that matter

Nineteen years ago, the company that is now called Alphabet Inc. launched Google Web Search, which would quickly become the most widely used internet search engine in the world.

That search engine, which at first relied primarily on text data and backlinks to determine search priority ranking, has become increasingly sophisticated where its myriad features are concerned. Users can now search images, social, video content, equations, geographic locations and much more, and each of these things impact a brand’s search ranking over all, for better or worse.

But perhaps even more impressive, and particularly relevant to marketers, is the continuous improvement of Google’s understanding of user intent.

Beyond matching keywords alone, Google has parsed its massive stores of data to better understand the phrases, search history and other elements of query to better understand user priorities and states of mind when using the web search platform. As a result, they have optimized their search ranking algorithm and user experience to better align with what data says users really want.

By recognizing how Google and other search engines understand user intent, marketers can poise themselves to put themselves along the route of customer trains of thought. Below, find a breakdown of Google’s intent-recognition methodology–and strategic recommendations for those who want to take advantage of them.

Micro-Moments: How Google understands user priorities

On mobile—which has increasingly become the focus of search marketers after disrupting the way we access information and shop on the go—as well as on desktop, users use a range of terms, exhibit a range of behaviors, and seek out a range of answer-types that, according to Google, develop a profile of the user’s intent. These intent profiles, conveniently articulated by Google as “micro-moments”, are said to be the critical micro-moments at which users are most likely to be swayed by search results.

“I want to know.”

These are the types of searches people launch when they are seeking “information or inspiration”. Users who signify this search intent typically ask questions like “what did the president talk about today”, “what’s the phone number to the chamber of commerce”, and “how much money does a data analyst make?”

“I want to go.”

These are location-based searches that signal an intent to travel to a location whether that be international, regional, local or hyperlocal. Users who signify this search intent increasingly input queries like “restaurants near me”, “directions to the University” and “lodging in North Lake Tahoe.” Searches like these make localization an important question for marketers to be thinking about; how are you reaching people in specific—rather than general—markets?

“I want to do.”

When people want to know how to do something, they turn to action-oriented “I want to do searches”. This search intent is signaled by queries that inquire after methodology like, “How do I get my passport?”, “How do I train my dog?”, and “How to lose weight.”

“I want to buy.”

The consumers have done their research, have looked up coupons, have (one way or another) learned what they want to know about a product or service. Now, they are intent on making a purchase. Prepared to “put their dollars behind their decision”, these users are likely to input more specific search queries like “mixer”, “Las Vegas hotel deal”, and “Amazon Echo”.

Each of these search types articulate—in part through contextualized linguistic triggers like “how”, “why”, “when” and “where”—a different chief priority on the part of the user. Google responds to these priorities by crafting algorithmic outcomes which work to bring hosted content, both organic and paid, before the users based both on terminological relevance and likely user behaviors like—like purchase, or access.

Understanding user experience segmentation

Google’s understanding of user intent also emerges in its segmentation of user experience. Because Google is attempting to serve its users with what it is they want as immediately and seamlessly as possible, the Search Engine Ranking Page (SERP) displays differently from one micro-moment to the next.

Consider the difference in user experience between a search which signals that a person wants to attempt a do-it-yourself project versus a search which signals that a person would like to find a hotel in Central London.

A search for “how to bake a chocolate cake” will likely feature action-oriented instructional content like recipes and will prominently feature organic search results toward the top of the SERP, revealing that Google has detected a primary intent to take an action—”I want to do”—that is not prominently transactional.

On the other hand, a search for a “hotel in Central London” will display a different set of information, prominently featuring a Google map populated with pins that indicate hotels in the requested region. Along with those pins, hotel prices will be displayed—and above the map users will likely notice a number of sponsored search results linking to information about lodging deals they can purchase. This reveals that Google has detected an intent to go someplace—hence the map—with a secondary intent to make a purchase.

Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines break down and categorise different types of user intent

Small keyword changes still make a big difference

It should also be mentioned that, even as Google becomes increasingly responsive to user intent signals and perceived states of mind, it remains sensitive to the more specific keywords that users input when looking for more specific information.

Consider, once more, that Google bases part of its understanding of intent on how questions are phrased—and that the increasing prominence of voice search is helping Google to understand how people formulate questions in their everyday lives.

