GDPR: The Low-Down & What It Means For Businesses

  • Sep 2017
  • Read Time: 4 Mins

The countdown is on until The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will finally come into effect. Since the announcement in May 2016, businesses have been given a two-year transitional period, before it finally comes into force from 25 May 2018. A survey carried out by Dell in October of last year showed that 97% of companies don’t have any form of plan in place to prepare for the introduction of this new EU legislation.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation was designed in an effort to update the existing Data Protection Directive, which dates back to 1995. Since then our lives, both personal and work, have become more reliant than ever on the internet. Living in a digital world has transformed how we use, share and store information.

There isn’t a day that goes by where you probably don’t share your personal information online, whether you’re sending an email, purchasing products, paying a bill or sharing documents with colleagues and clients. Information on your IP address, online behaviour, banking details and social profiles are all stored digitally. This new legislation aims to give EU citizens, individuals, employees and customers, more power and control over their personal data. In turn, accountability for data compliance and security will be on businesses. The end goal is for greater personal control and protection of this information.

GDPR recognises that there is no distinction between a person’s information whether it be their public, private or workplace. For example, in a B2B environment where the customer and supplier are both organisations, the legislation takes into account the individuals involved in the process.

GDPR Rights - Big Dog Digital

What Rights Does The GDPR Provide?

At its core, the GDPR is comprised of eight rights. These offer some new and some updates of the current Data Protection Directive.

1. The Right To Be Informed:

Companies collecting data are obligated to provide “fair processing information”. They can do this through a privacy notice, where consent is then clearly given. The privacy notice must be concise and transparent in their intentions, and easily accessible. If this data is accessed by an unauthorized third party, for example, loss of data or hacked, it is the organisation’s responsibility to inform the individual. If there was, in fact, a data breach and an individual’s personal information was compromised, the organisation has 72 hours to inform them.

2. The Right of Access:

Individuals have the right to gain access to their personal data at any time. They also have the right to ask how their data is being processed. If requested, the organisation is obliged to provide the information in electronic format, free of charge. However, the ICO state that “you can charge a ‘reasonable fee’ when a request is manifestly unfounded or excessive, particularly if it is repetitive.”

3. The Right of Rectification:

This ensures that individuals can have data updated or corrected if necessary. If the data has been shared with third parties, it is the organisation’s responsibility to reach out to those third parties and inform them of the rectification. The organisation must also inform the individuals of the third parties with whom the data was shared.

4. Right to Erasure/To be Forgotten:

Allows individuals to request that their personal data be deleted. This may occur if the data is no longer necessary in relation to the reason it was originally obtained. The individual may also withdraw consent, or if the data was obtained unlawfully. Deleting this data must be permanent, not simply moved from an active database to an inactive one.

5. The Right to Restrict Processing:

If requested, the individual’s data may be stored but not processed. This means the organisation may retain enough information to ensure this restricted further down the line.

6. The Right to Data Portability:

This allows individuals to obtain their personal data for the purpose of sharing it from one service provider to another. Organisations must provide a safe and secure method for this transference of data. In the UK, there is a government initiative called MiData which promotes this practice.

7. The Right to Object:

Individuals have the right to stop the processing of their personal data for direct marketing purposes, or those of scientific or historical research. It is the responsibility of the organisation to clearly state this at the beginning of the communication.

8. Rights Related to Automated Decision-Making & Profiling:

Protects individuals from potentially damaging decisions that are taken without human intervention.

Impact of GDPR on Businesses

GDPR will impact all businesses operating within the EU, whether data processing occurs there or not. Non-EU businesses and organisations that offer goods and services to EU citizens will also be subject to GDPR legislation. If your business offers a free online service, but you collect IP addresses or track cookies, through form submissions, for example, you will still be subject to GDPR.

Perhaps the biggest challenge GDPR poses on businesses is the required detailed recording and processing of user consent. Compliance is moving away from box-ticking. When in effect, businesses and organisations will need to keep detailed and time-stamped records of when a user gave consent and how their data was processed.

