New Google AI search technology could kill traditional SEO

Google may soon expand its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to power its search results, according to a recent article from Social Media Today. This development could render traditional search engine optimization (SEO) techniques obsolete. At the same time, it will dramatically increase the importance of strategic content marketing.

The move toward behavior-based search

implications of AI powered searchTraditional SEO has been based upon optimizing your web pages for specific attributes, such as making sure that page titles, headlines and headings contain the keywords and phrases you want to rank for on Google.

The incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into Google Search, already used in about 15% of all searches, enables it to make intelligent inferences based upon searcher behavior. It may consider factors such as:

  • How long did they spend on a web page?
  • Where did they come to it from?
  • Where did they go next?
  • How does the page they visited compare with their search history?

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence can discern patterns within massive amounts of data and make inferences about it, without human intervention. The most amazing aspect of this technology as that AI systems can “learn,” adjusting their algorithms to deliver more accurate results.

Google has been developing its own AI technology since 2011. Since then, it has been incorporated into a variety of Google products, including speech recognition, image recognition, street view and self-driving cars. It is currently used in about 15% of Google searches.

Based on our analysis of the Social Media Today article and several other recent reports (here, here and here), it’s clear that AI will soon completely transform Google Search. The most significant development is a recent change at the head of Google’s search operations. Amit Singhal, who ran it for the 15 years, has retired. He was replaced by John Giannandrea, who oversees the company’s work in artificial intelligence. This move clearly signals Google’s deep commitment to this new technology.

What does this mean to marketers?

As the Social Media Today article points out, “SEO-friendly” is giving way to “user-friendly.” To translate that into plain English, publishing high-quality content that’s focused on the needs of your audience is more important than ever. Why? Follow this logical progression:

  1. The more compelling and targeted your content is, the more your audience will engage with it (e.g., invest more time reading it, share it, and click on links within it).
  2. Engagement is nothing more than a set of desirable behaviors – which Google is already measuring and using to rank pages in search results.
  3. As Google Search analyzes your audience’s behavior, it should reward your valuable content with better positioning in search results. Not because it’s properly tagged and “stuffed” with the right words and phrases. But because your audience considers it to be valuable, based upon their actions.

What should you do now?

  • Develop detailed personas for each of your target audiences and an accurate picture of your typical prospect’s buyer’s journey. Understand their informational needs at each step, and develop a strategic content plan that is focused on meeting their needs.
  • Consistently produce high-quality content that is focused on the audience needs you have identified. Measure their engagement with your content to determine which topics resonate with them. Then, produce more of that.
  • Build your email list, which will help you communicate directly with more prospects and build trust with them, nurturing them with the information they need at each step of their journey – before, during and after the sale.

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SEO and Content Marketing: The Dynamic Duo

SEO, content marketing and AIDownload your FREE copy of our new eGuide about leveraging the dynamic duo – SEO and Content Marketing – to ensure that the right people can find the right content at the right time.

It reveals:

  • How Google has changed, and why you need to consider more than just on-page SEO.
  • The semantic elements Google is now considering when ranking content.
  • Action steps you can use to improve your content’s performance in search results.

Learn how to fight for truth, justice and first-page search results. Download our FREE eGuide for a road map to leveraging the the Batman and Robin of digital media – search engine optimization and content marketing – to increase sales.

3 Reasons Why an Active Blog is Necessary for Long-Term SEO Success

 
Way back in 1996, Bill Gates declared, “Content is King.” In his essay, Gates predicted that content would be where “much of the real money will be made on the Internet.” In 2010, when blogging really started to gain traction, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals took that phrase to heart.

At first, we saw an uptick in plain ol’ content—mostly words tossed together in a fashion that appealed to search engine bots, but not people. Meh. As Google’s algorithms became smarter and the masses flocked to the Internet, marketers came to understand that only quality content (content that appeals to BOTH bots AND people) is the only content that will do.

Today, high quality website content has become a major force powering SEO. Why? Because Google LOVES quality content—and if you care about getting found online: when Google talks, you LISTEN!

