Redefining SEO in the Age of Digital Transformation
Search engine optimization (SEO) is in the midst of a massive evolution. From the rise of semantic search to voice search, image search, and mobile search, the rules of SEO have changed dramatically in only a few years.
This evolution makes sense, considering what digital transformation is all about: the desire to improve the customer experience. As Janelle Estes wrote in a recent article on CMS Wire, “Technologies, and how we interact with them, will change, but it’s a timeless truth that to stay relevant to customers, companies must keep their fingers on the pulse of consumers’ constantly evolving needs and expectations and build those insights into their offerings.” After all, she explains, “Only through human insight can companies connect the dots between what customers think, feel, say, and do.”
For example, until recently, SEO consisted of identifying a keyword, writing a blog post on that keyword, and maybe adding a few meta tags that include the keyword.
This is no longer efficient or effective, and it’s far from what Google is looking for today.
To give today’s customers what they truly desire, it’s imperative to look at SEO in a different way. Here's how to redefine your SEO best practices to further boost search engine results in the complex age of digital transformation.
Aim for relevance, not ranking.
Rather than focusing on search terms, instead focus on the searchers. When they type a specific keyword in a Google search query, what are they really looking for, and why? For example:
- Do they want to answer a question (which means they need written content)?
- Are they comparing products (which means they expect images)?
- Have they asked for a recommendation (which means reviews and ratings would be helpful)?
These different scenarios underscore the importance of understanding relevance and searcher intent. Now that Google’s newest algorithm updates enable the search engine to better decipher not only what users are searching for, but also why they are searching, marketers need to expand their vision of what SEO really means.
Understand what ranks well.
Five years ago, the No. 1 ranking on Google was the place to be. But today, the top listing in a search engine results page isn’t always a blog post or a homepage. It might be an image, video, or featured snippet.
This is important to understand. What you rank for is just as important as where you rank. To figure this out, examine the top 10 results for a keyword you’d like to rank for. What types of content rank well?
For example, if the first five results for that keyword are product pages, writing a blog article using that keyword won’t help you crack into a top listing. Clearly, Google sees product-related content as more relevant to the people searching for that keyword.
Look beyond simple ranking goals, and instead identify the types of content Google is favoring for each keyword you want to target. Then pour your energy into creating the best possible version of that content, optimized and polished to perfection, to outperform your competition.
Create assests for the entire buyer journey.
Many businesses make the mistake of only targeting people at the end of the buyer journey. But focusing on the customer experience, rather than keywords, requires producing content for buyers at every stage of their journey.
For instance, one pharmaceutical company recently researched their customers’ search behavior and found that people were searching for the ingredients found in their products. In response, the company began creating more content to share nutrition information about their products.
This new content augmented what was already on their website and made it easier for customers to find the information they wanted. This not only improved the company’s search results for buyers early in their journey, it also boosted their results for buyers ready to make their purchase decisions.
Produce content that clicks.
Measuring performance is important, but knowing which metrics to monitor is key. In the age of digital transformation, click-through rates are just as important as average positions.
This is because a click-through rate shows whether you’re successfully delivering what searchers want. For example, if your search ranking decreases from position two to position four, but your click-through rate increases 10%, what does that tell you? It tells you that searchers are finding your content more relevant—regardless of where it’s appearing in the results.
Even better, use this data to uncover opportunities to create similar, better content that continues to give searchers exactly what they’re looking for.
Understand the limits of technical SEO.
Every SEO strategy requires technical fundamentals to ensure optimal crawling, indexing, metadata, structured data, and page speed.
These fundamentals are the table stakes that are needed to rank in the search engines. But beyond these basics, technical SEO will only get you so far. The difference between ranking at No. 1 or No. 10 will depend on your strategy and content, not tweaks to your loading speed or changes to your image alt tags.
In other words, while solid technical SEO is imperative, it’s only one aspect of a comprehensive approach to SEO management.
Ultimately, that’s the key lesson here: A great SEO plan today must incorporate a sound strategy, outstanding content (which probably means more than just blog posts), and flawless technical fundamentals. All of these elements must work together to deliver what your searchers want, the way they want it. Make your customer the center of everything you do, and you’ll win at the battle of SEO in the age of digital transformation.
Joe Obringer is senior manager of search and media at Capgemini, Digital Customer Experience Practice. He has 15 years of experience working in the digital and search marketing space. At Capgemini, Obringer’s focus is on growing and maintaining the search and media practice through client management, team expansion, and sales. He helps current clients and prospects realize and road-map their growth potential for revenue, new customer acquisition strategies, and media spend allocation, then execute on the strategies through day-to-day media management.