Mobile-first indexingThese days, most of us consume digital media on mobile devices. So it’s no surprise that Google is making the switch to mobile-first indexing. Simply put, this means that Googlebot will crawl mobile websites first—before their desktop counterparts.

What does mobile-first indexing mean for your website?

If you have a responsive website, you’re good to go.

Otherwise, it’s time to put your best, mobile-friendly foot forward. Make metadata, keywords, search-friendly content, and accessibility part of your mobile site experience. This is especially true if you have separate sites at different URLs for desktop and mobile. With mobile-first indexing, the mobile experience becomes a more significant factor in your site’s visibility.

If your website isn’t responsive, reconsider

A responsive website delivers the same content and data as a desktop website. It’s built on proportional grids, flexible images, and CSS-based queries, so your site automatically adapts text and layout for any screen size. This is obviously preferable to directing a user to a different site based on the device they happen to be using (a practice that almost always leads to version control issues and a second-class, inferior experience on your mobile site).

Mobile-first indexing doesn’t introduce anything new for a responsive website, as the same website will still be indexed. But you can always improve the search performance of your website, by following these best practices.

Optimize for mobile

If you haven’t been thinking about your mobile users much, now is a great time to re-orient your content and development practices to prioritize the mobile experience. Avoid heavy images, large, complex diagrams, and long paragraphs of content. Make sure your headings and content are succinct, relevant, and keyword rich. Going forward, mobile-first content practices will improve not only the browsing experience for all your users, but your search performance as well.

Check out Google’s handy tool to see if your website is mobile-friendly:  https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly.

For more information:

Content is king in search engine optimization tactics
What’s a website without great content? It’s a site that’s of little interest to search engines and thus hard for customers—and potential customers—to find. Great content is critical for making your site discoverable to the world.

Let’s start by defining content. For our purposes, content is text on the page, videos with closed captioning or transcripts, downloadable files, blogs, and forums.

In the rest of this post, I’ll tell you what we mean by great content: content that ranks well in search returns and increases customer traffic. And which content attributes you should prioritize to improve search engine optimization (SEO).

1. Create original content that adds unique value

Original content might seem kind of obvious (like don’t copy someone else’s material), but there’s a nuance here. What I mean by original is writing about your product or offering in a way that it’s never been written about before. Throw away that boilerplate text—don’t repeat a single phrase that you’ve seen before.

Here’s an example of adding unique value that resonated with me. Far too many Facebook postings drive me nuts—but why? I hadn’t been able to figure that out. Then I found Tim Urban’s post, 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook. An aha moment for me: he beautifully describes annoying Facebook posts in a way I’ve never seen before.  And even though we’re not talking about writing for Facebook, there are lessons here for all of us. Namely, be interesting or helpful. (Talking at length about yourself, your product, or your company is rarely either.)

Be creative. Be innovative. Be completely original. Find that new and compelling context that no one has described before—that’s the unique value.

Got a product? Talk about how someone accomplished something unique and exciting with it. Show really cool things created with it.

Better yet, tell an interesting story that ties into your product in some small way.

Here’s an example. A friend lost his phone in the Clark river. Six weeks later, someone called him to tell him they’d found it—and it still worked, thanks to its waterproof case. Isn’t that more interesting than just talking about the specifications of the waterproof phone case?

And here’s a tip from my favorite SEO pro: Search for content similar to what you’re trying to create—and then create something better.

2. Publish content that others want to link to

If you create content that is original and unique; helpful, informative, or amusing; and clear and clean (free of typos and grammatically correct), authoritative websites or bloggers with an interest in the subject are more likely to link to it. Publishing content that other credible sources link to is one of the most important things you can do to increase your ranking in search results.

When you publish a new piece of content, make sure all those credible sources know about it. Announce it on all of your channels—especially your social media channels—to help get eyes on it and links to it. (And, referring to that earlier note about insufferable posts, make that announcement interesting, helpful—even intriguing. Don’t just say “Hey, I wrote this article. Here’s a link.”)

3. Know your audience and speak their language

Research words and phrases your audience uses for your product and use them in your content. Don’t make assumptions. If you don’t use terms your audience uses when they’re looking for information on your product or offering, your content won’t be returned in their search results. This article provides some good tips on how to do keyword research for SEO.

Just as important is understanding searcher intent: what question are searchers trying to answer? What information are they trying to find?  Search engines are optimized to return searches that match a user’s intent—so that should be your goal in content, too. Here’s some good information on addressing user intent with your content strategy.

Search engines recognize synonyms and word variations, so you can write naturally about your product, using the full variety of terms that may apply, throughout your content.  For example, if you’re selling electronic books, you can write about electronic books, e-books, and digital books—if your audience uses any of these terms to search and your content contains them, there’s a good chance your content will show up in search results.

4. Write for usability to improve SEO

What’s good for usability is good for SEO.

One way to improve content usability is to divide content into sections which are separated by compelling headings that contain relevant keywords. Your audience can more easily scan your content, and search engines will respond to the keywords.