 

How an Active Blog Helps SEO

So what about blogs? Blogs have become a turn-key content solution used to capitalize on today’s top SEO tactics. When you create a blog and update it regularly with content that attracts your target market, you’ll be edging your way to the number 1 spot on page 1 of Google.

active blogBlogs have only become more and more powerful over the years. They’re simply a must for any business these days, as a great blog has proven to be a major sales-generating tool.

Before we go any further, it’s important to understand the meaning of SEO. Search Engine Land defines SEO as, “the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, editorial, or natural search results on search engines.” Put simply: search engine optimization is what you do to your website to bring in more web traffic.

Why bring in more web traffic?
Because your customer’s purchase starts with search.

When you add a blog to your website (following current content marketing and SEO best practices), you’re giving the search engines what they want, which can really pay off.

 

#1. Fresh Blog Content Can Influence Search Engine Rankings

You may be asking, “Why do I need to update my blog?” Fair enough. There’s a great answer for that, and it’s the key to propelling your content up the search ladder.

Each time you update your blog, the search engines send out a little crawler that reads, then indexes your webpages. When this happens, the chance your content will achieve a higher search rank increases. When creating fresh, new content, keep in mind: Quality Beats Quantity. So “refreshing” an existing blog post won’t always cut it—instead, start new often and tell stories whenever you can. Stories sell.

 

#2. Blog Posts = More Backlink Opportunities = Higher DA

Every website has something called Domain Authority (DA). Developed by Moz, this is a score (on a 100-point scale) that predicts how well your website will rank on search engines. While DA is determined by a lot of different factors, authoritative backlinks pointing to your website can help boost your rankings.

To get those high quality backlinks, you need to give people a reason to want to link to your content. Typically backlinks happen when:

  • Your content is unique and engaging.
  • You have fans (not necessarily customers) who are passionate about your brand.
  • People feel some type of emotional connection to your company and/or your products and services.
  • Your content is quote-worthy and people see a reason to cite you.

 

#3. More Opportunities for Keywords

Keywords are an important part of a complete SEO strategy. With every new blog post you create, you have the opportunity to use new or existing keywords, all of which…you guessed it…get that great content of yours FOUND.

There are two types of keywords: long-tail keyword and short-tail keywords.

 

Long-Tail Keywords: Short-Tail Keywords:
  • Longer (include 3 or more words)
  • More specific
  • Include phrases
  • Target a specific audience

Examples:

  1. Find an SEO Agency in Wisconsin
  2. Hire a Content Marketer in Waukesha County
  • Shorter (1 to 2 words)
  • Less specific
  • Include single words
  • Target a broader audience

Examples:

  1. SEO Agency
  2. Content Marketer

 

Before getting started with blogging for SEO, do understand: it can be a large undertaking. But when it’s done right, an active blog can generate loads more leads and tons more sales. When done wrong, it can end up being a big waste of time and money.

We recommend hiring professionals, so give us a shout at Cultivate Communications!
 

5 Great Ideas for Retaining Loyal, Enthusiastic Customers

Loyal, Enthusiastic Customers
Marketing is SO different than it was just a few years ago. While the Web makes it easier to start a company these days, 9 out of 10 startups still fail.

One way to claim a top 1% spot is to fully engage your customer base. A healthy bunch of repeat customers is one step shy of a wild band of brand advocates who will help you sell your product.

Hear that? Brand advocates are loyal, enthusiastic customers who sell FOR you.

No matter what you do, some percentage of your customers are only one-time opportunities. Others will appreciate your company so much they’ll become long-term customers, and they’ll recommend you to their family and friends. These are your potential brand advocates. It’s up to you to provide them incentive to continue to do business with your company.

Ask yourself right now:

  • What do we offer our customers that outshines our competition?
  • How do we show our customers we care?

Hint: If you can answer those two questions, you’re doing your part to generate a repeat customer base rampant with brand advocacy. Could you do more?

 

Try this:

1. Above ALL: Create Evangelists with Superior Customer Service

Loyal, enthusiastic customers don’t just happen. It starts with product and ends—or continues on and on—with exceptional customer service. Understand that customers don’t necessarily have to love you to continue to do business with you. Some will continue to buy your product or services because you offer something unique, because they’re resistant to change, or because your competition has a worse reputation than you do…but they’ll never advocate your brand.

