In the ever-changing world of SEO focuses on driving more traffic can leave your brand’s site trailing the competition. There are a multitude of factors that can have a significant impact on your organic performance, from technical enhancements to optimising content for intent.
Google as an answer engine
Organic search results have changed significantly, with Google trying to answer a search query in the search results. Optimising your site for Featured Snippets and People Also Ask (PAAs) questions can have a dramatic impact on increasing your brand’s visibility.
- Identify your target keywords - a number of keyword analysis tools such as STAT allow you to see which keywords are generating Featured Snippets or PAAs such as Ahrefs and SEMrush.
- Determine the opportunity - Featured Snippets are primarily populated by pages ranking between positions 1 to 8 in the search results so keywords ranking here should be your focus.
- Analyse the competitors - For list and table Featured Snippets, the HTML markup used on a page influences inclusion in a snippet. Look for sites using bulleted lists (<ul> elements), numbered lists (<ol> elements), tables (<table> elements) and header tags (H1s and H2s particularly) to frame questions on a page, as these can influence inclusion in paragraph Featured Snippets and PAAs.
- Match the intent - matching the intent of your content to the Featured Snippet or PAA, increases the possibility of being included in the feature. If the content in the snippet is informational but your content is highly commercial you will need to change it to be included. For PAAs, look to introduce content to your site that answers the identified questions, either by expanding your FAQ section or adding short FAQ content hubs to relevant pages.
- Implement technical changes - markup relevant questions as H1s or H2s for both Featured Snippets and PAAs, as well as using tables or bulleted and numbered lists where relevant to structure your content in a format that matches the Featured Snippet.
Site Speed has taken on an increased prominence over the last year with a number of algorithm updates including the Speed Update specifically targeting mobile site speed. Therefore, improving your mobile site speed is a key factor in improving overall organic performance.
Choose the right tools - Google recently updated PageSpeed Insights to provide a more in-depth analysis, but I recommend Google’s Lighthouse site speed audit which has more capability.
- Choose the right tools - Google recently updated PageSpeed Insights to provide a more in-depth analysis, but I recommend Google’s Lighthouse site speed audit which has more capability.
- Choose the right metrics - chasing 100/100 scores may be tempting but your focus should be on making your site faster for your customers. Google has popularised metrics which let your customers know whether the page is loading if it answers their query and whether they can interact with the page. Improving one or a number of these metrics will ensure you make the page feel faster for your customers.
- Optimise for perceived speed - improve your customers' perception of how quickly the page is loading, rather than just improving the overall load time. Ensure the main image on a page or your font files load quickly so customers can see whether the page answers their query (resource prioritisation).
- Prioritise sitewide changes - these will have the biggest impact on performance as they are easier to implement and will affect the whole site. Ensure repeat customers don’t have to redownload files that haven't changed (caching), making sure your servers can deliver files quickly (HTTP/2) and delivering images optimised for the web are a must.
Analysing the relevance of your link profile
Google uses topic relevancy signals when analysing the links to your site so securing PR coverage in relevant publications is important.
- Download a list of your links - Moz, Ahrefs and Majestic are subscription-based tools that have sizeable indexes of links.
- Filter the list - analysing the most authoritative links will provide you with the most actionable overview of your link profile. The above indexes use authority metrics scored out of 100 and filtering for sites with a score of 60 or above will give you a representative analysis of your links.
- Analyse relevancy - determine whether you are obtaining coverage in relevant articles by using Natural Language processing to categorise the pages where your site has acquired links.
- Acquire more relevant coverage - look for topics that are relevant to your products or services that are not highlighted in the above analysis and then target publications that cover these topics.
Understanding keyword intent
Optimising for the highest volume keywords will no longer deliver the biggest impact on organic performance. As searchers become savvier and Google’s machine learning algorithms begin to understand more complex queries, SEOs need to optimise for the searcher’s intent.
- Segment your keywords - segmenting keywords by intent provides the platform to optimise content for consumer intent. You can use Excel to automatically categorise a keyword list, the example formula below categorises for local intent (keyword is in cell A2). =IF(NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("near me",A2))),"Near Me", IF(NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("open now",A2))),"Open Now", IF(OR(NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("in leeds",A2))),NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("in liverpool",A2))),NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("in newcastle",A2))),NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("in manchester",A2)))),"In Location", IF(NOT(ISERR(SEARCH("open late",A2)))=TRUE,"Open Late","No Local Intent"))))
- Download ranking URLs - download the top 20 ranking URLs for your categorised keywords using your chosen rank tracking tool.
- Analyse intent - analyse the ranking URLs using the Natural Language tools to highlight the most popular topics appearing for each of your intent categories.
- Update content - using the above analysis determine the content changes required to match your site to the intent from the search results.
The constantly changing landscape of Google’s search results provides SEOs with a number of opportunities to enhance a site’s performance. Prioritising tactics that will improve the visibility of your brand in a competitive landscape, provide better user experience, increase relevancy and match consumer intent will ensure that your SEO efforts have the maximum business impact.