Digital marketing is ever-changing, and it's what makes SEO so challenging and rewarding. While there are some key changes each year, like algorithm updates, Penguin 4.0 in 2016, some of the familiar ones are being emphasized now more than ever: mobile responsiveness, voice search and user experience. Both B2B and B2C digital marketers need to respond quickly to these trends if they haven’t already.
Adoption of Responsive Websites
With the adoption of the Google Mobile-First Index, a responsive site is necessary, especially since most users – including B2B customers – are searching on mobile devices. In this new mobile landscape, web marketers need to craft their content and conversion strategies to be easily consumed on small screens.
The time to adapt to this design is now. After all, that’s when users are searching, at the exact time and place they need something. These micro-moments, times when a user searches for information, a service, entertainment or a product, should shape the look and functionality of your website. Consider an emergency repair service for marine vessels. When a user finds broken machinery while on the vessel and only has access to a phone or tablet to find a repair service quickly, a responsive website becomes vital. In this moment, the user needs to easily find a website in Google or Bing, browse the service offerings and contact a repair person immediately.
The urgency behind a search also affects the user’s behavior. If your site takes more than three seconds to load, even if it’s a great mobile-friendly design, you may lose that customer. Google reports that after three seconds, 53% of users abandon that page. With three seconds as a best practice maximum load time, faster is always better, and improving the mobile friendliness and speed of your website should be your top priority in 2017.
Voice search will also change content marketing in 2017. With devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo and many mobile phones featuring virtual assistants, content strategies will need to focus more on answering users’ informational queries. The B2B customer sales cycle can last anywhere from 1-12 months, and increasing your brand's visibility during the research, comparison and transactional phases improves your likelihood of capturing that customer.
Of course, there are always exceptions, particularly in emergency situations. Again, consider the example “emergency vessel repair near me.” A user who searches this is looking for a specific service at a certain time and place. To make your site show up for this query, your site should anticipate any questions this user may have regarding services, time and location. This creates a better user experience, more informative content and makes your website more likely to show up in featured snippets, as Google serves results that answer a user’s question. For B2B service companies with longer sales cycles, it’s still too early to tell how voice search will impact them. However, this was the case with mobile a few years ago, and its recent impact on B2B has been immense. As the use of virtual assistants continues to grow in popularity and become integrated within our daily lives (such as in our cars), it’s only a matter of time before voice search affects B2B on a larger scale.
Along with composing great content, online marketers need to properly markup their information to make it easier for search engines to organize through schema, JSON or other appropriate markup. Quick Answer content is often used as the responses from Google’s Virtual Assistant, Alexa and Siri, making featured snippets central in a voice search landscape. Overall, the quality of content and its ability to thoroughly answer users’ queries should continue to be a focus.
Search Engines have come a long way from scanning a page for relevant keywords. While written content is still important to show up for certain queries, user engagement metrics and the way search engines determine a site’s usability is much more sophisticated. User engagement metrics that can have an indirect effect on a site’s organic visibility include time on site, bounce rate, page views and direct traffic. Mobile usability and speed, as mentioned earlier, are also aspects search engines consider when determining the quality of a site.
To improve these metrics, content marketers can develop more opportunities for engagement on their sites. For example, an industrial equipment manufacturer can include a video that describes the process of part creation or the utility of an additional service they offer. Slideshows and interactive tools are other visual ways to keep users on your site, explain your company’s capabilities and give them valuable information about your product or service. Strategic internal linking and an intuitive navigation can also lead to more page views and time on site.
Example of an interactive search tool
When choosing which keywords to target, you must consider the intent behind a user’s search and how your content meets their expectations. For example, if a user searches for “benefits of metal roofing,” they are likely in the research phase and their intent is to learn more about metal roofing in general. Pricing and technical information would not meet this need, but a list of the top reasons to buy a metal roof or how it compares to other materials would. If you provide this research phase content and give that user a positive experience with your website, they may be likely to come back directly to you for pricing and purchasing information.
More to Come
2017 is sure to bring changes to the search engine landscape. Digital marketers must listen to users’ needs and address mobile responsiveness, site speed, voice search and overall user experience to remain competitive and prepared for what’s to come. But it's not just SEO that's affected by these trends - be sure to look out for our upcoming 2017 Paid Search post!