SEO technology provider, searchmetrics, released a white paper entitled: SEO Rank Correlations and Ranking Factors 2014 – Google U.S., evaluating factors impacting organic search results and an analysis of search engine algorithms. This post highlights some of the findings for organisations SEO brand strategy. I have condensed the 83 page document into some of the key factors brands need to be aware of.
The searchmetrics report provides some good news for brands. Whether an established player or an emerging start-up, brands need to wake up to the opportunities the ever changing search landscape offers. There has been a fundamental shift in the types of brands monopolising the search landscape along with the rapid growth in content marketing, the brands winning this game are the brands that have re-defined their online value proposition by turning themselves into knowledge centres.
What is a knowledge centre?
Before highlighting the findings of the whitepaper and what it means for brands, let’s define what a knowledge centre is. Knowledge centres means becoming the go-to brand for information, content and advice, an oasis of trusted, authoritative content that existing customers and prospects will be delighted by.
Knowledge centres began to take centre stage as a digital strategy during 2014 in part due to the growth in anyone and everyone launching their own content marketing strategies, cue an explosion of content in all shapes and sizes engulfed us all by littering our social media channels, search results, inboxes and video streams. It was assumed the more content being created, more the opportunity to drive traffic. WRONG
As highlighted in the whitepaper, searchmetrics emphasise the importance of “high quality and relevant content is increasingly the focus of search” and this provides a sound justification as to why brand marketers should develop their proposition by becoming a knowledge centre. In other words, to differentiate your digital content proposition by focusing on crafting remarkable, trusted content that your users and prospects will take the time to read, share, favourite, recommend and return to you as a trusted source for reliable content.
To transform your brand proposition into a digital knowledge centre, brands should define their search strategy to consider three key pillars:
- Authority – Is your search strategy delivering your brands voice of authority? Are you informing and delighting your audience by telling a great brand narrative through the content you’re delivering and that is found through search?
- OVP – Do you have an online value proposition at the heart of your digital strategy? Take the time to analyse your competitors as well as benchmark your search proposition against other brands operating in different sectors to understand how they have differentiated themselves from their competitors
- Are you building a narrative – Fine tune your digital narrative that can be communicated through your online content. Engage in conversations through social media channels with your audience and reach out and build direct relationships with your customers and audience giving your brand a personality and a human element to your proposition and online reputation.
Key findings of the report
Let’s visit some of the key findings of the searchmetrics report and what brands should leverage to help support their strategy in becoming a knowledge centre. I have broken the findings down into key sections and which pages to refer to for further reading within the searchmetrics report.
1) Click through rate (CTR) (searchmetrics report: page 6)
This has become a key factor within the report findings where there was a strong correlation between a high click through rate (CTR) and ranking in the Top 5 search results in which sites that were ranking in such positions also enjoyed a higher “time on site”
What this means for Brands
Ensure your brand in included within the keywords of your on-page copy as well as headings and within page titles and meta descriptions. Utilising your brand helps to drive the CTR in driving search traffic to visit your site.
2) Content: (searchmetrics report: page 22)
The quality of content being produced is becoming ever more important, which is something brand sites should take advantage of utilising their unique selling point as a key differentiator from the competition.
Historically, having the right technical SEO (on page, site architecture) was the first stage but using similar SEO strategies to better optimise the content being created on page is becoming just as important especially in light of Google algorithm changes such as Panda, Penguin and more recently Hummingbird.
More importantly it’s about creating content that will delight your audience and provide real value (over the competition) rather than driving content purely based on keyword research A recent infographic by Quicksprout highlights the changes in content creation and how it’s associated with old SEO strategies to how you should be re-inventing your content creation.
What this means for Brands
Ensure you’re developing and building your library of content working across office by running a content audit. Look to optimise the content e.g. on page how is it graded, current link profile of your content pages and how the content is performing through social platforms? Look to monitor and measure current performance and begin to identify benchmarks as well as gaps and opportunities to build on your content strategy.
3) Content Hubs (searchmetrics report: page 30)
Below is a searchmetrics graph listing the content features which have increased in importance and the enhancements made by Google to better understand the meaning behind keywords has accelerated how the search engine is beginning to move towards better understanding “content hubs” e.g. topic areas as summarised by searchmetrics “The more topics a text reflects, the more holistic it is – and, at the same time, the more relevant it is for users with different search intentions. Consequently, the copy also ranks better for related, additional keywords as well as the primary keyword”.
What this means for brands
Look to create content hubs, analyse the long tail search opportunities for content subjects and look to map out content hubs that provide a rich verticle knowledge hub that caters for the head terms and long tail search terms. Archive these content hubs into a content library which can then be used to support your search activity and social outreach.
