SEO practices change quickly and a big part of the job is keeping up to date and adapting to every new progression or announcement that we hear coming from Google or from the wider search community. This way of working has resulted in SEO professionals trying to predict where they think Google are going to go next, based on data, research and reading into what Google are doing and what they may be planning.
At the time of writing (early March 2015), Google have just announced a huge change in their algorithm. This has again moved the goalposts and set the industry alight; they announced on 26th February, that from 21st April this year, they will be deindexing websites from smartphone search results if they don’t conform to Google’s own Mobile Friendly guidelines. This will come in the form of an algorithm overhaul, factoring in the calculations for its rankings whether a site is responsively designed, or has a mobile specific alternative.
This is going to have a huge impact on search and is an exercise in forcing the world to progress with the times. As the levels of mobile search sit around 40% of all search traffic (as of the end of 2014), Google are making it unacceptable not to have a website that not just works on a mobile phone, but works well and creates a user friendly experience. And if you don’t comply? Well, you’re not going to show up on any searches made from a smartphone anymore!
This was predicted with the onset of the “mobile-friendly” tag that has been appearing on mobile search results since last autumn, indicating to mobile searchers if a site was going to work properly on their phone or not. This, coupled with a series of guides on how to make sure your website is mobile friendly that were introduced by the Webmaster blog, was all the information that was needed to know that a big change was coming at some point.
This announcement was an unusual departure from Google’s usual method of introducing algorithm changes, which is to give no warning whatsoever and then release a brief press release explaining what happened after everyone’s visibility and rankings have nosedived!
Google is constantly updating and tweaking its algorithm, as well as making slight changes to the search results page. These days it seems like Google wants the user to spend as much time as possible on the results page without clicking onto any sites. They’re doing this by providing a wealth of information to answer user queries on the results page itself.
A good example of this is their Rich Answers box, which pulls useful information from a trusted page, and displays it at the top of the results in its own box. The Knowledge Graph to the right hand side of the page displays lots of information about institutions and businesses so searchers can get essential details without having to click onto the site. This can be quite extensive; from maps to the nearest branches, links to social media profiles, names of the CEOs to stock prices. All this information serves to give the searcher the information they are looking for in the quickest possible time and without having to navigate through Google to other sites to find those quick answers.
Perhaps the biggest change to search is yet to come; researchers at Google are currently working on a new ranking system which rates the trustworthiness of a website, and ranks sites by how many facts they contain, rather than how many links point to them.
Google’s current algorithm decides the popularity of a website by monitoring how many other sites link to it, and how much activity based around it is happening on social media platforms. The issue with this is that sites containing little useful information can still rank well, despite all the changes Google has made over the past few years to ensure this doesn’t happen.
This new algorithm, still in its early development phase, will count the number of incorrect facts on a page in order to rate its trustworthiness. So the more false information a page contains, the lower its score will be. The software will use Google’s Knowledge Vault as the data source. The Knowledge Vault is a vast database of facts about pretty much everything, which Google has been building up for years by pulling information from the internet.
This system is still in its early stages and won’t come into effect for a long time, but it will be something we will be keeping our eye on, as it will mean another complete overhaul of the core fundamentals of how search works.
Taking care of your web visibility, making sure your site is performing as well as it can in the search engines and sharing good quality content is important for all businesses, no matter how non tech savvy or modern you perceive your industry to be!
The reason why? Well, your website and wider web presence is the best resource you’ve ever had for product marketing, public relations and managing your brand. In today’s world, the main portals for people to find answers to their queries are internet search engines. Because of this, top billing in these search engines has become a big area of competition. Not only does doing well in the rankings increase the hit rate to your site, and potentially impact sales, but your visibility across search engines is the best way to relate authority in your industry to the target audience.
As mentioned in the first part of this short series, SEO these days is about much more than just ranking highly in the search results. It has many other benefits to your business than just putting your site on the first page of Google.
