As we enter 2019, businesses face SEO challenges unlike any before making ranking above one’s competitors in Google extremely difficult. There are a few major reasons for this. First, ever since Google RankBrain rolled out in 2016, the search engine’s AI and machine learning components have been studying the relationship between search results and user queries with a focus on searcher intentions. During the last few years, Google’s algorithm has been perfecting its ability to rank the most desired content to satisfy specific search needs.
This means that in order to run a growth-driven SEO strategy in 2019 and beat yout our competitors to accessing buyer audiences through organic traffic, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and rank content that resonates with their unique buyer pains. This also means you need to enhance every strand of your SEO strategy to accommodate a buyer-focused operative. Additionally, “SEO tactics” that once worked to manipulate rankings are no longer beneficial, making search optimization in 2019 a service that must be performed by award-winning SEO agencies with growth-driven strategies capable of defeating any organic competitors with strategies perfected in the previous year.
As we move into 2019, there are four major things brands need to change in how they pursue SEO. If you don’t plan to partner with an SEO agency, then get a head start by recognizing these major fails and make sure your strategy addresses each one.
Understanding SEO and Having Expectations
Before we delve into potential reasons why you won’t rank above your competitors in 2019, let’s first understand why SEO is valuable and what to expect from it when executed by a professional team that knows what they are doing.
The idea of SEO is not to rank on page one of Google and hope that people click on you because you rank well. Ranking is a step to the big picture, and that’s to convert organic traffic into paying customers. Therefore SEO needs to have a growth-driven strategy as a core component in order for it to offer any value. After all, what good is SEO or any other digital marketing strategy if it doesn’t generate revenue?
As for expectations, SEO won’t work if you don’t have realistic expectations. It is a process that requires a number of steps and working pieces. It takes time to acclimate, and for Google to recognize its efforts. There is no magic sauce that instantly ushers web traffic ready to buy your products. SEO requires patience, careful research, time, ongoing analysis, and optimization.
1. Lack of Audience Targeting
Most SEO strategies have a foundation that begins with keyword search volume; organizations want to rank for the big keywords and hope that something sticks once they achieve a high position in Google’s SERPs. This is the wrong approach, as it lacks audience targeting.
Your SEO strategy should have a foundation build on understanding how a company’s ideal customers consume information relevant to their purchase-making decisions. When you are able to unearth this kind of information you can engineer an SEO strategy rich with content that provides searchers with the precise information they are looking for.
Remember, Google rolled out RankBrain back in 2016. This algorithm is build witt machine learning and AI technology to make up the third most powerful component in its ranking algorithm. Since then, Google has been self-educating itself to decipher which content to rank for various search queries. Do you get it now? Audience targeting and SEO go hand-in-hand; you can’t expect to rank for the right keywords or search terms unless your website and its content reflects the real needs and pain points behind every Google search. If your content is broad and general addressing obvious topics without any depth to its foundation, your main SEO competitors will always rank above you.
Audience targeting is also important because it will empower every strand of your SEO strategy. It will influence your page titles, H tags and meta descriptions. It will also help define your keywords, link strategy, web page content, blog and structured data. Ultimately, audience targeting is going to fuel every working piece to your SEO strategy and will be the defining factor in your ability to outrank your competition.
So where does the data exist that will help marketers fine-tune audience targeting? Start by talking to your sales team; find out the common reasons why customers buy products, don’t buy, and why they sit on the fence in making a purchasing decision. Ask what their common pain points are, and how the products offer them an ideal solution. You can also comb through your emails looking for this data, and scan the conversations and shared content that’s filtering through social media platforms. Truly savvy strategies use LinkedIn to improve SEO for attracting B2B clients, and to gain data for improved audience targeting. Finally, send out questionnaires and surveys to current customers, and those who decided to buy elsewhere. You will mine some interesting (and even surprising) information about your buyers that will help you improve your audience targeting.
2. Ignoring Page-Level SEO
You may have noticed that your web pages have fields for page titles, image ALTs, and meta descriptions. Pages also have settings for H tags. If you ignore these, you can bet your bottom line that your competitors who are outranking you will continue to do so.
Page-level SEO consists of these things, as well as rich snippets (Schema). These items help Google better understand what your page (and the website as a whole) is all about, and which audiences its intended for. That is except for the meta description which has no direct impact on SEO, but a very profound indirect impact. Meta descriptions are important for increasing ranking. These are the descriptions that appear next to links in the search results. This is what entices click, and if searchers spend significant time on your site, strong engagement signals are sent to Google that directly impact ranking and domain authority. So if your meta description entices people to click, and it reflects the content accurately, visitors will spend significant time on your site thus letting Google know they favor the content.
As for the elements of page-level SEO, after Google crawls the URL, it crawls these things in its quest to better understand your content. There should be a strategy ensuring that all of these are aligned to help Google better understand the site so it can rank well for the right buyer groups. If you ignore these, expect to stay buried in the SERPs through all of 2019.
3. Keywords are Chosen Due to their High Search Volume
We already briefly touched on this. Many SEO agencies create strategies to rank for high search volume keywords because they believe the more a link is seen by people, the greater its conversion rate will be. But in reality they are merely throwing something into the void hoping it will stick. While this strategy may lead to great visibility, the goal is not to just be visible but to convert organic traffic into sales. So online visibility really doesn’t matter unless it is designed to convert visitors into buyers. If brands expect to rank for audiences that will convert into sales, keywords must be chosen and strategically used with that goal at the strategy’s core. This means buyer-focused keywords with context must be bridges to broad keywords, and utilized naturally in content written for specific buyer groups.
4. You Blog is Focused on Ranking for Keywords, No Target Messaging
You might as well just stop trying and put your feet up if you intend for your blog’s main objective to revolve around ranking keywords. Instead, the topic and context in your blog should be used to award ranking because this tactic will lead to higher visibility in the SERPs for crowds that will convert better.
An ideal way to do this is through the cluster model of blogging. This is where a set number of blogs existing under a specific topic each have a unique title, express a unique subject, and bare a certain context. Each blog then links internally to another with a similar subject or context. On top of this, every blog will link to the pillar page, which is typically the primary product page or home page.
This strategy promotes superior ranking because it functions as a digital circulatory system in which “SEO juice” can circulate in between pages, distribute the most juice to primary pages, and it provides structured content making it easier for Google to crawl and understand while providing a great user experience for visitors.
The cluster model blog strategy is complex and requires skilled SEO agencies to develop and monitor, and this is why most brands either do a bad job or they don’t even bother at all.