7 ways to keep your web content relevant for Google 2017
Written by Professional Academy guest bloggers Nicki Hayes and Charlotte Britton
Why mobile search, responsive design, user intention, natural language, keyword placement, semantics and fresh content updates will rule …
Technical strategist, Charlotte Britton, and strategic copywriter, Nicki Hayes, are eternally aware that Google will swiftly punish them if they fail to keep pace with its changes. So they catch up quarterly to reflect upon how to continue designing and delivering relevant content. In this quarter’s session, they concluded that 2017 is going to be all about mobile search, responsive design, natural language processing, user intention and a constant flow of relevant and fresh content. Here are seven ways they recommend keeping pace if you, like them, want to be rewarded, not punished, by Google in 2017.
1. Use mobile search criteria: plan content around page speed, location and question based searches
It is widely publicised that mobile search is growing at an exponential rate, compared to desktop search. It is also changing the way people are searching. Google is changing too, highly ranking sites with pages that upload quickly and that are optimized for mobile search – so copy that answers search terms typically expressed as questions (as well as, of course, content that shares location based information).
2. Use responsive design: optimize user experience for screen size as well as intention
In response to the increase from mobile traffic, Google will love responsive design even more next year. So optimizing the user experience for the screen size, as well as intention, is going to become really important. Huffington Post has this sussed, if you want to see an example of best practice.
We’ll talk more about this and how to dovetail content writing into your technical strategy in a future post, focussing in a little more on semantic HTML.
3. Use natural language: write for humans, tweak for search engines
Since a February 2016 update, Google has been smarter than ever on punishing over-optimization and will continue to ‘sharpen its smart’ in 2017, especially as new malpractices, such as cloaking mobile content to improve desktop search results, come to its analysts’ attention. Google set up a spam team back in 2015 to see how prevalent this practice was. Suprisingly, it was not an issue back then, but this does not mean that Google won’t take action on webmasters who choose to take this route. Plus, as Google built a separate mobile index in 2015 and has been experimenting with it since, it is always possible that they will go live with it in 2017 should cloaking become an issue.
Even though Google hasn’t gone live with mobile indexing this year (so far), last year witnessed it developing smart algorithms to filter out cunning copywriting techniques that sent pages racing up search results. One well-used technique was stuffing keywords into copy, regardless of relevance, to ensure a 3-5% ratio. Google now punishes this practice, whilst rewarding natural language that matches users’ intentions (searchers’ search terms), thanks to another intelligent algorithm.
We predict that, as mobile search becomes even more dominant in 2017, natural language, especially language that suits the questioning nature of mobile search terms and enables accelerated mobile pages, will gain still greater reward.
4. Use keywords strategically: placement now wins over frequency
So, are keywords dead and should you just write as you speak then?
It’s not quite as simple as that, sadly. Keywords are not and never will be dead. It’s just that their placement is now more important than their frequency. A 3-5% or higher keyword ratio became punishable in 2016. We’ve been keeping ours down to below 3%. We’ve been placing our keywords in the title, URL, first 100 words, headings and sub headings (H1 and H2 tags) and the last 100 words of our content. We’ve been rewarded. We’ll keep on doing this until we’re aware that we need to do differently. We recommend you do so too.
5. Use LSI keywords: add context to ensure high user intention and relevance
What are LSI keywords?
LSI keywords are ‘Latent Semantic Index’ keywords, where latent means hidden and semantic means meaning. So by ‘use LSI keywords’, we mean, identify alternative keywords (search terms) that hold the same meaning yet add some value by more accurately meeting the intended results of the user.
Why are LSI keywords important?
Various Google 2015 and 2016 updates focussed on better understanding search intention and content relevance and the type of context LSI keywords provide enables Google to easier identify relevant web pages.
As Google focuses even more on mobile search and reactive design in 2017, semantics will become vital. Creating and clustering pages around LSI keywords has worked for us in 2016 and we’ll keep on doing this in 2017, until we become aware that this needs to be done differently.
Being canny about using LSI search terms also has enabled us to avoid being penalised for over-optimization of keywords, by improving user experience. As stated previously, Google is all about matching for user intention and relevance to search terms now, so, do this and Google will love you!
 For example: perhaps you found this post by typing in “What are LSI keywords”. That is because those clever folk at Professional Academy used this exact expression as a LSI search term when posting this blog.
Finally, LSI keywords help you to create diverse anchor texts (the visible, clickable words used to link one page to another) something else for which Google will reward you. For a great data (rather than opinion) led post about this, click on this anchor text: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Anchor Text (But didn’t Want to Ask).
6. Use long-tail keywords: add natural strategic content and strategic search terms
Long tail keywords are strings of multiple keywords that talk about specific areas of your site and, typically, reflect someone at the end of their buying research, so convert better. They can have three or four words or be as long as a sentence. For example Professional Academy’s long tail key words include: professional qualification provider; corporate training provider; sales and marketing qualifications; digital marketing qualifications and professional accreditation provider.
Why are long-tail words becoming more important?
Google (and other search engines) encourage long-tail words as a way to foster the type of natural conversational search experience they’re after. Long-tail keywords match user intention and ensure relevance; as such they are rewarded with higher keyword ROI and higher quality traffic. This will become even more so in 2017 with Google’s focus on mobile search and reactive design.
For more in depth information about why long-tail keywords are important take a look at The Ultimate Guide For Mastering Long Tail Search.
Why not use the really deep keywords on the long-tail to create a free report or eBook, or even a fee-generating download? It could establish you as a thought-leader and protect your niche for longer ‘Clean Communication’ is a fantastic example of such canny content.
7. Update your site often with high quality content: be Googlebot canny
Google’s Googlebot crawls the web, constantly searching for new or updated web pages and then adding such fresh content to Google’s index. If you update your content often with reliable and valuable information (following the advice above), your site will rank higher with each update.
So, think about changing images, adding case studies, tweaking titles and sub titles (with different key words) as often as possible. The easiest and most effective way we’ve found to keep our clients’ content fresh though, is to add a blog to their site and to post new articles as frequently as possible. Everytime someone comments on a blog, Googlebot interprets it as a site update and reindexes it.
So there you have it, our view on why mobile search, responsive design, user intention, natural language, keyword placement, semantics and regular fresh content updates will rule next year. We’ll be following these tips to keep our content standards high, whilst continuing to monitor and report on Google updates and their implications for Professional Academy.
To learn more about Digital Marketing why not take a peek at our CIM Certificate or CIM Diploma courses both of which have Digital Marketing modules or take a more in-depth approach with the CAM Foundation Digital Marketing qualifications.