Firstly, people trust search engines and their results; the concept of Social Proof plays a big part in why the top ranked sites perform better for their owners. “If Google says this company is the best then it must be.” It’s this trust that allows brand authority to be transferred simply from your search visibility. Secondly, continuous improvement of your website (making sure your site evolves continuously and never goes stale) makes for a better user experience.
As well as these overarching concepts, there is a big opportunity for good PR and brand awareness that stems from Google’s pressure for sites to provide good quality, interesting and useful content. Creating content around your industry has two huge benefits. First, the more relevant content that you have on your site, the higher your overall rankings will be as Google can see you’re making an effort to answer queries in a user friendly way. Second, good content will increase traffic to your website as people read and share it on their own sites and blogs or through social channels. Sharing of your content is in itself a ranking factor because it increases Google’s perception of authority you have within your market sector; if people are reading, sharing and linking to your content, then it must be useful.
Aside from the increased rankings and traffic rates, it is also generally good PR practice to keep up a good web presence and get actively involved in creating and sharing content across the web, keeping up to date with big industry developments and joining in with online trends and debates.
As you can see, a modern SEO strategy now encompasses many more aspects than just trying to achieve rankings. In the fast moving world of digital marketing and the internet in general, it’s essential you keep up to date with the very latest practices and don’t get left with a stale website that isn’t working for you soon after it’s gone live.
20 May - Part Three | SEO in 2015: Mobile and more
The concept of SEO has been increasingly prominent in the digital marketing sphere since 2011. It has come a long way from its initial roots as a “dark art” that involved tricking or manipulating search engine algorithms into placing your site at the top of their ranking pages.
A lot has changed since then and SEO, as it exists today, is a different creature all together. Today’s SEO consultant is more likely to be found putting together content strategies and pouring over analytics data than placing thousands of links onto covert link farm websites and repeating a keyword 20 times on a webpage.
The main cause of this big shift was two substantial updates to Google’s algorithm in 2011 and 2012, called “Panda” and “Penguin” respectively. These came down hard with severe penalties on SEO techniques using any covert activity. The impact of these algorithm updates revolutionised the industry and turned SEO into an activity based around keeping in line with Google’s rules and guidelines, rather than trying to break them!
SEO has continued in this vein and is now divided between what we call “onsite” and “offsite”. The onsite sphere is concerned with technical updates to a website to fully optimise it in line with Google’s webmaster guidelines. This ensures that the site has the best possible chance of ticking as many boxes in terms of ranking factors as possible (there are around 200 in all - so a lot of box ticking!). This encompasses everything from making sure meta titles accurately describe page content to minifying CSS to keep page loading times down.
The offsite sphere, however, is concerned with what we call “content marketing”. This is focused around making sure a website has a big network of other sites linking to it (this is great for rankings) and that the content is being shared across the web, including social media platforms.
It’s this content outreach and sharing that Google has put huge emphasis on over the past few years, as they want people to make their sites useful and helpful for web users. If your site fits this brief, then Google will be more confident in displaying it as one of the top results for queries in the field.
SEO should be thought of as a holistic process that not only fits into web design and development, but also into your digital marketing and wider PR activity; more of a framework than a linear process and something that is kept in mind when doing anything on the web. “Users First, Search Engines Second” is our mantra here at the SEO department of Verto, and it’s a phrase that really sums up the position of SEO in today’s digital world.
6 May - Part Two | Is SEO Actually Important For My Business?
A.N. In Austria export is becoming more important and growth is becoming more difficult.
Austria is a high cost environment and our brands demand a higher price than those from some other countries. We have to invest in innovation and product design and then produce to an affordable quality. Price is a trigger for purchasing decisions, but even if it is expensive, it may still be purchased; branding is important.
Business is also influenced by many guidelines and laws, which can be a blessing or a curse.
S.M. There has been a huge change in terms of e-commerce. Driven by the growth and success of e-commerce in B2C, it has become increasingly important and valuable in the B2B area.
