Over the years, we have spoken to literally thousands of agencies who offer SEO services. The agencies we find struggling to keep up with Google’s numerous updates are traditional advertising agencies, PR agencies, and website design shops. Our clients with 100% of their service offerings in the digital marketing space tend to adapt well to algorithm changes. This article is intended to help the agencies in the former category quickly understand and adapt their offerings to reflect changes in Google’s algorithm over the past year and into the future. 3 Top SEO Hacks to Help Your Agency Deliver Top Results.
When it comes to algorithm changes, many agency owners find them to be confusing and disjointed. The reality is that every change to Google’s algorithm keeps one major important factor top of mind at all times. Google’s primary focus is to create an outstanding search experience for each search for every user. Once we understand what Google is trying to accomplish, it becomes easier to see each algorithm change as an individual link in a larger chain. This applies to large and small updates. In 2019, Google dropped two major updates called core updates and a hundred smaller tweaks too small to announce publicly. The first core update dropped in March while the second dropped in June. Both core updates were refinements to a larger update Google dropped in March of 2018 called the Medic update. The goal of all of these updates was to provide more relevant, authoritative and trusted search results for their users. The best way to climb in Google search results is to have a solid understanding of searcher intent, the role of AI, and how to produce content Google will love.
Searcher Intent Is Key to SEO success
The primary function of a search engine is to provide much-needed answers to searchers looking for information. To do this, Google needs to have a keen understanding of what searchers want when interpreting keyboard and voice searches from users. If you think about it, Google already has the answers; they are simply waiting for the question. Google has ranked and ordered its search results for every question a user may ask. Some of those questions will have commercial value while others are purely informational in nature. Our advice is to share Google’s mission and provide great answers to users’ questions in areas where you have great subject matter expertise. If you are a plumber, you could easily create content to help people solve simple plumbing problems like stopping a toilet from running. Helpful content that makes the world a better place is the ticket to introducing users who are experiencing problems that your company can easily solve into your ecosystem. It is okay to give a little information away for free because that user is likely to come back to you when they have a more complex problem now that you built trust with them.
Before you can build trust with the user, they will need to find you. Users begin their journey typically through voice and keyboard searches. Voice search continues to gain in popularity with the introduction of Siri, Alexa devices, and Google Home. The key to optimizing your client’s website for voice search is to introduce conversational keyword phrases in your website copy. Users utilizing voice search tend to use searches such as, “Find a coffee shop near me” or “Which coffee shops are open right now?” The best places to answer these kinds of questions would be in a blog post or your FAQ page.
Optimizing your client’s website for keyboard searches involves conducting keyword research to understand what phrases searchers are typing in to find your client’s site. We recommend using Keyword Planner in AdWords, or a competitive analysis tool that shows the keyword rankings for your client and their top competitors. This webgrader is a great free resource for you to do quick and efficient keyword research. Keyboard searches are different from voice search in that keyboard search phrases are extremely concise in nature. Users attempt to minimize the amount of typing they need to do to find what they want. The result is fragmented phrases not typically used in written or verbal communication. For example, if someone is searching for a coffee shop in Seattle, they typically type in phrases such as “Coffee shop Seattle” or “Seattle Coffee Shop.” The tools mentioned above will help you understand how many times people searched these phrases per month. Although it will be tempting how to choose the keyword phrases with the highest search volume, if you have a small SEO budget, we recommend going for one of the mid-search volume keywords as most other agencies will shoot for the highest volume keywords. Once your keyword research is complete, we recommend that you add these keywords to your site’s metadata such as your client’s title tags and header tags. It is also possible to add these keyword phrases to the marketing copy of your client’s website where appropriate. If the search phrase is too awkward to include in marketing copy, we recommend that you add a variant to that keyword. For example, if “Coffee shop Seattle” is too awkward, change that to “Coffee shop in Seattle.” Now that we understand how searchers reach a particular site, let’s turn our attention to the role of artificial intelligence.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Search
Google launched RankBrain back in 2015 in an effort to further improve the user experience for each searcher. Know that both RankBrain and algorithm updates share the same objective and work in a complementary fashion. Rankbrain parses through endless reams of data on the web to use machine learning to create better search results more efficiently than periodic algorithm updates. The following three tips will help you optimize clients’ websites in a way that RankBrain will love.
- Create user-centric content: We talked about this earlier. It is critical to creating content that makes the lives of your readers better and is viewed as a valued resource by Google. Google is looking for specific kinds of content that we will detail in the long-form content section below.
- Link building: Creating outstanding content, although critical, is not enough all by itself. Creating links to your customers’ best content will give your clients a boost over their competition. Google interprets links as votes that validate the usefulness of that content. We recommend that you hire a white label SEO agency with a core strength in link building as they tend to have tremendous resources in terms of link creator relationships.
- Click-through rates: After conducting a Google inquiry, our coffee shop searchers will be presented with 10 results on page one. The question is which result will they click on? The primary way to improve your click-through rate is to improve your position on the first page of Google’s search results. Another way to increase your click-through rate is to improve your description tag. Since this is something we can easily control and will provide nearly immediate impact, we suggest focusing on the description tag first. The description tag is the copy immediately below the hyperlink in your search result. Take a look at our screenshot below to see what the typical description tag looks like. Use the four tips outlined below to improve your description tag. Because a typical click-through rate is only 1% to 2%, even a small Improvement in your click-through rate can have a tremendous impact.
- Help searchers understand which products and services you offer and let them know why they should choose you
- Keep your description tag at or below 155 characters in length
- Make sure to include keywords or variants of your keywords in your description tag
- Including a call to action in your client’s description tag is a surefire way to improve your click-through rate
Create Really Long Blogs
If you are like many agency owners who blog for their clients, your blog content is relatively short in length. A blog post that is 300 to 500 words in length has been the norm for many years. Searchers are now looking for more detailed content that provides specific instructions to help them solve a difficult problem. To accommodate the shift in user preferences, Google now rewards content that is 2,000 to 2,500 words in length with page one rankings. This expanded length grants the space needed to provide step-by-step instructions that users crave when trying to solve problems about which they have little expertise. Longer content has the added benefit of increasing the amount of time a user spends reading a blog post. Google uses time on page as another quality indicator that users love the content. If your clients have small budgets that would normally preclude you from writing a 2,000-word blog post, we recommend that you write a long-form blog post one small piece at a time. For example, if you typically wrote two 500-word blog posts per month, we recommend that you write the first half of a single 2,000-word post with your two 500-word blog posts and then complete the blog post the next month.
Thank you for taking the time to improve your craft and create better results for your agency’s clients. It is our belief that if you implement the strategies outlined above, your clients will feel the impact of implementing these changes later this year.
Adam Stetzer holds a Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology and has published on the topics of Internet marketing, absenteeism, employee and customer satisfaction, productivity and safety, and culture. He has founded several technology firms and is currently CEO at HubShout, a white label SEO reseller firm. In his 25 year career, he has worked with companies such as General Electric, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Verizon, AT&T, Ford, LendingTree, American Express and ChevronTexaco. Adam has advised over 1,000 small business owners and blogs frequently.