3 Tips for Maximizing the New Rules of SEO

In 2016, more and more business owners will be looking to ensure their business details can be easily found by voice and conversational searches.

March/April 2016

Just when it seems you have mastered getting your company its best online search ranking, the game changes.

Many businesses are familiar with calling attention to their websites and social media posts with a choice keyword or clever hashtag that will come up in text-based search.

But what happens when people use voice-based searches through virtual assistants (such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana) on mobile devices? Moreover, what does this mean when those searches—or even typed searches—are phrased more like conversations?

These new twists on search engine optimization can be tackled with a few considerations.

Tip 1: Forget ‘some’ of what you know

The old school tactic of pinpointing specific keywords and littering them around a website is no longer relevant, says Jayson DeMers, CEO and founder of content and social media marketing firm AudienceBloom. Understanding how to use keywords is still important, he says, but the verbiage in the website content should be clear and organic to the brand rather than tossed onto the page for the sake of attracting hits. “One major difference, these new technologies have humanized SEO,” DeMers says.

From a distance, search still looks like a machine scouring the web for results. However, when you take a more detailed look at how these machines have been looking, you’ll see things changed when search engines (in both virtual assistants and the traditional web) started to recognize how people talk and ceased just looking for exact matches. The old idea was that if someone searched for a pizza shop in Newark, NJ, websites needed to have those specific words somewhere on the page, according to Mike Murray, president of Online Marketing Coach and a contributor to the Content Marketing Institute. Today, websites and social media should include synonyms and other comparable words to draw traffic. “They don’t have to have the exact phraseology in their content that matches the search,” he says.

The latest search algorithms try to comprehend all the parts of longer phrases a person might use. “The whole conversational string would count, not just ‘pizza shops in Newark, NJ,’” Murray says.

For instance, a virtual assistant will pay attention if a person says “near me” when they preface a search, he says, and because mobile devices track location, that phrase will factor into the results.

Tip 2: More content is better, as long as it makes sense

It might seem like social media trained people to write and read messages limited to 140 characters or fewer, but even that is changing.

Thanks to newer search software, the more relevant content a company puts online, the more it can increase traffic. “Companies with pages with long content rank better because Google’s algorithm now recognizes longer phrases,” DeMers says.

Conversational search queries—when spoken or typed—tend to be in the form of questions, DeMers says, for which virtual assistants are highly adept at finding answers. “If you want to rank, you have to be the one to provide those answers,” he says. So if a company discovers that many of its customers want to know “how to change a flat tire,” DeMers suggests writing the best content possible about how to change a flat tire.

Tip 3: The new rules are subject to change

Consider this as simply the most recent stage in how people search for digital content and information, rather than the endgame.

The technology and how consumers use it will continue to adapt, DeMers says. “Mobile devices had hard-to-use keyboards, so the first virtual assistants started being developed as an alternative,” he says. The initial versions of these assistants may not have been great, but this led to improvements in voice recognition, semantic search and natural language processing. “The prevalence and utility of voice search is leading more people to use conversational queries, which is affecting the development of new technologies in ways we haven’t even seen yet,” DeMers says.

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