It’s that wonderful, humbling time of year.
With 2016 behind, you’ve hopefully had a number of successes—more content produced than in any year previous, better site traffic, more interaction. But regardless of successes, it’s still a good time to pause and do both a content and an SEO audit.
As you dive in, you might begin to find that your successes aren’t exactly what you’d hoped them to be. You saw growth across the board, but the rate of growth seems to be decreasing for some of your metrics. In fact, some of them may be beginning to plateau. Though you’re doing everything right, it’s clear that something is starting to slow—and it’s time to nip that in the bud.
There is an overall shift taking place in SEO right now. In the past, SEO was all about marketers understanding how search engines “spoke” to websites, and building everything around keywords that engines liked to see. While keywords remain central to much of what we do, the new attitude of search engines is to seek out relevant information and excellent user experiences.
It is in this careful balance between technical savvy and excellent content that many teams get blindsided by swinging too far in one direction or the other. Perhaps your team is buried so deeply in Moz statistics that your content has become lukewarm. Maybe you’ve poured so much time and resources into producing high-quality content that you’ve fallen behind on the latest SEO trends. In either case, getting back to your growth goals is going to require an SEO strategy that keeps your content oriented and technically savvy at the same time.
So, how do you identify which end of the spectrum your team is lagging behind on? Ask yourself (and your team) these two questions:
1. When was the last time you made a significant change or effort on a particular piece of content to break the mold of what your regularly do?
2. When was the last time you made a significant change to the technical back end of your site in response to ongoing trends or research?
People are typically most comfortable disrupting those parts of their businesses that they are most confident in. So a good indicator of where your team swings is identifying which of the two things—your content or your backend—you change more frequently. Perhaps now is the perfect time to look at the opposite end of your SEO strategy.
So, your SEO audit is off to a good start, in that you now know, conceptually, where your team could use a little more focus. What is there to do about it?
Your team has spent so much building backlinks, crafting keyword strategy, and customizing your site’s responsiveness that your content has fallen into a routine. You have “proven” formats you never stray from, topics you love, and content production that hums at a consistent, unwavering clip. Here are some ways that you might consider pivoting your current habits to be slow-down-proof in 2017.
Every marketer knows that variety is an important part of keeping the content fresh and the audience interested. Visual content, particularly video, is often hailed as the cure-all for stagnant content woes. But with video content slated to comprise more than 70 percent of internet traffic in 2017, the market is becoming saturated. The fix? According to SEO expert Sujan Patel, it’s making content “shorter, sweeter, more unique, and punchy.” B2B brands should also consider mixing things up with infographics, webinars, and case studies, which comprised the top three reported content types that lead to B2B decisions this past year.
We like to take pride in our work, and this means that we sometimes get tunnel vision when it comes to considering the promotion and success of content. Audiences are looking for faster, more easily accessible content, and so we can trim down, speed up, and adjust our pieces to meet that need. But does this mean you should sacrifice your brand’s longer narratives for format sake? No. Rather, take time to define an overall narrative strategy that develops characters and themes for your brand across all of your content—no matter how short or long.
Your team comprises a mix of creative writing MFAs and refugee advertising professionals. You have a team producing in-house writing, video, and graphics—and a master plan to possibly be the first brand to create novel-length content (complete with illustrations). You are a content team through and through, and people love what you produce . . . so much so that perhaps it’s been a little while since you checked in on the latest Google Webmaster update or searched your website for dead links. Here are a few ways to improve your brand’s web backing to ensure your excellent content gets the love—and results—it deserves:
The hard, sad fact of content marketing is that, while we strive to make great content we can love, the internet can be cold, giving little visibility to content with backlinks. As SEO pro Chris Liversidge points out in his analysis of content lead SEO campaigns, thinking only from content perspective can cripple your SEO. People don’t just share things because they’re good; they share things that align with them. In this respect, some portions of your audience may be more likely to share certain content than others. Seek out ways to test and tie link-sharing tendency to your audience personas and then specifically craft content that meets your audience where they share.
As mobile usage continues to take over increasingly larger swatches of internet usage, new measures are continually being rolled out to make the internet a more accessible and responsive place. Until today, this has mostly meant new best practices, but now, it’s looking like the next generation of HTML may be built around responsiveness. Make sure the coders on your team are keeping an eye out, and their thinking caps on, to stay ahead of the curve with this new skill.
Voice search is becoming an increasingly common practice and is changing the way people interact with search engines. Taking the time to think about how you can improve your search strategy to include likely voice searches is a powerful way to keep your content visible and relevant in the voice-assisted age.
With SEO, knowing yourself is half the battle, because your own natural tendencies make up half of your SEO strategy. Taking the time at the start of the year to analyze your own weaknesses and strengths, and then making a concerted effort to shore up those spaces you’ve neglected, is the best practice to keep you and your team in front of the latest trends in 2017.