This new process does not only affect the IT department, it encompasses both sales and marketing and how they conduct their activities. For example, traditional methods of collecting potential leads and business cards at trade events will become something of the past. New ways of collecting this customer information will now be required.

There must be traceable proof that the individual has given consent. It is no longer allowed that to provide a disclaimer or an opt-out option. Organisations must provide double opt-ins, to ensure full consent from the individual. If a marketing list has been purchased from a third party, the business or organisation using the list is still responsible for obtaining consent.

Moving forward organisations will have to ensure that the privacy rights of the individual are at the forefront of their product and service offerings. This is known as Privacy by Design.

Privacy by Design - Big Dog Digital

Privacy by Design

It is an effort to make privacy a key component in the design and architecture of both IT and business processes. From the offset, any service or process that requires personal information from a customer must have the appropriate measures in place to protect their data and privacy.

Organisations must be able to show that the security measures adhere to an adequate standard and that compliance is monitored at all times. Every process that requires personal information should be designed with compliance at the core.

Privacy by Default

This means that once a customer acquires a product or service, the privacy measures are automatically put into effect. This personal information must only be kept for the amount of time that is necessary to provide the product or service.

Organisations and businesses alike will be expected to know what data they have on each person and where it is exactly stored. This won’t be too difficult if the data is stored centrally, however for organisations where employees store data on individual devices such as laptops and portable drives, poses its own challenges and risks.

If data is lost or stolen, organisations will have up to 72 hours to report it to the ICO. This report will require a full breakdown of the breach and a plan for how to deal with the incident. It may also be necessary to notify those whose data has been affected by the breach. If organisations fail to comply and protect the data accordingly, they may face large fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover or €20 million from the Data Protection Authorities (DPA). On top of this, individuals that have been affected will have the right to sue for both material and non-material damages.

GDPR Preparation

How Businesses Should Prepare for GDPR

Privacy by design should be at the forefront.

1. Find all the sources where the data comes from

Audit and map out where all the personal data within in the business comes from and how it is processed. Document where that data is stored and who has access to it, and make note of all potential risks. Assess how easy it is for customers to remove consent or request their data to be permanently deleted.

2. Assess what data is important to the business

Ensure that customers are fully aware of why the business is collecting the data and that consent is clear. Only collect data that is of benefit to the business, delete the data that is not needed. In some scenarios, it may have a greater financial gain to delete information, rather than encrypting it.

3. Ensure appropriate security measures are in place

Assess where data is stored and processed. Ensure all the necessary precautions, security measures and a full plan of action are in place, should a breach occur. If storage is outsourced, it is important to have similar plans, and processes in place, as both parties are liable.

4. Outline appropriate measure for handling data

It is vital that businesses have established procedures in place in relation to each of the 8 GDPR Rights. For example; How will the individual’s data be deleted if requested? What is the full process to obtain legal consent from an individual?

Conclusion

GDPR may pose challenges to many businesses, so it is crucial that all the necessary components are mapped out and prioritised. Once in effect, however, this transparency will improve the relationship between that of the business and the consumer.

Martin McGuire

With a BA Honours in Marketing, Digital Media, and Cloud Computing, Martin contributes his knowledge to all of our ongoing projects. Specialising in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing. Martin’s role is to assist our clients in areas of their digital marketing strategy. Despite his nerdy credentials, Martin is also a committed mountain biking enthusiast. He’s been known to drop terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘shred’ into casual conversation.

Dublin, Ireland https://www.bigdog.ie

Why is Structured Data Important? SEO, Voice Search & Google AI

  • Aug 2017
  • Read Time: 5 Mins

The world of search and search engine optimization is changing. In 2012 Google stated that they were processing an estimated 1.2 trillion searches annually. This figure has since grown and is now estimated to be around 2 trillion. As this number increases, so do the complexities of search. Search engines are now looking more and more towards structured data to answer your queries.