Another usability tip is to put your most important information first: readers may not get to the end of your content, so front-load the critical information. For example, in this post, the most important things you can do to improve SEO are at the beginning. So even if you didn’t get past the first couple of sections, you got the most important information.

5. Keep content fresh

This is especially important for a new site. Search engines favor sites that publish new content regularly—it means you’re paying attention and staying up to date.

Create an editorial calendar that supports serving up relevant content on a consistent basis. And update your home page frequently to keep it topical.

6. Blog regularly

Blogs give you a bit more topic flexibility than your regular website. You can post about things that you wouldn’t cover on your website, giving you a chance to talk to your audience about areas where your product can add value—and to potentially attract a bigger audience.  If you blog, create new posts on a regular basis—fresh content! And remember to be interesting, helpful or both.

In summary, develop original, one-of-a-kind content that others will want to link to, make sure it addresses audience intent, and keep it fresh.

Resources Online can help you plan, create, and publish content that brings visitors to your site—contact us today.

For more information:

Build a solid SEO foundation

Backlinks for SEO

Original content that adds unique value

Content matters for B2B customers

Content remains a critical tool for marketers. To help you understand which content can help you sell to your customers, we distilled key learnings from some recent surveys and studies on business-to-business (B2B) content.

Content matters in the sales cycle

Customers see your content long before they talk to you. Only 25 percent of buyers revealed their interest in a product or service to the vendor early in the sales cycle. More than half of the respondents in one survey said that they viewed at least three pieces of content before talking with a salesperson.

Savvy marketers have a strategy for producing content that targets specific phases in the sales cycle.

Customers prefer certain B2B content types

The studies we looked at included a variety of content types, from white papers and case studies to podcasts and webinars. Customers have their own preferences, so most content types are beneficial to some portion of your audience. But marketing budgets are limited. To get the most bang for your buck, studies show that you should focus on these types of content:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • E-books
  • Product and datasheets
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Interactive tools

Blog posts and white papers are widely read and frequently shared. Business customers report reading white papers frequently and at more points in the sales cycle. In a 2015 study, 83 percent of business buyers reported reading a white paper in the last year. Webinars took second place, followed by e-books, which 68 percent of buyers read.

Choosing the right content type is half the battle. It’s equally important to present each type of content when it’s most valuable.

When is B2B content consumed during the sales cycle?

Not all content is not effective at every point in the customer journey. The studies clearly show customer preference for different types of content at different stages. Based on our review, here’s when you should use each type of content:

Content type for each stage of the B2B customer journey

Like all of us, your customers are inundated with content and have limited time. So keep it short, especially in the earlier phases. The further that customers move down the funnel, the more time they are willing to invest in content. Mid-size business and enterprise customers consume more content than do small business customers, and decision-makers spend more time with content than do influencers.

How do people find and share B2B content?

Most business customers find content through search. If you want to make it to the consideration phase with your business customers, search engine optimization (SEO) is critical.

Sharing is also a powerful tool. If your content is compelling, readers share it through email and, less often, on social media. LinkedIn is the top social media site for content sharing, followed by Twitter. Provide an easy way for customers to share blog posts and other content using all three methods.

Interactive content is increasingly important

More and more companies are creating interactive content, such as SlideShares, calculators, and assessments, among others. Interactive content takes more time and money to develop, but it also helps you stand out from the crowd: customers perceive it as more valuable. According to the B2B Technology Content Survey Report, “Seventy-three percent say a high level of interactivity somewhat or greatly increases the influence of content.” And, according to the Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Content Preferences Survey, “Buyers are increasingly relying on infographics, videos and other interactive content, such as ROI calculators and assessments, as they make their buying decisions.” Maybe that’s why marketers report moderate or high conversion rates for interactive content 70 percent of the time, versus only 36 percent of the time for passive content.

In the first two phases of the customer journey, you can use interactive content to help customers understand that they have a problem and that your product or service can be the solution. The key is to keep interactive tools general and helpful, while making customers aware of your product or solution. Also, give them a clear next step in their journey. Expect to see increasing uses of interactive content—and increased competition to develop new, more engaging and informative formats.

Most of all, be useful

Buyers want useful information that’s pertinent to their phase in the customer journey. In the early stages of the journey, they continue to report that too much content is marketing-focused and product-oriented, rather than general and helpful. Even further down the funnel, it’s important that your content stays informative and appropriately biased. Nobody expects a company to talk about its products or services without highlighting the strengths—but a pure marketing pitch is a big turn-off.

Not surprisingly, 97 percent of buyers gave more credence to peer reviews and user-generated content. Barring that, in the early stages, buyers prefer content that is backed up by research. So in the early stages, provide valuable information in a short, easy-to-digest manner. Keep it informative and useful, as you help prospects move through the sales cycle, increasing the product focus and level of detail at each stage.

And if you want help developing content or a content strategy for your company, reach out to us.

Brick LayerIf you’re even slightly familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you know that SEO requires constant and steady work, like laying bricks, to drive and keep your page high in search results. It takes time and consistent effort to rise in the rankings and to stay there. You also understand the importance of creating good content focused on the right topics and keywords, plus the need to acquire authoritative backlinks.