Brand advocates are crazy about you. They love your products and services and their recommendations don’t come with an attached “but…”. As in, “The product is great, but the customer service is terrible.”

The first step to creating brand evangelists is to remove the “but…” with excellent customer service.

2. Offer Up Relevant, Smart, Emotional, Entertaining Content Marketing

How do your customers feel when they use your products or engage in your services? What are your customers’ interests? How can you help your customers solve even more of their most pressing problems?

Most importantly: What do your customers WANT?

It’s your job to learn these answers and provide the information, authenticity, and powerful storytelling they seek through engaging content marketing. Provide the best content on the Web that meets and exceeds your customers’ expectations—and your customers will love you for it.

Bonus: Great content marketing is great for search engine optimization (SEO)—so not only does content marketing help you cultivate brand loyalty, it also helps you gain new prospects and customers.

3. Reward the Refer-A-Friend

Refer-A-Friend rewards both the person referring AND the new customer. Dropbox is a great example. By offering extra storage on both sides, Dropbox increased signups by 60% and went from 100,000 users to 4 million in just over a year. Bam.

4. Create an Exclusive Club

Asking customers to “buy” a “rewards card” seems like a bad idea, but it works, and it works well. Amazon charges $99 per year for its Prime membership, and the rewards are worth it to both customers and Amazon. Perks include free shipping, movies, music, books, early-access deals, and more.

Here’s the kicker: Prime members spend an average of $1,500 a year, about $900 more than the average amount spent by non-member customers.

5. Give Back

TOMS is a company rooted in social good. The concept is simple: For every pair of shoes purchased, Toms provides a pair of shoes to children around the world most in need. The program has become so popular that Toms has expanded; now they also provide clean water, eyeglasses, training, and kits packed with items to help women more safely give birth.

 

Use these 5 great marketing ideas to inspire your customers to want to share their enthusiasm with others—so they tell others how much they like your products, your services, and the perks you offer to earn their business. This kind of ongoing customer lovin’ creates an emotional connection that’s difficult for your competitors to disrupt.

 
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Side Door Thinking: Learn the smart marketing tactics you need to truly engage with more customers.Stop banging on the front door of your customer’s mind …when the side door is wide open! Want to learn more about effective content marketing? Whether you decide to outsource content marketing or not, this eBook is chock-full of great information on content marketing. Download this FREE guide, Side Door Thinking, to discover how content marketing can help you ramp up your website and complete your marketing strategy.

You’ll learn how to:
  • Increase Your Referral Rate
  • Increase Your Social Media Reach
  • Leverage New Product Lines & Revenue Streams
  • Earn Your Customer’s Loyalty & Business
  • Position Yourself As An Industry Leader & Trusted Resource
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5 Actions to Improve Your Search Engine Visibility in 2016

 
SEO visibility checklistSearch engine optimization (SEO) is not, and never will be, dead. Search engines will always use criteria plugged into algorithms to identify and provide the highest quality sites users are searching for. That’s just a fact.

If your goal is to popularize your brand, drive traffic to your site, increase conversion rate, and inspire customer loyalty, improving your SEO is a critical starting point.

You don’t have control over search engine ranking factors, but you can improve the known factors that affect your site. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your SEO.

1. Start with an SEO Audit

Broken incoming and outgoing links, bad redirects, duplicate content, and other SEO errors can hurt your search engine rank.

The Fix: Repairing on-page mistakes is the first step to SEO success.

Free Tools:

BONUS HARDCORE SEO TIP:

Go one step farther. Check out this SEO article: 5 Components of a Comprehensive SEO Audit.

2. Assess Your Content

Google relies heavily on quality of content. Everything on your site should be relevant to your industry, authoritative, and original. If you must use duplicate content, identify it with canonical tags. Be sure keywords are represented, but not overused.

Before you decide to remove an outdated or poorly written page, be sure there are no incoming links directed to that page. If a quality site is linking to your content, it’s better to update or rewrite than remove it.