SEO is Evolving

SEO is continuously evolving. Once upon a time, your optimization efforts were focused on keyword meta tags, which then gradually shifted to long tail queries, but over the past few years, it has become geared towards quality and user experience. High-quality backlinks and exceptional content that engages and educates the user are vital for the success of any modern SEO strategy.

Much like technology, our behaviour and how we search evolves over time. Mobile usage is continuing to surge past desktop; coupled with increases in conversational/voice search, is changing the way we approach SEO. It is thought by 2020 50% of searches will be done through voice.

In steps implicit queries. If you think about it, the goal of the search engine is to provide you, the user, with the best result possible for a particular search. To do this it tries to understand your intent when carrying out a search; What is your expectation? What is it exactly you are searching for? And, what results will be the most appropriate? The traditional model of a keyword query no longer stands strong, search engines can now analyse a user’s profile, their location and other variables. This data then determines what answer to return.

Voice Search Experiment

I carried out a little experiment on this to show the different results by searching for “Hair Salons Dublin” in two different locations. Rather than returning a list of hair salons located in Dublin, the search engine looks at the underlying context of the query – Android phone user, on the street in “location”, and also a number of other variables. This then should determine what answer it returns.

Google Voice Search

The first voice search I carried out was in Skerries, in North County Dublin. The second voice search was done at Chatham Street, Dublin 2.

Local Voice Search Result

As you can see, two very different results. These, you can probably guess are largely based on location.

However, if you change the search slightly to “Best Hair Salons in Dublin” and carry out the query from the exact same locations, the results are different again. Google still takes into account my location, but because I searched for the “Best” hair salons it emphasises on the reviews and ratings to determine its answers.

Voice Search Best

The first result was from the same location in Skerries and the second from Chatham Street again – as you can see, both very similar results.

So how is Google doing this? And why? At the heart of it is structured data and Google’s quest to provide the best user-experience possible, all while becoming an increasingly advanced artificial intelligence system.

What is structured data? And why does it matter?

In a nutshell, structured data is extra code added to a web page which in turn, can help search engines understand the content on your site. A combined initiative driven by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex, led to the creation of Schema.org. This initiative was driven by the desire to promote the standardisation of data markup on web pages.

Structured data markup can be implemented for a range of topics and page elements such as;

  • Creative Works
  • Events
  • Addresses
  • Organizations
  • People
  • Places
  • Reviews
  • Recipes
  • Services

Using a universal language to identify such elements means that search engines can clearly understand not only the content of your site, but the context. This can help improve rankings by allowing search engines to give more accurate and relevant results for user queries.

It also allows for some pretty creative ways of displaying search results. Examples of how it can improve SERP display can be seen from Star Ratings and Reviews in Rich Snippets to Knowledge Graphs.

Rich Snippets

As I mentioned in a previous article SEO Trends For 2017, rich snippets are extra pieces of information that appear in the SERP. The clue really is in the name. By displaying extra “rich” information such as images, lists and extra text, it not only provides more information for the user but provides more real-estate space on the SERP, which in-turn can increase the click-through-rate.

Essentially a rich snippet provides a short summary aimed at answering the user’s query.

Rich Snippet Example -Big Dog Digital

Rich Snippet Star Ratings

Knowledge Graphs

Rich snippets have since evolved to more creative and informative forms of display such as Rich Cards and Knowledge Graphs. What was once only commonly seen for recipes and movies, rich cards can now be displayed in mobile friendly carousels for any amount of various queries.

Rich Cards Carousel Restaurant NY

Knowledge Graph Example - Tennis Players

Knowledge graphs provide a slightly different result and are, again, used by Google to further enhance and improve search results. They appear on the right-hand side of the SERP and are designed to provide further information about a company, product, person or place.