For example: while a search for “hotels in Central London” will lead primarily to geographic and transactional data (Google is “thinking” that users want to go and buy in this case), a search for “best hotels in Central London” will more likely point to the geographic information mentioned in the first example, but also more qualitative information in the form of articles (such as top ten lists) that will help users to better understand which Central London hotels are the “best”.

Marketers will likely gather here that the key difference between the two searches is the use of the word “best”–and they’d be correct in that perception. By adding the word “best” to their search for Central London hotels, users have indicated that their chief priorities are to know more about a destination—and then to go there.

Attempting an array of searches across the full spectrum of micro-moments—and exploring small differentiations in keyword usage—will reveal similar differences in user experience on Google and other search platforms.

This suggests that there is significant opportunity for marketers to reach users along very specific trains of thought by understanding the relationship between micro-moments, intent and keywords, and then respond accordingly.

Customer journeys are not always linear, or cut-and-dry

For many marketers, the “customer journey” is the relied-upon model to acquire, convert and retain customers no matter what product or service category they offer; but while the customer journey is of critical importance, it is also important for marketers to carefully consider what they understand the customer journey to be.

Often, when we hear the word “journey”, we tend to think of a linear narrative. We assume that people know where they want to go, and chart a course from one point to the next in a straight line—in large part because mobile has introduced a massive array of data and decision points into our lives, shaping our decisions on a near-constant basis.

The micro-moments model rightly throws this understanding of the journey into question, revealing that people interface with search and content at many different stages and in many different states of mind. Once again, this information can be gathered in part from observations about how search results are displayed.

Consider Google’s sensitivity to primary and secondary orders of intent—like the “hotels in Central London” search example mentioned earlier. That example does not simply reveal that Google is responsive to intent in general; it also specifically suggests that Google understands that users may have more than one intent at any given time, or that their intent could change very quickly—someone who wants to know something could find the information they were looking for and decide that, now that they have come across the key findings they were in search of, they want to buy.

Marketers would be wise to operate from a similar viewpoint, thinking carefully about how their users might articulate searches and develop search-friendly content in response.

Destination marketers might consider pairing pricing, deals and other transactional data with qualitative information about the experiences their region offers; marketing technology vendors might pair service descriptions with instructional material about effective web design, and so on.

Moving ahead

Essentially: it is key that brands recognize the many forms customer intent will take, and adopt a practice of flexibility where responding to that intent is concerned.

Customers’ journeys, segmentation and search are not rigid step-by step processes. Google’s vast data as interpreted through its micro-moments model reveals that in plain terms.

While this complicates the work of marketers and search engine specialists—continuously, since search engines are always collecting and responding to data—it also reveals a number of high-impact opportunities for brands to think and act in conversation with their users, in the end building richer and more vibrant experiences at every point of the brand-to-customer relationship.

ThinkstockPhotos-515912392.jpg

Seven ways to elevate your personal and professional SEO performance in 2017

According to research from Borrell associates, SEO spending is forecast to reach $79.27 billion by 2020. However, the problem that many marketers face is actually elevating the importance of SEO within their organizations.

In 2017 it is essential that SEO professionals secure the buy-in they need from their business leaders so they can accomplish their professional goals.

Understanding how to do this will not only help the brand succeed, but it will also build your reputation as a marketer, paving the way for a successful future within the industry.

This year we witness the rising importance of the micro-moment, the new mobile index, and the growing importance of machine learning and automation in the marketing process.

Understanding this potential and the direction of the industry can help you establish yourself and your business within this changing field, laying a firm foundation for a strong brand moving forward. Here are seven ways you can elevate your SEO performance on both a personal and professional level.

Seven ways to elevate SEO performance

1) Communicate the importance of SEO within your organization

To elevate your personal and professional SEO performance, you must begin by establishing the importance of optimization to others in your organization.

My company, BrightEdge, regularly monitors the impact of organic search on website success and has found that 51% of traffic to your page originates with organic. Additionally, 83 percent of the traffic from search engines is from organic instead of paid.

Brands that want to drive performance need to focus resources and budget on SEO, and as a marketer, you need to promote this channel.

Invest your time and resources in improving performance in this segment so that you can begin to demonstrate both your own competence and the importance of digital marketing to your brand as a whole.