4. Internal linking (searchmetrics report: page 37)
Structuring your internal link structure is seen as a vital component for your domain performance. The graphic below, taken from moz.com shows how a site architecture should be set and provides the greatest positive impact for the flow of internal linking.
From an SEO perspective, attracting external links to your website has always been seen as the priority to assist in search engine ranking performance but it’s clear more emphasis needs to be put on the user experience and providing relevant internal links on pages to provide the perfect UX and retain relevancy of articles to the user.
What this means for brands
Scope out your current site architecture and structure of your site and identify the most important pages of your site based on external links (followed), social shares and internal linking. The audit will then provide you the opportunity to clearly map out how content and associated content begin to interlink to different sections of the site as well as provide potential gaps and opportunities to exploit.
5. Backlinks (searchmetrics report: page 43)
Searchmetrics identified larger brands attract a higher majority of new links, more referring domains as well as generating more deeper linking to relevant content areas, the below infographic taken from the whitepaper provides some more insights in the opportunity of a backlink strategy and how it can benefit your performance.
What this means for brands
Monitor, manage and measure your analytics reports. Audit who is linking to your site but more importantly are they linking to the correct content pages? If not, this provides an opportunity to reach out to the partner site and encourage them to link to deeper pages of your site that is more relevant from a content point of view.
For pages that do drive a high volume of links from external websites, monitor the performance of the page – is it retaining the referral traffic? Have you optimised the page to why the external website is linking to you? Are you looking to provide internal linking to other pages on your site to retain the user?
Work with your press office and communications teams for any content or press releases that could be used to drive new back links from websites that mention your brand and content stories. Fresh Web Explorer is a great tool to use to identify new website that are not linking to you
6. Social Signals (searchmetrics report: page 60)
From the Searchmetrics study, “sites that have risen in the SERP’s have strong, positive correlations to social signals”. From a brand point of view, it’s clear to see that social networks play a key role as a key traffic referrer
What this means for brands
Your social media activity should be integrated with your content strategy and used as a tactic to help drive your content to different audiences and demographics. Better understand and take the time to listen to different audiences that choose to follow your brands social channels e.g demographics, types of content being consumed and tailor your content to their needs and requirements.
Social Media also provides your brand a vehicle to real-time listening – to ensure your brand strategy encompasses the need to deliver real-time content within your content sector to service the needs of your social audience. Make sure you are providing the necessary opportunities for your website/mobile content to be shared through social by your users by ensuring your pages are providing a call to action to offer social sharing
7. Mobile (searchmetrics report: page 77)
A recent article by comScore highlighted key insights on the emergence of mobile which is now the leading digital platform accounting for 60% of digital media time spent in the US.
What this means for brands
It will be ever more essential for brands digital proposition can be translated to a mobile or tablet device from desktop whilst retaining points of difference. Google recently rolled out “mobile friendly” labels emphasising the importance the search engine has for brands who think about their digital proposition across different platforms.
Analyse your desktop site on performance and relate the relevant content to a mobile experience – this may mean optimising long form content into mobile bit size chunks. What’s your mobile USP and think about how your competitors differentiate their mobile proposition over their desktop environment and the content made available?
Key Takeaways for Brands from the searchmetrics whitepaper:
The report has identified five key areas summarised below that brands should consider in taking advantage of delivering a knowledge centre that excites their existing audience and attracts new prospective audiences.
1) Content – There is an urgency for brands to deliver more content to remain competitive within the search sectors. However it’s important to note that more content does not necessarily mean better content – the emphasis should be on delivering industry leading, authoritative content that is relevant to their audience
2) Technical – increasing in importance, internal linking (p.37), Html of pages p.34) – Ensure you getting back to basics of SEO by making sure that basic on page optimisation and technical considerations have been taken into account e.g. site architecture and page load speeds
3) Content hubs – Rather than just focusing on heads terms, brands need to consider the longer tail of associated terms and phrases as well as, more importantly to identify associated content opportunities
4) Backlinks – Backlinks are considered an important indicator however the emphasis is on the quality of backlinks rather than quantity. Through social listening and content generation there is an opportunity for brands to hijack real-time demand for trusted news content and with it the opportunity to drive backlinks off the back of a real-time content strategy.
5) Social Media – integrated within your content strategy and to be used as a tactic to drive content to different audiences and demographics.
Brands need to wake up before it is too late to capitalise on the changes in the search landscape that are crying out for brands that are trusted, authoritative and willing to put at their heart of their digital strategy, content. The brands winning this game are the brands that have re-defined their online value proposition by turning themselves into knowledge centres.
Become the go-to brand for information, content and advice, an oasis of trusted, authoritative content that existing customers and prospects will be delighted by.