It’s true, SEO techniques have changed again with Google’s Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates in mid 2014. Since the updates, many SEO professionals have been confused about where to go from here.
Today, we’ll review the changes, the new methods and most importantly, how to create a fertile website where a higher percent of conversions can take place.
Penguin and Hummingbird updates in a nutshell
The Penguin and Hummingbird updates were intended to make a big difference in the quality of search engine results. For us, this translates into revising digital marketing and SEO strategies.
Google sent out the message loud and clear on May 22, 2013: the Penguin update is intended to reduce web spam and uninformative content. In fact, they are so serious about it, they are asking all Internet users to report websites that continue to spam.
The Hummingbird update changed the way searches were handling the “more conversational approach” to searches. Both updates were huge steps in the right direction because it had gotten so bad that searches stopped yielding quality results.
What do these updates mean to SEO strategies and tactics?
Successful SEO has always been about publishing highly informational content that people are seeking and can use. The difference is that now the technology will reward this high quality material by improving its ranking. It’s not like Google was rewarding all of the poor content out there, they just weren’t stopping it.
Publishing blogs, articles and other web content that contains meaningless drivel, stuffed with eywords and repetitive phrases, is not going to work anymore.
It barely did then, as conversions were still elusive and bounce-rates high, but the SEO pros could at least show their clients increased traffic and visibility.
Note: Always keep an eye on bounce rate and conversion rate when working with an SEO agency.
How to work your magic to increase traffic and conversions
Assuming you have a concise idea of the target audience for your product or service and you have selected keywords that are aligned with reaching them, you are on the right track. The next step is to take that to the next level and make sure your content is outstanding and appeals to those potential purchasers. This and a few other tweaks are now more important than ever before if you want to build momentum and convert traffic.
In terms of content ideas, if you are isolated and don’t have others with whom to brainstorm, try a few of the online helpers, such as: Content Idea Generator or Help Scout. They will help jump-start your creativity and development of a topic guide. Developing a content plan in advance will help guide your readers and users into the sales funnel with ease.
- Provide solid information and answer before askedIt pays to be seen as the authority on the subject of your product or service. As you know, authorities are leading the pack by providing information that answers questions in advance.For example: Your online business sells athletic shoes. Your customers and potential users are all different ages, but the common denominator is they are athletes. So content-rich articles that provide insights into the various aspects of athletic shoes that answer their questions will be the winning tactic. Headlines such as: “How Great Athletes Select Their Shoes” will speak to your audience, set up the peer pressure/hope methods of persuasion and provide useful information they may not be able to find elsewhere.
- Be seen as a winner by the company you keep
Surround yourself with winners and you’ll be seen as one also. Nuzzle up to your competition, if they are successful. Your audience is always faced with deciding between competitors, so don’t worry about what seems to be a counterproductive strategy. Even though there will be competitors alongside who will also be contributing comments, blogs or information to the same authority sites, your site will be noticed and seen as higher quality by Google.This is key for those who are still growing their site’s popularity, as being with higher-ranked sites will bring it up a notch. The best way to find sites with which to align is to check the backlink profiles of your competitors or with the authority sites in your niche. There are tools that can help, such as: Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO.
- How does on-site structured data help with ranking and conversions?
The way content is presented to Google, is referred to as its schematic structure, often called schema. (If you’re not familiar, a quick explanation: it is the structure of a database system that relates to the way the information is stored and categorized.) What that means is you, or your tech professional, will want to ensure that your content is replete with rich snippets and relevant attributes. Rich snippets are basically the capsules of information that describe a website in the search results. Review the tutorial for an in-depth “how-to”, if you’re not familiar because there are three steps to marking up snippets. Briefly, here are the three steps:
- Pick a markup format. Although Google recommends using microdata, you can also use microformats and RDFa. For more specific information on formats, use the Structured Data Markup Helper.
- Markup your content: Google supports snippets that pertain to: people, products, businesses, organizations, recipes, events and music. Make sure your snippets are on track!
- Test your markup. Use the structured data testing tool to make sure that the marked-data can be read and easily extracted by the search engines.(Note: steps are different for videos.)
- Synonyms and similar phrases that are optimized, add greatly to visibility
People use words differently depending on where they live, their age and how they were introduced to search engines. For example, we used the terms schema, structured data and schematic structure above and we were always referring to the same thing. So it is important to remember that when you are planning keywords, content, blogs or advertising copy on the website.Consider the alternate ways people may word their searches. Some savvy marketers even take misspellings into consideration. If you want to give the website its best chances for success, then this is an avenue that shouldn’t be ignored.Note: This tiny tip could add a large quantity of visitors just by opening the door to different phraseology.
