What I Learned from HubSpot’s “SEO in 2017” Webinar (& How it can Boost Your Business in the New Year)
Some of the most common questions I get are from small business owners who know that SEO is important but don’t have a clue where to start with it. And this is understandable. Google updates its algorithm thousands of times each year, and SEO is a notoriously slippery and fluid thing to attempt to get hold of.
Recently, I took part in HubSpot’s “SEO in 2017” webinar, and it answered many of the common questions small business owners have about SEO and how it will change in the coming year. Here’s what I learned, and what I want to pass along to you:
1.Google doesn’t even fully understand itself, so it’s okay if you don’t either
You’d think that an organization as massive and smart as Google would have a pretty good grip on what it’s doing in the world of SEO and why, but you’d have thought wrong. One of Google’s biggest changes last year was the introduction of the RankBrain algorithm – an AI, machine-learning program designed to help Google process its millions of monthly searches, especially those queries Google previously could not understand or decipher.
At SMX West in May of 2016, however, one of Google’s top engineers, Paul Haahr, announced that, while the search engine giant understands how RankBrain works, it doesn’t fully understand what it’s doing.
While this isn’t meant to point fun at Google, it should demonstrate that SEO is complicated, and even a company as advanced as Google doesn’t always understand its inner workings. That said, you can cut yourself some slack.
2. Mobile search is exploding, and AMP is critical
2015 was the first year that mobile search surpassed desktop search, and that trend only continues to skyrocket. While this doesn’t’ mean you should abandon desktop search – it’s still important – it does mean that small business owners and marketers need to reconsider the way they think about search. Today, “search” doesn’t always involve consumers sitting at their computers. Instead, “search” entails a complex mixture of voice search, mobile search, and “suggested pages” on sites like Amazon and Facebook.
While search engines are keeping up with these changing trends in a multitude of ways, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages program is taking the lead. Google introduced the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP) in October of 2015 as a way of striving toward a “faster, open mobile web.” It also sought to solve a common problem the growing number of mobile users face when they search online: many pages take too long to load on a mobile platform. When this happens, mobile users wind up bouncing from page to page, hoping to find one that functions effectively on their platform.
AMP does this and more. According to Google, AMP “aims to dramatically improve the performance of the mobile web” by enhancing the load speed of AMP-enabled pages. While the average non-AMP mobile page takes 6.9 seconds to load, an AMP-enabled page loads in under a second. Here’s a MarketingLand gif to illustrate how much of an impact AMP-enabled pages have on mobile load time:
3. A shift from terms to topics
2016 rounded out with a lot of talk about keywords. Are they still necessary? How do you use them? How often should a small business’s keyword strategy change? It can get complex quite quickly, and it’s no surprise that many small business owners are confused.
While the role of keywords in web content has changed in recent years (search engines don’t pay attention to irrelevant metrics like keyword saturation anymore), keywords are still essential in digital material. According to HubSpot’s webinar, however, 2017 will see a shift from “terms to topics,” with the focus being on picking six or seven topics to cover, and then clustering content around them. This simple approach breaks some of the dependence on keyword inclusion and allows small businesses to take new creative liberties with their content.
4. Buyer personas still matter – don’t bypass them
One thing that seems like it won’t change in the world of online marketing is the importance of the buyer persona. Critical to guiding and directing your content, the buyer persona is the foundation of any good online content strategy. According to HubSpot, buyer personas aren’t going anywhere in 2017, and small businesses will do well to build them, re-evaluate them regularly, and update them any time offerings or target audiences change.
Happy Holidays, and an SEO-Rich 2017 To Your Small Business
While the role of SEO in small business digital marketing can be tough to grasp, HubSpot’s recent “SEO in 2017” webinar answered many of the questions small business owners and founders have about what it is, how to use it, and how it will change in the coming year.
By doing simple things like to enhance your SEO in 2017, such as AMP on your web pages, clustering your content around topics rather than terms, and developing detailed and relevant buyer personas, you can build a successful online company that will stand out in the digital environment of the coming year.