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Smarter search: the trends for SEO success

Today, more than ever, search on the web is user-centric. Richard Conway explains why small businesses and marketers must really plan and strategize their content efforts if they want to get ahead in 2017. 

I have worked with digital advertising since 2002 when my first foray into Google AdWords (which had been around just a couple of years at that time) illustrated the sheer power and affordability of digital marketing. I remember it dawning on me then how a small business with limited funds could now compete on an almost even keel with behemoth companies around the world. 

Obviously that gap has closed more now with digital marketing becoming more mainstream – however, even in 2017, there are techniques and tools available online that don’t have to cost a fortune, but are likely to provide brilliant results.

Some people still see search engine optimisation (SEO) as the ‘Wild West’, despite the fact that, for years, search has been providing sustained results. Far from the gun-slinging days of old, where the one who was packing the biggest weapon (read: budget) won, search engine optimisation is now more of a fine art.

Today, more than ever, search is user-centric – does this website provide the information the user is looking for? Is it easy for a visitor to navigate the website? How easy is it for the user to communicate with the company? The list of algorithms goes on.

Therefore, when it comes to looking at trends for smarter search in 2017, it pays to be user-focused. 


User-focused content

It’s not good enough to just put out good quality content and expect users to find and engage with it. The days of Noah’s Ark and the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality are long gone. Today, small businesses and marketers need to really plan and strategize their content efforts if they want to get ahead in 2017. 

Create a content calendar for 12 months in advance, working out themes that you can cover and ways that you can deliver value related to your industry. But keep the document fluid. Know what you are going to post where, and how often, but use this framework as a guide and invest time into regularly doing keyword and trend research, tweaking your topics (or adding new ones!) to ensure your content is focused on areas that your target market is actually looking for. 

PwC take this recommendation further by advising that a complete content strategy should leverage all the data available to create targeted, tailored content. Their research with Forbes Insights found, however, that only 25 percent of businesses, a group they named as ‘trailblazers’, consider personalised content as critical to the success of their marketing strategy and are, hence, creating and delivering content proficiently.


Use varied content regularly

An easy way to create more tailored content is to consider different formats. Create written content, audio streams, videos and image-based communications like graphs, tables or icons to not only hit different types of search results, but also cover off the various ways that people’s brains like to receive, and process, information. 

Then you want to keep it regular. Two to four times a year, you should plan to release a hero content piece, whether that be an interactive infographic, a white paper, an interview with an industry maven or something else significant. Ideally you should be aiming to create something useful and relevant to your target audience at least once a month. 

Depending on your industry and the competitive environment around content, more might be required, but this doesn’t all need to be generated (by you) from scratch.


Consider curated content or ‘newsjacking’

Depending on your industry, you should definitely consider a ‘newsjacking’ content strategy. In order to get more original content out there, while ensuring you’re relevant for search results, remain on the lookout for opportunities to curate something that has recently happened in the media, and give your expert opinion. As well as having positive results for search, injecting your ideas into a breaking news story can be a valuable way of generating additional media coverage and social media engagement.

Although this strategy is largely reactive, keeping it timely ensures your appearance on a topic that is currently in people’s minds. Not only that – being able to have an opinion on things that are happening (where they are related to you or your business) allows you to start positioning yourself, or your company, as a thought leader. 


Go shopping

Google Shopping, that is! Google Shopping has been available in the US and across the ditch in Australia for some time, but now it’s possible for New Zealand companies to compete. 

We got to test Google Shopping while it was still in beta mode and can definitely see the value if there’s an e-commerce element to your business. With an image, product name, price and company name displaying alongside traditional results on all devices, Google Shopping provides the benefits of showing two ad results in searches. 

You’ve probably seen Google Shopping in action already, without possibly even realising what you were looking at. However, this ‘new to New Zealand’ technology provides a significant opportunity for those promoting products online. 

Not only are Google Shopping ads displayed when users are looking for a specific object (and are hence further along their decision-making process) but the visual content is processed more quickly in the brain than traditional text-based search results, and will get greater attention – and cut-through – as a result.  


Design with visitors in mind

When it comes to product design and marketing, the end user should be a core component to your considerations and the same goes for the digital space, especially as it relates to SEO. 

Those who win in search results this year will be those who are designing their online presence, and content, with visitors to their site front of mind.   

Publishing Information
Magazine Issue: NZBusiness May 2017 Page Number: 42