Knowledge Graph Example

It is difficult to guarantee the obtaining of a rich snippet or knowledge graph, but you can help influence your chances. Search engines rely on rich data to return the most relevant results to the user. As Google’s ultimate goal is to become increasingly intelligent and provide the best user experience possible, it is essential that all of your necessary business information is optimised correctly. This could be your address, phone number and blogs to restaurant menu details.

A huge drive in improving search results, especially local, is centred around displaying customer reviews and ratings. Getting those 4 or 5 stars can drastically increase your CTR, and the best part is, you don’t even need to be in position 1! It is always going to be difficult to sustain if even ever get that first position in any SERP. Combine this with our natural habit of reading web pages in an F-shaped pattern, means appearing in position 3 or 4 and having visible star rating reviews may mean more click-throughs if positions 1 and 2 don’t have them.

Structured data is one of the key components in how search engine optimization is evolving. One such example of this is Voice Search.

Voice Search

Voice search has been gaining momentum in recent years. We all remember the introduction Siri from Apple in 2011. The novelty of saying “Hey Siri!” into your iPhone and getting the wrong search result or even getting it to understand your voice seems somewhat dated now, and it is. Speech recognition has become increasingly advanced, with errors now as low as 8%. Now we have access to technologies such Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana.

But how did we get here? And what is the point of this technology?

The key drivers for search engine optimization have changed dramatically over the years. In 2013, with the introduction of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, we saw a shift from exact match keyword queries to more semantic and topic based searches. This was driven by the desire to get a better understanding of the user’s intent. Since then we have seen the introduction of RankBrain – Google’s artificial intelligence system. Which is part of its overall search algorithm that is consistently striving to improve search results for the user.

It seems not only logical but the next natural step was always going to be Voice Search. Its sole purpose is to make our lives easier. Think about it – no typing, far quicker, just easy and effortless search. It should be noted that adoption of this technology will only be successful if it can be seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives, and it’s happening already with Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Voice Search and Search Engine Optimization

The importance of having natural, conversational content on your site is becoming increasingly important. This is due to the increase in mobile searches and voice search. People prefer written content that is easy to read, understand and in a natural language – this is after all how we speak on a daily basis. Also, being able to ask questions to, what is essentially an inanimate object and get an answer, is always going to be easier and more natural if you can speak to it like you would a person.

  • “What’s the average temperature in Texas in August? Vs. “Temperature Texas August”

How Do I Optimise My Website For Voice Search?

  • Create content that uses long tail keywords, that is natural and conversational.
  • Create content that is based on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Implement Structured Data on your site.

Implementing structured data for voice search is important in two aspects.

Search engines will understand the context of your website, and therefore should be able to provide more relevant answers to its users.

However, and more importantly for businesses to note, when it comes to voice search results from technologies such as Google Home, sometimes only a single and the most relevant answer will be provided. This means that competition for that top SERP position will become even greater.

Having the most highly rated reviews, an updated address and all content marked up correctly is what will determine this result. It is the structured data that feeds the answer to search engines and therefore this markup will be not only seen as useful but will also be rewarded with a higher ranking.

Voice search is not only changing how we, the user, receive our query information but it is shaping how businesses approach SEO.

Structured Data and Google’s Artificial Intelligence

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai made a statement earlier this year in May, saying that mobile first is evolving to A.I. first. This poses new challenges for business owners, as it will be increasingly difficult to succeed in an environment where technology is making more and more decisions about what to present to the user/customer.

Artificial Intelligence is becoming better at understanding the user’s intent – the who, the what and the where? It does this through our previous actions, our user preferences and adapting to our habits. This is combined with Google’s search algorithm, Hummingbird, which relies on well-structured data and is based on the Relevance, Proximity and Prominence of a search.

Search engines and Artificial Intelligence rely heavily on rich, accurate and real-time information so that they can provide users with exactly what they are looking for.

