I recently had the pleasure of visiting Seattle to hear some of the top voices in search engine optimisation (SEO) speak about the latest trends and challenges facing digital marketing. MozCon 2018 was a three-day conference with mountains of insights – below is what stuck out most to me.
1. It’s time to reassess SEO goals
“What’s your biggest takeaway so far?,” I asked a lunchmate on day one. “That Google hates us and wants to make SEOs lives miserable,” he responded. Hmm… okay, but that’s not how I had seen it.
Yes, according to Britney Muller (Moz), 40% of desktop searches don’t result in a click through to a page, and the same is true for a whopping 60% of mobile searches – but from my user-first focus, this isn’t a bad thing! It means more people are finding the information they need – phone numbers, opening hours, menus, addresses etc. – in as few steps as possible (in this case, without even leaving Google’s interface). It’s a more seamless experience – and when would you ever want to make something more difficult for a customer?
Following MozCon, I’ve been travelling in New York City for the first time. Which also means I’ve been Googling like crazy finding places to eat, things to do, and how to get from A to B. I think there’s something about visiting a new city that really highlights how much the Google experience has improved. Comparing options and locations makes finding what you actually want a breeze. As Hannah Thorpe (White.net) said, the key to success is to “prioritise people and user experience over pure SEO.” I think this has always been true, and it’s now more important than ever.
So, stop measuring success in traffic and ranking alone. Neither of these has ever guaranteed business success anyway. Instead, focus on user-centric goals.
2. You need to play Google’s game
As Cindy Krum (MobileMoxie) said, “Google’s goal is to organise the world’s information – not the world’s websites.” Even more to the point, she said, “follow the money. Google is investing in tech that doesn’t have screens… Google can’t just list website titles in voice search results.”
Put this way, it’s easy to see that the focus on more and more information being pulled onto Google’s own interface is a key piece in the voice search revolution. So, with this new-found perspective, how do we make sure we’re “playing by their rules”?
So far, it looks like Google is favouring information that is clearly laid out, such as:
The good news? These are all golden rules of clear copywriting.
3. Reviews can be a hugely influential tool
This is another insight that I found to be so true during my holiday. It’s obvious, really. You’re going to trust what people have to say about an experience with a business more than a business says about itself. It’s nothing new that testimonials can be very powerful.
As Mike Ramsey (Nifty Marketing) said, your Google listing is your new home page: so it pays to think of a review strategy. More reviews won’t necessarily affect your ranking, but they can persuade a potential customer when they’re researching your business (see point one). “Reviews can be so convincing,” he said. “They can be your sales team.” They highlight your best features in a way that’s meaningful to your audience.
So, make it part of your operations to prompt reviews. Some ways to do this include:
- put a link in your email signature
- put signs in-store
- put prompts on receipts
- ask your customers in follow-up communications.
But optimising reviews doesn’t end at getting them. Make sure to publicly respond to your reviews (and do so on-brand). In the case of positive reviews, it can boost your image of giving great customer service.
In the case of negative reviews, it can be good to either:
- give the full context of the situation if your reviewer conveniently left out key information
- illustrate your humility and grace, by showing you’ve heard their constructive feedback and will take it on board.