Following the SEMDays conference which was held in Bucharest between 24th -25th of September, we sat down with Jack Norell to discuss the importance of SEO copywriting and the need to optimise website for mobile.
Beaglecat: What importance do keywords have in today’s SEO copywriting strategies, when Google is using semantic search and pays more attention to elements like UX and content?
Jack Norell: Keywords are simply words and phrases that people use when they search for things online. Clearly, understanding how things are searched for, and matching the content to the intent behind a search keyword is essential.
Using keywords in your on-site copy is simply good writing: Speak in a way that the person wants to be spoken to.
This has become more important given the increased value Google and other search engines place in understanding query intent and content meaning.
Most website managers track a limited number of keywords, usually head terms and some ‘fat middle’ terms. This incomplete view of keyword performance, or search visibility, often limits performance by leaving out most keywords.
The bulk of those will be long tail keywords that have lower competition to rank, and usually convert better than head terms. They also give insight into the meaning of generic keywords and how to meet searchers’ needs through content.
In my view, keyword performance has become more important over time, not less.
BC: SEO managers now need a broader set of skills than before to do a great job. Working across Technical, Offsite, Marketing, Promotion and Content Creation, it’s a skillset more like an internet marketing Swiss Army Knife rather than a specialised tool. How do you think this range of skills will change in the future, when more and more people will try to learn SEO?
J.N.: SEO has certainly grown and changed, maybe so much that it’s no longer Search Engine Optimisation as we used to know it.
Clearly, the skills need to be spread over multiple people according to their inherent strengths across widely different areas. It would be a rare individual that has reached a level of expertise across all areas, and that person is more likely to lead an agency’s SEO offering rather than directly carrying out work.
It’s already clear that agency staff, and in-house professionals, are specialising and becoming T-shaped marketers. This means pursuing in-depth expertise in one or two areas, while maintaining a working knowledge in other related areas of marketing.
If you go into the web marketing / SEO field today, you and your manager need to find the SEO skill/s where you can become a world-class professional.
BC: With mobile use now greater than desktops, even in the ecommerce space, how well do websites meet the needs of mobile users?
J.N.: While ‘Mobilegeddon’ on 21 April this year was a non-event, the fact is that most sites still don’t work that well when using a mobile device i.e. smartphone or tablet.
Sites too often have tiny texts or links, complicated forms, load slowly over 3G/4G, and any of dozens of U/X problems.
Nearly all our clients have mobile-friendly sites, often using responsive design like Google recommends, and the rest are quickly moving to improved platforms.
Saying that, nearly all sites we have data on perform better for desktop users than mobile users for conversion rates, pages viewed per session, and other ecommerce engagement metrics. The industry overall has commented widely on the same pattern.
I think there is room for overall U/X to improve across all types of sites, and for mobile sites in particular. I expect to see innovation in this area increasing over the next year.
Mobile sites, with their immediacy and ‘right there’ nature, can and should perform at least as well as desktop sites.
BC: What would your strongest recommendations be on mobile sites?
J.N.: In summary, companies should be highly focused on making mobile sites faster to use, both with pagespeed and U/X.
Focus entirely on how to make things better for your visitors, not on the technical requirements that Google use to give your site a scorecard.
BC: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned since you started doing SEO?
J.N.: Simply two things:
- Every SEO tactic works, though the easy-to-scale things will eventually make your site fail from algorithm updates or manual actions.
- Don’t follow the crowd. When everyone is talking about a specific marketing strategy whether email, social, content marketing, link building etc, Google will soon deal with sites manipulating search results using that strategy. Refer to #1.
Make your site and marketing, immensely useful for your current and potential customers and people will search you out. Some will use Google, Yandex or Baidu, others recommendations from their friends, or a blog post. If you do this right, they’ll buy from you again and again, and let their friends know too.
Jack Norell is Organic Performance Client Development Lead at Forward3D. As a marketing consultant, he is experienced in developing technical SEO & user engagement strategies for enterprise websites. David also has industry experience in ecommerce, travel aggregators, online market places, luxury retail, and finance. Before this, he created events and marketing communications for companies such as Hewlett Packard and Skanska.