The Fix: Quality content is absolutely essential. Add fresh, relevant content, and rewrite bad content.

3. Search Competitor Keywords

search engine visbility
If your competitors are outranking you in search engine results, there’s a reason.

The Fix: Discover the keywords your competitors rank for and build new content around the same or similar words.

Free Tools:

4. Analyze Visitor Behavior

One key SEO factor is bounce rate. Bounce rate is measured by how fast visitors decide to leave your site. It’s not always bad—visitors might go straight to a landing page that directs them to an affiliate link, for example. If your site visitors are clicking through to where you want them to go, no problem. If they’re clicking to escape your site—that’s a problem.

Top reasons visitors immediately leave your site:

  • Slow loading. You have 2-3 seconds.
  • Confusing navigation or layout.
  • Poor quality website.
  • Content isn’t what they were looking for (which means your metatags are poorly crafted).
  • No matter how cool you think it is, anything that plays when your page loads is annoying to the vast majority of people.

The Fix: Figure out why people are leaving your site and fix the issue.

Free Tools:

5. Go Mobile

More than 60% of all searches come from a mobile device these days, so you can’t afford not to go mobile. Google recommends mobile-friendly responsive design—and when Google talks, SEO pros listen.

The Fix: Design and implement a mobile-friendly website. Read more about mobile-friendly website design in this FREE downloadable guide.

Mobile-friendly responsive design is the KEY to great SEO. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

While there’s no guarantee you’ll get to the very top of search engine results, ignoring SEO will ensure you never get there. It’s a complicated issue involving ever-evolving algorithms. Only one thing remains constant: Google’s quest to provide the highest quality user experience.

If your website is high quality and up-to-date, you can’t go wrong.

 

3 Undeniable SEO Benefits of Responsive Web Design

Everyone is talking about search engine optimization (SEO) and a heck of a lot of people are talking about the benefits of responsive web design (RWD)—both for good reason. Know why?

Because RWD comes with loads of SEO perks. It’s true! First off…SEO benefits of responsive design

RWD explained: Put simply, when you create your website using responsive web design (RWD), your webpages automatically reformat to display on screens of all sizes, from small mobile phones to oversized desktop monitors. Responsive web design benefits your users because they experience essentially the same experience every time they visit your website—from ANY device. With a well-designed RWD website, your pages and posts will load fast and work fabulously on any sized screen.

Responsive website design first made the news in 2012, so if you haven’t invested in a new website in quite some time, it’s HIGHLY likely your SEO is falling by the wayside. Here are 3 reasons you should consider updating…ASAP.

1. Google Likes RWD

We all want to be BFFs with Google. After all, while there are plenty of other search engines in the sea, Google is unquestionably King of Search. The Google Gods have made their preference for RWD unquestionably clear, and their reasoning is sound.

While there’s no direct evidence that Google uses RWD as a ranking signal and assigns a higher rank as a result, Google engineers have noted (on several occasions) that web rank is affected by indirect factors that can be avoided with RWD in place. For example:

  • Redirect Errors: When you create a separate mobile-friendly website, both of your websites may be prone to faulty redirects, mainly because there’s a lot to keep track of between versions of your website, so some redirects might be overlooked between updates. If your redirect is broken and Google can’t find your mobile site? Too bad. Your site won’t appear in search results. Responsive design employs the same URL for all devices, eliminating this potential issue.
  • Duplicate Content: When you’re designing multiple sites for multiple device sizes, you’re essentially creating multiple copies of your original site. If each webpage doesn’t have proper canonical links, for example, or if you release a ton of duplicate content at the same time by updating all your sites at once, this could be misconstrued by Google as an attempt to skew search engine results and gain more traffic. Do not want.
  • Bounce Rate: While responsive design adapts to every device (whether desktop, laptop, phone or tablet), other types of design (including adaptive and separate mobile site design) don’t always fit any device properly. When elements don’t make sense, visitors get frustrated and they leave your website in a hurry. Bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor!