If the answer provided is wrong, users won’t blame the search engine they’ll blame the business for this discrepancy. UK research was carried out on consumers encountering incorrect location information online, which showed results of 49% of consumers would, in fact, hold the business accountable and only 20% the search engine or app for the mistake. This is a perfect example of the importance of well-structured data for something as simple as a business’ location. The more information you have, relevant to that query, the more likely you are to appear in the top result

Conclusion

It’s important for businesses to look beyond the challenges posed by AI and Voice Search, and try and see this as an opportunity. Essentially we know what is around the corner, so why not get ahead of your competitors and start optimising your site.

Martin McGuire

With a BA Honours in Marketing, Digital Media, and Cloud Computing, Martin contributes his knowledge to all of our ongoing projects. Specialising in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing. Martin’s role is to assist our clients in areas of their digital marketing strategy. Despite his nerdy credentials, Martin is also a committed mountain biking enthusiast. He’s been known to drop terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘shred’ into casual conversation.

Dublin, Ireland https://www.bigdog.ie

Why Web Design & Development Are So Important For Your Business

  • Jun 2017
  • Read Time: 5 Mins

Web Design and Development can seem somewhat of a daunting task for many businesses. There are many facets to creating and implementing a successful digital strategy, but the cornerstone of this online strategy is your website.

With the lines between online and offline becoming increasingly blurred, it has never been more important for businesses to make their presence known on the web. Whatever industry you’re in, whether you’re selling products or offering services, chances are that most of your customers and potential customers will have looked for you online before reaching out.

This article looks at the importance of good web design and development. In particular, it looks at how each element can help transform your business and your brand.

Credibility & Trust

Your website is usually the first point of contact for many people before they even reach out to you. As mentioned, even if your business operates predominantly offline, your potential customers will search for you before visiting. The days of conducting face to face business are becoming less important. First impressions matter more than, so designing a website that is not only credible but trustworthy is crucial. One study from Stanford University on Web Credibility showed that 75% of users admitted to making judgements on a business’ credibility from their web design alone. Other research, such as that from Missouri University of Science and Technology discovered that first impressions of a website are 94% design related.

The goal of your website is to communicate with the user so that it entices them to engage with you and potentially become a customer. Think of this on a human level, if someone seemed untrustworthy, would you do business with them? A credible website makes it easier for users to trust you and your business. It can make them feel more comfortable and ultimately feel more confident making transactions or share personal and sensitive information.

Website-Trust-Credibility-Big-Dog-Digital

Conversions

How your website is designed will have a direct impact on conversions. Whether the objective is to make a sale or receive a signup/subscription, the ultimate goal is to achieve this in as few clicks as possible. However, the one click dream is far from a reality. For instance, a new user trying to purchase an item online is usually required to carry out multiple steps in order to confirm payment; add an item to cart, shipping address, card details and confirm the order. With this in mind, it is important that websites guide the user to the desired end goal with as few distractions as possible, ensuring the journey is seamless while keeping them engaged.

There are numerous elements that influence conversion rates on a site. Two most prominent are; the placement of your call-to-action and how you guide the user to successfully engage and complete the conversion, as well as the colour scheme of the site and how it resonates with the user.

  • Placement of Call To Action Button – Your CTA is probably the most important element that contributes to your conversions. Everything else on your site, such as header design and placement and content creation all should be viewed as supporting features that grab user’s attention and guide them effortlessly towards the goal. I should also mention that users must understand and be able to acknowledge what is expected from them within a few seconds of first landing on the page.
  • Colour Choice & Perception – Choosing a colour scheme for your website is not as straightforward as what goes well together or just following what is already associated with your brand. There are a number of thought processes that need to be considered first, such as what is your brand’s personality? What geographical regions are you targeting? People react differently to colours in different parts of the world. Who are your desired consumers?

A study by psychologist and professor at Stanford University, Jennifer L. Aaker produced a paper on consumer behaviour called “Dimensions of Brand Personality”. The key focus of her study is based on a theoretical framework for brand personality, that determines five dimensions; Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication and Ruggedness.