2) Optimize your human capital

The marketing world continues to mature and professionals need to be prepared to evolve alongside it. Within digital marketing, we continue to see a convergence of different marketing disciplines as the former silos begin to come down.

For example, content writers work more closely with SEOs and paid search and organic teams better understand the value that the other has to offer.

You want to maximize your human capital to take advantage of these trends. Look for new hires that have multiple skill sets and understand a few different marketing disciplines.

Similarly, find ways to train your existing team members on other marketing strategies, such as in-house training sessions. The better the team can function as a whole and create unified campaigns, the greater the success will be, which will help boost your value and reputation.

3) Nurture your own skills

Given the speed with which marketing continues to change, marketers must also be attentive to their individual skills. For you to advance professionally, you will need to navigate the hybrid atmosphere of modern digital marketing.

This means taking advantage of the variety of online resources available to help you learn about different aspects of marketing, such as analytics, SEO, writing, or social media. Attend a few webinars, follow key blogs, or even take classes to improve your credentials.

Taking the time to prepare yourself for modern marketing will help you stand out within your company, improve the success of campaigns, and position you for an even brighter future.

4) Find ways to break down internal silos

Breaking down the silos that hinder your organization’s performance requires not only hiring people with cross-specialty skills and expanding your own abilities, but also actively working to break down barriers between groups at your organization.

Do not be afraid to lead the initiative to start working with people from other teams. Get to know those who work in other departments through lunches or regular meetings, work on coordinated projects together, and develop integrated campaigns.

This cooperative effort will allow your organization to create more advanced campaigns and thus strengthen the brand’s efforts.

5) Invest the time, resources, and energy in analytics to gain a full view of your work

To effectively market to your prospects, you need to have a clear view of your performance and progress at every stage. You want to have a complete view of your metrics, understanding how your content and campaigns perform at every level, from keyword ranking to the impact on revenue and share of voice.

Look at how different aspects of your campaigns perform, such as paid search, organic and SEO, and social media efforts. The more complete your understanding of the marketing landscape, the clearer the picture will become of how you should move forward.

6) Use data to build a strategy centered around the customer’s needs

In the modern marketing world, we need to focus on the importance of the customer-centric approach and the growing roles that machine learning and automation are likely to play as the digital industry continues to mature. As a marketer, you need to produce strategies and campaigns that understand the unique needs and interests of your target consumers so that you can then produce the material needed to engage prospects.

The emerging technologies will play a large role in helping you better understand the search landscape so that you can more effectively reach them through your campaigns.

As you bring in the data from your analytics monitoring, use it to start creating a customer-first strategy. Watch the types of devices that people use when accessing your content, how that impacts their behavior, the paths they take to reach the conversion stage, and how various marketing efforts impact outcomes.

This will help you be more effective and create and optimize content that people actually want to read and is set for success, instead of just content that you want to produce. This will make your efforts more effective, providing lift to the organization and elevating the importance of SEO.

7) Understand how to speak to the C-Suite

For you to elevate SEO importance and performance on a personal and professional level, it is vitally important to know how to speak to the C-Suite and other leaders at your organization. They prioritize the specific metrics that will clearly indicate the impact of your marketing efforts on the organization as a whole.

They are less interested in seeing keyword rankings as they are in seeing share of voice, revenue from organic campaigns, and your success within the competitive landscape. Use reports and visuals that easily and clearly communicate your progress and the direct benefit to the company.

On a personal level, work on cultivating valuable meeting room traits, including confident speaking skills and effective storytelling abilities.

This will allow you to engage with the leaders of your organization and help them understand the value of what you have to offer.

The marketing industry continues to mature as consumers, marketers, and the technology involved become more sophisticated. From a personal and professional level, this offers you the chance to elevate SEO and the importance of your own role.

As we venture into 2017, now is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the ideas above to set yourself and your organization up for a great year.

SEO in 2017: Seizing opportunity, evangelizing success, achieving overarching growth

Columnist Jim Yu contends that to succeed in 2017, brands will need to coordinate organic and paid search marketing disciplines and understand how they can work together to build the relationship with customers. The post SEO in 2017: Seizing opportunity, evangelizing success, achieving...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.