- Is the home page giving a quick snapshot of the website’s purpose?
Your website is your calling card. Assume your website visitors only have time for a mere once-over:
- Will they get the picture?
- Will they know exactly what your website is offering?
- Is your page load speed maximized?Your bounce rate will show you how many people are stopping in for less than a minute and if the percentage is high, then they aren’t able to make a quick connection or your site is optimized for search words that are attracting the wrong people.
- Entertain, Educate, Persuade and Convert
Although not a new paradigm, it encompasses the newest strategies for internet marketing. You know how it works, as you are the recipient of these methods over 1,000 times a day. Every effective ad you see or hear has been created to entertain, educate, persuade and convert you into being a user.But it all starts with understanding your target audience. You can’t convert your traffic without tuning into your potential buyers. Once you have determined what they want and need to hear from their authority (you) within that industry, charm the pants off them by using these content techniques. But don’t mistake any of this for creating content that barrages them with overt sales messages. Again, think about what types of advertising, infommercials, etc., work on you!
Address each one of these tactics in your content marketing and you will be on track.
- Entertain your audience: It’s not rocket science. People want to be entertained when they are not working or having to be responsible about other aspects of their lives. Check out “Mad Men” for insights into the creativity that goes into successful campaigns. Brevity and creativity are key.
- Educate and inform: Remember, educating your audience doesn’t mean boring them to death, like schooling of yesteryear. Even when you are providing useful information, it should be delivered in bite-sized chunks and in imaginative and interesting ways. Using bullet points, eliminating excessive words and repetition will help. Adding visuals will increase interactivity and readership exponentially. According to one study, readership increased about 70 percent when even one visual was included, particularly above the fold of the website.
- Persuade: Easier said than done. First off, remember that everyone is exposed to sales messages nearly every waking hour. So how do you do it differently? By establishing rapport and showing your audience the path that leads to finding the perfect product or service. There are a few tactics that are effective in the art of persuasion. Paying attention to advertising techniques will help, but in a nutshell it is all about appealing to the heart and the mind. Emotions are generally at the bottom of purchasing decisions, so tactics like: fear of being left behind, peer pressure, keeping up with the Jones, early adopter reputation and more are all effective methods, when properly used.
- Convert: This is more about making it super simple for someone to buy rather than strong-arming them into submission. How many steps does the visitor have to go through to purchase the product or service? Can they purchase on a whim? Or do they have to go through a lengthy process? Make this process seamlessly simple.
Conversions Make the World Go Round.
Conversions are always the goal of a website and following these simple, but highly effective, tips will affect your bottom line greatly. It’s no longer about being on page one of the search engines, although that will always be a part of it. The most important change in tactical thinking is that we want to do more than increase traffic. We want to reduce bounce rates, interest qualified traffic and increase online sales.
That can only happen if your website offers more than smoke and mirrors. It’s time for substance and giving the user or visitor a fascinating, interesting or educational experience. The goal is to ensure they will walk away with the full intention of coming back to learn, hear or see more.
- Penguin and Hummingbird updates are shaking things up in the content and blog departments. We think it is for the best and will bring progress and evolution to the Internet instead of a slow decline into a pit of useless information.
- Use common persuasion techniques that have been used in the advertising industry for years. Build rapport and use techniques that appeal to both head and heart. Emotions often rule purchases.
- Build your content based on the way the search engines look for and find information. Use rich snippets and other assets to provide clips that can be indexed.
- Research other phrases and words people might use to find the subject of your site and address them in your content and optimization strategies.
- Ensure your website addresses all questions, concerns and reasons to buy, particularly above the fold, when possible.
- Entertain and educate your audience with tactical content, so they will continue to
return out of sheer interest. If there is quality content they will stay engaged and it will be reflected in Google search results. Make sure the site is set up for easy purchasing!
Google’s updates might be a pain in your SEO professional’s or website owner’s side, but in truth these changes will affect all of us in a positive way. The value of the Internet is seriously at stake, which translates into a useless tool for everyone. So it is up to all of us to turn this around and make it an experience that everyone can benefit from and enjoy.
We’d love to hear from those of you who have interesting anecdotes, examples and additional ideas on how you expertly address content and conversions. We’re all ears and want to hear from you!
Stay tuned for our next installment on: Landing Page Optimization Techniques for Local Businesses