2. Better User Experience (UX)

As we’ve said, responsive design offers a better experience across all devices. Site visitors (read: your potential and current customers!) using any type of device—or even switching from one device to another—can easily navigate a responsive design on any screen. They can access the same content, plus your branding looks consistent as well. Who wants to lose a potential customer because they’re forced to view a stripped down version of your website with confusing navigation?

Better user experience means a lower bounce rate and, ultimately, more website visitors. Bonus points: those visitors are more likely to share and recommend a user-friendly site.

3. Oh-So-Easy Single URL

When your website is crafted with one URL that displays nicely on any device, you’re also increasing your social media share count. No matter what device your readers use to favorite, tweet, or share your content for their friends to view, your share value goes up on just one URL. Number of social shares is another clear ranking signal.

Any web team must consider SEO when planning a website design or redesign, and responsive website design (RWD) delivers some powerhouse SEO benefits. If you agree that your customers deserve the best possible experience when they visit your website, responsive web design is the best choice for a great website that displays optimally on any device.

Mobile-friendly responsive design is the KEY to great SEO. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

 

SEO to Know: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Compete With Giants

Small businesses are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing in a crowded marketplace—and no marketplace is more crowded than the Web. That’s a lot of competition for those precious few spots on the first page of search engine results.

SEOIn almost every industry, there are giants. You know them; everyone does. They’ve been around since the beginning of the Internet, have a natural audience, and have everything they need to dominate in the realm of search engine optimization (SEO).

How can a small business hope to compete?

The secret is in how SEO works. If you have the answers your customers are searching for, you wind up on top. Here’s how to get attention.

1. Work Your Niche

Big businesses try pretty hard to be all things to all people. You win if you concentrate on one thing. Find your niche and dominate it. Make your content relevant to your niche and repeat your message in different ways on every page. What’s unique about your business? Find your unique selling point and let it permeate your company culture, social media, and website content.

2. Go Hyper-Local

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to location-specific goods and services. Google’s Pigeon update put local businesses at the forefront of mobile search. Using geo-location built into smartphones, Google shows users businesses that meet their needs and are in closest proximity. By mentioning specific neighborhoods or location-specific ingredients or interests, you move closer to the top of the search.

Location-specific ingredients, you ask? Local brewery Black Husky Brewing makes a beer called Sproose II IPA, which has the true taste of the great Northwest. It’s made with spruce tips. Chipotle grew quickly from a small business to a big business with a unique selling proposition: “fast casual dining.” It’s fast, but not fast food, locally sourced, fresh, and far more nutritious than traditional fast food…but still cheap and ready to serve.

3. Become the Authority

Remember, big businesses don’t have to work that hard. They concentrate big budgets on traditional advertising. Your best bet is to do the opposite and drive traffic through content and social media. Share your industry expertise on your blog and on major publications. The more relevant content you can produce, the more likely you are to add the value Google is looking for.

Every business has the opportunity to become a publisher. Use your platform to provide as much information as you can—and be sure it’s the information your customers are searching for.

4. Spread Your Fame

Link juice is still valuable. To gain valuable inbound links, you can approach influential writers in your industry or write interesting content and submit it for publication on big-time or industry sites. You can also sponsor an industry report. Good quality reports, like Deloitte Digital’s survey “Navigating the new digital divide,” earn more inbound links and mentions than any other type of content.

5. Be Human

Big corporations can appear to be cold and faceless. Call them and you may spend hours on hold, or get lost in the phone system twists and turns. Small businesses have an easier time being warm and human. Make everything about your customer service and social media personable and friendly—and that will become your reputation. Personal service makes you stand out, plus, it earns you recommendations and social media mentions, which pump up your SEO.

One last thing: If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, build one. It’s useless to work on SEO if more than 60% of your potential customers won’t see your website when they search on their mobile devices. It’s time to go mobile in 2016!

Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Use the free and easy Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool to find out. Now’s the time to go mobile, but how? Check out this handy and comprehensive FREE guide to making your website mobile friendly.

Download: The Smart Marketer's Guide To Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

Getting to the top of search engine results and staying there takes constant and consistent content marketing maintenance—and it’s totally worth it. Solid SEO strategy can help you compete with the biggest of the big boys for prime real estate on search engine results pages. Try these 5 tips to work your way to the top!