After Facebook announced a major algorithm change in its NewsFeed early January of this year, publishers and brands are now forced to re-think their content distribution strategy (they should have expected this given what happened 3 years ago when Facebook forced brands to pay for reach). With this change, this puts a big dent in the potential traffic that brands and publishers can generate from this channel.
Deprived of referral traffic from Facebook, the question now is will (or better yet should) brands and publishers go back to learning SEO techniques and use it to save their traffic numbers? To answer this, let’s take a deeper understanding on what’s been happening the past few months and determine the importance of search marketing for brands and publishers.
Google is now the top source for referral traffic.
If you take a look at the referral traffic of Facebook for publishers, you will see that it has been steadily declining the past few months. Based on a study (2,500 publishers were part of the study including the Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., Mashable and Huffington Post) made by a digital analytics company Parse.ly, the referral traffic generated by Facebook for publishers decreased from 40% to 26% between January 2017 and January 2018. On the other hand, Google’s referral traffic increased from 34% to 44% for the same period. Now what’s important to note here is that this all happened before Facebook announced the change in News Feed algorithm early this year.
Another trend that we should look at is publishers are now seeing more traffic from Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) than that of Instant Articles, Facebook’s version. Citing the same study of Parse.ly, publisher traffic from AMP increased from 4.72% in January 2017 to 11.78% in November 2017 while Instant Articles declined from 10.31% January down to 8.54% in November.
So what’s the implication? Publishers and brands need to recalibrate now their “Facebook First” online strategy and try to look at how they can leverage on SEO and search marketing.
Time to brush up your SEO skills.
Commenting on Facebook’s News Feed algorithm change announcement, Alex Price, Founder and Managing Director of a London-based digital agency shared how publishers and brands can survive in 2018. He said that they would need to focus on retention and repeat visits to drive long-term value, and optimize the experience of their website (particularly on mobile) in order to build a sustainable source traffic in the post-Facebook News Feed age. They need to diversify, publish quality content, optimize the web experience, among others—- if you’re practicing SEO or you’re a high quality publisher, this will start to sound very familiar (I wrote an article about how a brand can start creating a high quality website). For lower-quality, non-SEO practicing publishers, they will be on a rough ride this year as they have relied heavily on social as their main content distribution channel.
So what do you do? Where will you start? I will share with you 8 SEO basics that you can implement now.
No. 1: Conduct an audit on your site and competitors’ site.
The first thing that you have to do is evaluate what you have and see how it compares against your competitors. Doing this will allow you to determine the major gaps between your site and your competitors’ and most importantly determine what’s the total potential audience in your segment. One tool that you can use is SimilarWeb. This tool allows you to see the performance of your competitors’ site (total visits, unique visits, bounce rate, mobile vs desktop traffic among others), which will then help you determine more or less the total addressable audience in your segment. In the example below, I compared the site performance of 3 OEMs:
No. 2: Identify the keywords that you need to own.
Allow me to share with you an important data point. Based on studies, the number of daily searches done on Google is at 3.5 billion or 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. And when you use online tools like Google Analytics, SEMRush, etc., you will see that keywords explain where organic search comes from. That is why keyword research should be treated as the foundation of all digital marketing practices. It is an integral part of your SEO strategy. So you need to know what are the keywords that you should own and what you should prioritize. Note that you should not look only at search volume of a particular keyword but also consider other factors like competition, keyword effectiveness index (KEI), among others. There are several tools that can help you with your research, below are just some:
No. 3: Fix your Title Tags.
Your title tag is the most important on-page SEO factor. In general, the closer the keyword that you would like to own to the beginning of the title tag, the more weight it has with search engines. So if there’s a keyword that you’re aiming for, try to put it towards the beginning of your title. In the example below, this company might be gunning for keywords similar to “money transfer to Philippines”, “online money transfer”, etc. What they did was to include those keywords in their title tag.
No. 4: Simplify your URLs.
Google has stated that the first 3-5 words in a URL are given more weight. In that case, it is recommended that your URLs should be short and if possible, always include your target keyword in your URL. Avoid long and ugly URLs like: mobext.ph/seo-is-the-way-to-go-for-brands-this-2018
Ugly execution (sorry about this):
No. 5: Create More and Longer Content
I mentioned in my other blog post that Google prioritize long form content. In fact, the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890. The longer your content, the higher it will rank. Also, when you write your content, keep in mind the keywords you’d like to own. Try to drop these keywords somewhere in the first 100 words of your content so Google will understand what your content is all about.
You also need to sprinkle LSI keywords across your content. As a recap, LSI keywords are words that are commonly found alongside your target keyword. For example, if you were writing about “best car brands”, then you’d probably mention words like “top selling cars”, “highly recommended car brands”, etc. Those are LSI keywords.
No. 6: Use Internal Links
Internal linking is the process of connecting one page of your website to another page of your website. This is especially important for brands and publishers who regularly produce content. Providing links within your new articles that point to your older articles will provide your visitors more value – more articles to read, more information, more time spent on your site, higher chance of moving up in the search results. I think you get the picture now.
Additionally, internal linking is one of the simplest things that you can do that will provide your SEO metrics an immediate boost. Why? Because it will help Google to crawl your site. If your content is woven together, it will be much easier and faster for Google crawler to discover new content that you publish.
Additionally, some of the benefits of doing this are: internal linking improves the indexation of your website, internal linking increases the backlink earning potential of deep content pages andinternal linking provides value to the user.
If there’s an SEO technique that you can easily implement, it’s this one. Do this for the next few weeks and for sure your ranking will improve.
No. 7: Improve your site’s speed performance.
Google has stated on record that page loading performance affects SEO ranking. There are multiple ways that you can do to make your page load faster. You can increase your site speed by using content delivery network (CDN), by compressing your images, by switching to a faster hosting service or by using Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Whatever step you’ll take, just make sure your page loads within 4 seconds. Studies show that 75% of users wouldn’t revisit a site that took longer than 4 seconds to load. If you would like to check your site’s loading performance, try using this tool.
No. 8: Make your site Mobile Ready
Having a mobile friendly site helps your organic ranking. We’ve seen the impact of having one coming from the site development projects we handled for our clients. Not only does it help your site rank organically, it also increases the conversion rate from your mobile-clients. As an example, a local pizza chain saw their conversation rate increase from 2% to close to 18% immediately after they rolled out their mobile friendly site. Curious to know if your site is mobile friendly? Use this tool and it will tell you if your site is mobile-friendly.
Having a “Facebook First” strategy is not an option anymore in 2018. You need to take a look at how you can reach your customers and distribute your content using other methods.
I hope this quick guide will push you to start applying SEO tactics in your websites. If this is the first time you’ll be doing it, just pick the simplest and start implementing it. The important thing is for you to get something started today.
For those of you who have started investing in content production in your site, do your keyword research before you write your next blog post then use that to optimize the basics such as your title tags and URLs. Apply those things and who knows, the next time you publish your content, your site might end up in rank 1-page 1.
Let me know the results after you apply the basics I shared. I would be happy to hear from you. Cheers!