In 2014, we can look forward to the continued evolution of what constitutes a smart marketing strategy. Although some things, such as the importance of high quality content, remain the same, the introduction of Hummingbird and the continued growth of mobile and social media use will cause us to refine some aspects of our digital marketing approach.
High quality content is still the cornerstone of digital marketing. According to Social Media Today, around half of companies now have a content marketing strategy, and 78% of CMOs believe that custom content is key to their marketing future. That is because content drives traffic. Inbound marketing delivers leads at a rate 67% higher than traditional outbound tactics, and business-to-business companies that run a blog generate 67% more leads than those that do not. What has changed is how we need to be thinking about content in order to target our audience and drive traffic.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm has increased focus on conversational search, meaning that Google is better able to take search terms in context in order to deliver more relevant results. The following are some of implications of the rise of conversational search:
Conversational search includes an understanding that many users prefer to type searches in the form of questions. If a piece of your content directly answers a user’s question, then it is likely to rank more highly in the results.
Conversational search is becoming increasingly important as users begin to rely on voice searches rather than typing in keywords. In implementing conversational search, Google is attempting to use semantic analysis to tune into what users need. If you center your content around what your potential customers need and will be looking for, they will have an easier time finding you.
Content written on very specifically focused topics is also likely to appear more prominently in search engine page results (SERPS) for relevant queries. For example, if a user types in “behavior of the leafy sea dragon,” an article on that precise topic should generally appear higher in the SERPS than general articles about seahorses or even about leafy sea dragons in particular.
Much of this might seem like the same old advice. The primary difference is that keywords, although still important, are declining as search engines become smarter about how to more specifically target what their users need. Conversational search more finely tunes results to be relevant to the user’s intent, and so inclusion of a few magic keywords is unlikely to make less-than-relevant material appear in the SERPS. The bottom line: know your audience well, and give them what they want.
Hummingbird allows mobile users to get the most relevant and useful results wherever they are. As the use of mobile devices has become ubiquitous over the past several years, the importance of responsive design has become vital. According to an August 2013 Mashable survey, 17.4% of global web traffic that year came through mobile devices. That is roughly 50% more than in 2012. Consequently, sites that do not render well on mobile devices will suffer in SERP results.
Another feature of Hummingbird is that it is better able to process social signals. This compounds the already-increasing importance of a social media presence. In 2013, 52% of marketers found a customer through Facebook, and 43% found a customer through LinkedIn. Social Media Today found that social sharing buttons increase click-through rates by 158%. Although links to your website are still important, now common users, and not only those with their own websites, can endorse your content and lend it credibility. It is important to build a social media presence across a variety of platforms, both for search engine rank and for brand recognition.
Online Audience Optimization (OAO)
Some say that OAO is the new SEO. Rather than focusing on search engine rank, content is created with the user in mind. In this strategy, high quality content remains paramount, along with techniques that engage users and prompt them to interact with your business. The goal is to build a targeted audience that will trust, share, and promote what you offer. It involves building fresh, smart, and engaging content that you share through social networks, blogs, and articles.
Blue Frog Marketing can handle all of your business’s digital marketing needs. We provide our clients with smart inbound marketing strategy, including high quality content, website design, SEO, and social media management.