Of all the digital tools in the businessperson's arsenal, SEO is one of the more complicated—and among the most frequently updated.
It's no secret that Google is constantly updating its algorithm, which usually means only minor changes, but can occasionally result in a big shakeup.
Despite this constantly moving target, however, the basic rules of SEO remain as relevant as ever. It is not my intention to tell you to stop practicing them, but rather, to show you how you can take those practices a step further and really bring them into the modern age of search optimization.
Here are three updated takes on classic SEO recommendations:
Classic Rule No. 1: Optimize for Google Search
This best practice is essentially the foundation of SEO. It's always been important to optimize web copy, meta tags and URLs for Google search, so what's different about web optimization in the modern age?
The Update: Optimize for Voice Search
If you're like most organizations, you probably haven't done much optimizing for search by voice functions. Yet, the user adoption of voice search features and personal assistants like Apple's Siri has grown significantly in recent years.
In one study commissioned by Google, 55 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds said they used voice search two or more times every day. Forty-one percent of adults said they did the same—and that was back in 2014.
According to Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, the number of voice searchers in 2015 was more than double those of 2014, a promising sign of mobile users' continued adoption of the feature.
So, how exactly do you optimize your website for voice search? There are a few best practices to follow:
- Think about how your target audience speaks. What words would they use and what questions would they ask? Incorporate content with this focus into your website.
- Target longer keyword phrases. Few people are going to speak single-word statements at their phones. However, lots of people will speak in phrases while using voice search. So rather than optimizing your copy for "muffins" you would optimize for things like "gluten-free muffin recipes."
- Target questions. Question-oriented blog posts and web pages became more important back in 2013 when Google revealed its Hummingbird algorithm. However, voice search is likely to take conversational searching practices to a whole new level.
Classic Rule No. 2: Don't Forget Video
Especially after Google purchased YouTube in 2006, video became an important part of content creation and SEO. We all learned the value of offering relevant multimedia features on our sites, as well as how to optimize those features (think transcripts and alt tags) to earn rankings in Google.
However, attention spans continue to shrink, and not every visitor is in the mood to sit through even a 30-second video.
The Update: Don't Diss the GIF
The GIF is the modern video for many online, and brands have also figured out how to leverage GIFs to provide highly valuable information.
Take the recent fad in recipe GIFs, for example. Reddit has an entire subsection for these quick and actionable instructionals, with over 110,000 subscribers.
GIFs are hugely popular with audiences, particularly millennials, because they can convey information with the same visual appeal as a video, but in a faster, condensed manner. We only see the most relevant and important part of the video.
If you want to optimize your GIFs, make sure you treat them like you would an image—pay attention to alt tags, keyword integrations (only when appropriate) and their placements on the web page.
Classic Rule No. 3: Know Your Keywords
Probably one of the most well-known pieces of SEO, keywords are just as relevant as ever but in less spammy and more user-focused contexts. By all means, keep cranking out that keyword research for your website and content—but don't forget this one very important upgrade, especially when it comes to social-media marketing.
The Update: Know Your Hashtags
It's still important to know your keywords to get the best, long-term value out of your website, but doing some hashtag research before you start promoting your new product, service or even latest blog post can help you earn some initial traction as well.
Hashtags are more than just fads or a soon-to-disappear trend—they're cultural indicators and they let you connect with people when you incorporate them. Just knowing the hashtags that trend on certain days of the week (I'm looking at you, #TBT and #MondayMotivation) can inform the best day to launch your new content.
However, a word about choosing when to use hashtags: Make your choices wisely. Brands that reach too far outside their industries or pay to be included in the Trending Topics section are often faced with backlash.
At the end of the day, using the time-tested best practices of SEO will most likely continue to pay off. However, if you want to bring your SEO campaign into modern marketing, making some updates could certainly help.