Earlier this year Linkdex released an eBook called SEO Now 2015. Think of it as almost like a set of state of the nation articles by various SEO experts who are looking at where SEO can go in 2015.
SEO Now has gathered expert insights and advice from some of the smartest minds in search and digital marketing.
At the time I downloaded it I gave it a quick skim but always wanted to come back to it and read over it to see what I as a developer could glean from it.
Turns out, quite a bit!
The key take aways
The key take aways I got from this article were;
- Technical SEO has a huge role to play
- We should focus on sustainable maintenance and incremental changes to our websites
- Website Semantics are crucial
- A mobile experience is no longer a desirable feature, it has to be part of the core offering
- Development should be involved more in the SEO process
You could stop reading my article here, but if you want to see the context of these take aways I would suggest reading on!
Technical SEO has a huge role
Technical SEO still as a massive role to play in a brands overall SEO presence, we can see this in the executive summary.
technical aspects of SEO remain critical, according to many of our experts.
Barry Adams warns against skipping over technical SEO when he says;
Technical SEO is about laying the foundation for successful long term SEO activities, so if you get it wrong you’ll be fighting with a handicap from the start. It pays to prepare well, and that means putting all the elements in place for you to build your long term SEO on.
This was further echoed by Eric Enge when he stated.
If your technical SEO isn’t right, then you can’t even compete in search. So doing technical SEO isn’t optional. However, once you get the basic framework right, maintenance of that should be a lower level of effort. However, for many brands, the effort to get the framework right, based on where they are now, may be massive.
I loved Sean Kainec’s analogy between setting up your website and building a house;
You don’t build a house or business by hanging the artwork and moving in the desks before you have even studded out the walls. Why would you build a site that way?
One thing I preach is pragmatism and I always like looking for the smallest thing I can do now in order to make a difference down the line.
Christopher Hart believes in taking an incremental approach to technical SEO.
it doesn’t make sense anymore to refresh your site a year from now. Instead, why not make smart changes incrementally through the year? For example, make sure pages that are most apt to appear as a mobile search result are mobile-friendly. Do web design analysis, and make updates as your audience changes and grows.
Victoria Edwards talks about taking time not just for adding new things to the website, but to spend some time maintaining what is already there.
Health care brands should be focusing on technical SEO maintenance. Items like correcting error pages, redirects, site performance, and duplicate content should always be at the top of the to-do list and checked on a regular basis.
Making small, lasting changes
As well as making incremental changes, we should look to make small changes with big impacts.
For example Bill Hunt would like to see a move towards focusing on optimising templates over pages.
Too many companies still focus on pages to optimize and not templates. If you can impact the templates every page built from it will have near perfect on-page optimization in any market around the world.
Things as simple as basic backend functionality which we as developers should be able to build out pretty quickly can have lasting SEO implications, like Simon Heseltine mentions;
one of the competing news brands I monitor, still doesn’t appear to have a way for their writers to override their meta tags in their CMS, so their title tag is the headline, and their description is the first 155 characters of the article, which can lead to their articles not being optimized to the level they could be
A mission for Developers
One thing I really didn’t like to read was Kristjan Haukssoni’s opinion of developers when he said.
Don’t give the project to the tech guys
Whilst I don’t agree with this in the slightest and feel that “the tech guys” should get involved at a much earlier stage of any SEO project, I can’t say I am surprised.
Generally speaking us developers care more about getting our tests passing than we do presenting data in a meaningful way. Lets try and change this!
Semantics are so Important
On the subject of presenting data in a meaningful way, one thing I have already written about is using schema correctly. I was glad to see people talking about semantic markup throughout this eBook.
Barry Adams got things rolling when he said;
So mark up your content with semantic data wherever you can
Bill Slawski points out why exactly we should care when he starts talking about how Google handles some of this semantic data;
Google has been working lately toward rewarding some searches that use specialized markup such as schema, or special trigger terms to show unique answer boxes for queries. This has been a growing feature at Google, and Google is showing rich snippets in addition to those answer boxes
Of course adding schema shouldn’t just be a spray and pray attach on your markup, Bill then goes on to say;
Be smart about implementing schema, understanding Semantic Web issues involving the facts and attributes that you show with products and when writing about specific entities.
Mobile is no longer optional
This is something the frontend development community have been saying for years, not least because well designed responsive websites are far easier to maintain than separate websites for different view ports.
There were several people who spoke to the importance of getting a top quality mobile offering, I think Barry Adams summed it up best.
If you aren’t taking mobile users seriously, don’t expect them to take you seriously. And in this increasingly mobile-first connected world, that’s a very dangerous position to be in.
Development needs to get involved closely with SEO
Kristjan’s comments notwithstanding I think the general feeling was that SEO needs to integrate itself into the entire organisation and it isn’t just something that can be relegated to a section within marketing.
In fact Eric Enge mentioned at one point;
Now, it requires very close cooperation with the marketing team, and also with the dev team.
Thanks to Linkdex and the experts who put this together. I think it acts as a great high level view of where the industry is at and needs to be heading.
The language and analogies used were suitable for the layperson and there were plenty of actionable takeaways.
I really hope you take the time to download it and read it yourself.