People see benefits in buying from companies like Amazon and they don’t want to miss out on these when they are at work. I think that purchasing behaviour in B2B will change a lot in the coming years.
A.N. The inclusion of active lighting in furniture will be one of the future developments. Furthermore there are going to be different mixes of new materials and “smart furniture” - meaning the combination of furniture and smartphone functions.
A.N. There are some large and well known producers in Austria. But in comparison to Germany (for example) our companies are not as big. Austrian industry, in general, is more focused on producing customized items instead of mass production.
A.N. We have noticed a change among our customers. Supporting customers online is becoming more important and ordering online is increasing. The internet has allowed speed and opportunity to compare products, but on the downside information overload can also be a problem. Products and services need to stand out from the crowd.
A.N. It is very difficult to give a clear figure, since ordering habits differ from country to country. A lot of clients look for info online and then pick up the phone to place an order or ask questions.
Our Webshop in Austria has over 300.000 visits each month. And around 300 small to medium sized companies are currently using our “PuSCH-App”, which launched in October 2014 in Austria, to place repeat orders.
It doesn’t matter how a client chooses to place an order. More important is to provide the customers with all the information they need and across all the channels.
S.M. We want to give our clients the opportunity to search for information and products around the clock. Our webshop has no opening or closing times!
In addition we provide many other services to our clients via the “Partner Portal” such as product videos, technical datasheets, installation guides, CAD drawings, etc. We’ve also installed a feedback function, so our clients can leave comments and suggest improvements.
Our “PuSCH App” offers support for controlling our clients’ stock levels.
A.N. Yes, but also by older generation who feel young in their heads:-)
Our next step is to ask our clients what they actually want and expect next from electronic media, rather than us telling them what they need.
But internet definitely gives us a good opportunity to answer the technical and legal questions many clients have about our product range.
S.M. The clients’ purchasing behaviour is very interesting. What info do they need? What products they are interested in? This data will allows us to tell them about new products or industry standards or whatever is relevant to them.
A.N. At the moment people still like coming to the showroom. But because of the internet, the client now has a good technical understanding of the products and wants to see how the product can be used in different applications. This has changed how we present the products in our showroom; it’s more about functionality.
For example, you can listen to music at home or go to a live performance. They complement each other. Both are important. But the experience you get is different.
S.M. As we have 95.000 products in our webshop, I do think it is necessary to have a showroom. When you want a client to invest in a product, they should have the opportunity to experience it.
Currently we have no virtual showrooms but in my opinion, for some of the product ranges, it would be really useful.
A.N. New materials and technology will influence not only design, but all future developments. Making furniture more functional for the older generation will also be a very important aspect of future design.
S.M. In my opinion, the market is a bit difficult; we need to keep ahead. We try to win new customers via our wide product range and services. As for the existing clients, we hope to inspire them with our on-trend innovations, products and services.
A.N. We are a family company and we do business like that. We have many long term employees and that gives our clients security and quality of service.
S.M. We are not just a trading company but a family company offering top level service.
But what also makes Schachermayer unique is the large and varied product range.
As I already mentioned, we have 95.000 articles available, from tools, fittings, fasteners, doors to flooring, etc., and we have a dedicated “Partner Portal” and “PuSCH App” to help the buying journey.
A.N. We want to add value by offering additional services alongside our products. Personally, I think that selling services is more complex.
Also, export can be difficult as some countries are now placing bureaucratic barriers in the way.
S.M. I think the biggest challenge in the future will be the fast changes in technology. We always need to be creative and offer fast solutions so we don’t lose that connection with the market and our partners.
S.M. I think the future in the furniture industry will be customization – keyword “mass customization”. Individuality and creative solutions will be on an increase in the coming years.
It tells the story of how our product development teams create new ideas and then take them from the drawing board to prototype testing and beyond to a selection of very different applications and markets.
A companion brochure has also been published in English and German. Email us with your details to receive a copy.
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