Like many digital content marketers, staying up to speed on shifting trends is on my daily to-do list. There are numerous online resources and conferences (virtual and in-person) to do just that. One conference I attend every year is MozCon in Seattle. MozCon is a three-day digital marketing conference that focuses on SEO, brand development, CRO, mobile, social, analytics, and more. How do you boil down three days of takeaways into one blog? Here’s the short answer: you don’t. That said, here are the 5 top action items we gleaned from this year’s MozCon here at the Countryside Network.
1. HTTP vs. HTTPS
You’ve probably heard a lot of chatter about HTTP vs. HTTPS the past couple of years. Many sites are voluntarily moving away from HTTP and adopting HTTPS. With a HTTPS connection, all communications are securely encrypted. The more sites that move to HTTPS, the more confident Google will feel about issuing security warnings to searchers and shifting its algorithm to favor HTTPS. Today, Google HTTP vs. HTTPS is considered a light ranking factor. Last summer 30% of sites had migrated to HTTPS; now it’s 55%, according to Moz. By the end of the year, 70% of sites could be HTTPS.
2. SEO: Intent vs Keywords
In the past couple of years, Google has invested in a program called RankBrain. RankBrain learns what searchers want vs. what they type.
Example: When someone searches “How do you make sour cream?” Google (via RankBrain) knows to match the answer vs. the question. In this case, “How to make sour cream.” If someone searches “Saturday Night Live,” Google knows that searches would also be interested in results that say “SNL.” This means that keyword research is no longer enough. You must match your user’s intent to remain relevant. So if you exact keyword match “How do you make sour cream” to try to rank for that query, you might actually be doing yourself more harm than good when what your user really wants to see is a blog titled: How to Make Sour Cream.
“The bottom line: Search engines of the future aren’t going to punish folks for under using keywords or failing to have an expertly crafted page title … but they will continue to punish folks for overusing keywords.” - HubSpot, via 18 Myths to Leave Behind in 2017
If migrating to HTTPS is not on your to-do list, consider tackling it this year before Google makes anymore shifts to favor HTTPS.
3. Google Scraping Goes Too Far
Through enhancements such as featured snippets, knowledge graphs and more, Google is stepping beyond a search engine into the realm of content producer, or more accurately, content scraper.
With a featured snippet, Google is merely scraping the content from the site, but giving the original site credit and link. We see a tremendous amount of traffic from featured snippets, and with the right tactics, you can too. More on that in Featured Snippets: Google Gold in Position 0.
That said, here’s an example of Google going too far with scraping (below). In a search for “Best Greenhouse Plants,” Google is actually scraping content from a list produced from a website, creating its own list below the search bar, but not crediting the original site nor giving them a link. Scary? You bet. And this is happening more than you think.
How do you get traffic in this scenario? Interactive content is harder for Google to do this with. Moz recommends creating dynamic functionality on your site before Google beats you to it — anticipate how Google will interrupt your space. Invest and brand the answers on your website before Google beats you to it so you become the default destination for searchers.
4. Chat Bots and Voice Search Are Exploding
Chat bots and voice-activated home assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are game-changers. Most of the answers these assistants share are from the featured snippet results. How do you play in this space? If you aren’t in the featured snippet for content, you really aren’t in the search game for voice. SEO is slowly moving away from landing pages and even URLs. A chat bot or Google Home can help you book a flight, for example, with you never typing a flight search query into a search engine or even ever visiting a website. In the coming years, publishers will have to find a way to carve out their space/value proposition in this space.
“To understand Google’s vision of the future, you have to understand that Google believes the future is not mobile-first — it is artificial intelligence/ AI-first. ” Cindy Krum.
Shifting trends: By 2019, 20% of marketers will abandon their mobile apps. - Gartner.com
5. Video Is Here to Stay
If you want to continue to grow on social, you need to invest in video. All social sites are now video platforms.
To optimize the video experience for each platform, Phil Nottingham of Wistia offers these recommendations:
- Facebook: Visually engaging content, audio is secondary
- YouTube: Audio-based content, educational and how-to works well
- Twitter: Educational content
- SnapChat & Instagram: Surprising, behind-the-scenes content
We’ve recently invested in a tool called Promo to create catchy, entertaining 15-second videos on Facebook and other social sites. In addition, there are free tools out there to consider, like SoapBox from Wistia. Soapbox is a free Chrome extension that enables anyone to record, edit, and share high-quality videos quickly.