Build a well-structured site

For a site to be found in search, the search engine’s online robots must first crawl it—that means the robot walks through all of your site pages to create a map, and it categorizes the contents of each page. Your site structure and form can make this much easier:

  • Create discrete pages, each focused on a single, specific topic that corresponds to users’ specific keywords/searches. This allows the engines to clearly know which pages should surface for which keyword search.
  • Use a broad-to-narrow approach, if necessary (that is, a broad topic page that links to pages on narrower sub-topics).
  • Avoid creating more than two levels of folder structure. Instead, keep the site structure as you flat as you can, placing the most important pages closer to the root.
  • Create a clear navigation structure. This is better for usability anyway. Basically, if showed your menu structure as an outline, would a random person be able to understand it? If so, chances are that the search engines will, too.
  • Make it easy for engines to map your site by providing an actual map for them. See http://www.sitemaps.org/ for information about sitemaps.
  • Consider also using the schema element to tell search engines about your site structure. For example, if you run a restaurant, your schema would have sections for menu, hours of operation, location, reviews, and reservations. If you use the correct schema elements, search engines can actually display all of these items right on the search results page.

Use correct semantic structure

In addition to creating a logical site structure, make sure that you use the correct technical tagging and methods. To some extent, your site needs to speak the language of the search engines. Be sure to:

  • Use clear page-naming conventions. Pick your structure, and stick with it. Make sure that you use real-language URLs, even if they are wordy. Someone reading the last part of your URL should know what the page is about, such as /creating-videos-with-adobe-premiere-on-mac.
  • Include any blog or related assets as a subfolder or subdomain, so that they accrue SEO benefits to the home domain. For example, our blog uses www.ronline.com/blog, accruing SEO benefits to the main site at ronline.com.
  • Use valid, semantically correct HTML. Errors in HTML can cause the engines to bypass a page or to lower its ranking. For example, all headers should use header tags (such as H1, H2, or H3). The engines look for these tags and check the keywords in them to help determine the main topics on the page.
  • Where you use images, always add alt text. Since they can’t read images, the engines use the text as a proxy to determine what the image is about.
  • Include a Title and Description metadata tag on every page. They are critical to search results.

Keep important content visible on the page

Images, videos, widgets—we pack a lot into our websites. But not all of these are visible to search engines. Problems result when key information—information that could help with your ranking—is buried in a format that search engines can’t plumb. Here’s how you can avoid problems:

  • Don’t embed text in images. For example, if you have a header with your tagline, and the header is an image, Google and Bing can’t read the text in the image. So, the tagline is lost to them.
  • Similarly, don’t bury important information in Flash, Silverlight, or videos.
  • If you use widgets to pull in content, try to ensure that the content is considered “on the page” rather than embedded. For example, JavaScript-dependent content can’t be indexed. If the content is not in the page’s raw HTML as served up by the server itself, that phantom content won’t accrue SEO benefits to your page.
  • If you have dynamic content or links that are accessed via JavaScript, provide an alternative HTML structure just for search engines that allows them to find your content without executing JavaScript.

Build for measurement

As you know, SEO is an ongoing activity, and you need to be able to track how you’re doing and to make improvements where necessary. To get basic reporting, add analytics to your site:

  • Properly install Google analytics and/or another analytics package on the site and its pages.
  • Set up goals in Google Analytics, based on your business needs and site design. You might want to measure, for instance, how many sign-ups happened on forms and to track the paths the users followed before completing that action. Goals help you do this.
  • If you’re redesigning an existing website, gather any baseline data from previous versions of the site, for comparison purposes.
  • Make sure assets on subdomains or folders use the same analytics code, so you can trace traffic from them.
  • Set up regular reports that you can analyze at least quarterly.

Put the user and content first

SEO is important, but all of Google’s and Bing’s search algorithms are designed to surface the right content at the right time. That means that, first and foremost, you need to provide good content on specific topics. Most of us can’t sacrifice usability for SEO:

  • Include pages that cover specific topics and questions that your target customers will search for, within contexts relevant to your business goals. For example, if your customers will be asking “How do I?” questions for which your product or service is a solution, add pages for those questions.
  • Write helpful content, and write it well. The search engines penalize pages with typos and poor grammar. Guess what? So do users.
  • Make sure the structure supports copious cross-site links. Cross-links (links between pages on your site) are good for SEO and, when chosen well, they also support the readers’ search for additional or related information.
  • Design the site for regular—preferably frequent—content updates. The search engines credit websites that are kept up-to-date. When you update your website with current content, you also increase the chances that people searching for the latest info will come to you.
  • Provide and share content that others want to link to. This gets to the backlink issue. Ideally, you want pages on your website that provide information or entertainment valuable enough that other authoritative websites or bloggers link to them. That will greatly help your ranking.
  • Practice good, audience-focused writing techniques. Write for your audience, using the terms they understand. If you’re doing that right, your pages have a better chance of appearing when the right keywords are searched. If you need some help, you can also use Google’s tools to research keywords for your industry.

To achieve high SEO, there is a lot required on the content side of the equation. Build that content on a solid foundation using these basic steps and watch as, over time, your site gains authority and improved ranking in search.