When it comes to colour choice and perception, each of these “personalities” has specific colours attributed to them.

  • Sincerity – Blue – Down to Earth, Honest
  • Excitement – Red – Up to Date, Unique, Daring
  • Competent – Green – Reliable, Intelligent, Successful
  • Sophistication – Purple – Upper-Class, Feminine
  • Ruggedness – Brown – Outdoors, Masculine, Tough

Other aspects of colour choice that should be considered are the emotions that are evoked by certain colours and the types of consumers and their behavioural patterns, that are associated with various colours schemes. For example reds, oranges and black are aligned with impulse shoppers. These colours are powerful and aggressive and can be used to create urgency, for example sales. Green and Navy, on the other hand, are more of relaxing colours, hence why they are popular colours for banks and larger department stores. It is often associated with shoppers that are more financially conscious.

Another study by Joe Hallock called “Colour Assignment” highlights the preference of different colours based on gender and age group.

Obviously, these are all guidelines in terms of how you should approach design and colour selection for your website, as they also have to tie in with your existing brand appearance, but it is crucial that a clear understanding and approach is necessary in order for it to work well.

Brand Message & Brand Consistency

Brands that have a consistent visual brand image and language make a far greater impression than those that don’t. Much like traditional print media, your website can showcase your logo, products and services. However where it exceeds traditional methods is through the ability to have almost full control over how your brand image and reputation is perceived.

The goal of your website is to communicate clearly to the user what your brand is about and what it represents. Visual presentation plays a large part in reinforcing your brand’s message. If this is in any way disjointed it can result in your marketing losing its overall impact. Studies show that 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual. Even more interesting regarding web design, our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than text.

As we are now entering an age where visual learning is becoming more prominent in everyday life, it is paramount that websites are able to communicate their brand message and image through cohesive visual design. For instance, the new wave of consumers, Generation Z, are characterised by their short attention spans and desire for visual learning over text. For businesses looking to target this new group of consumers online, it means reassessing how their brand is being perceived and how they communicate with this new audience.

Brand-Message-Big-Dog-Digital

Website Engagement 

The State of Content report highlighted that 59% of consumers would prefer to engage with content that is beautifully designed rather than simple. If you think of Generation Z’s online behaviours, such as operating with multiple screens on one device at any one time, it is critical that your website and content grab their attention is that short window.

As previously mentioned, your website is at the heart of your digital marketing strategy. It allows you to interact with a larger audience than a bricks and mortar business ever could. It facilitates online dialogue between you and this audience by supporting your social media strategy. From these interactions it allows businesses to build a clearer picture of who their audience is, which in return, can then enable them to make better business decisions.

  • Social Media – There is no doubt that social media marketing is a powerful and essential part of any digital marketing strategy, but it is important to remember that your website sits central to these efforts. Using a website as their online foundation allows for businesses to build and create a consistent message and share this through the various channels. Relying on social media alone cannot guarantee a strong web presence, as it is not possible to completely control what users are exposed to when they visit your social page. They can become distracted from competitors ads or the platform’s features and functionalities. Driving this social traffic to your website is so important because you then have control of the content and environment that they are exposed to.
  • Building a Picture of Your Audience – The goal for any engagement is that it ultimately leads to a conversion. However, recording user’s interactions on your site through analytics, allows businesses to get better insight into their audience; such as behavioural patterns and characteristics. For example, are users engaging with the pages and content you would like? What geo-locations and online sources are most of your site visitors coming from? With marketing becoming increasingly data driven, arming yourself with this rich information can not only help get a better understanding of your customers but improve how you deliver value to them.

Online-Customer-Engagement-Big-Dog-Digital

Conclusion 

Whether you’re developing a website from scratch or planning a redesign there are a few more points to note before moving forward.

Content-Management-System-Big-Dog-Digital

  • Content Management System – Assessing your business’ internal capabilities can determine what type of CMS you would like to use, as many organisations like to be able to update content in-house. For example, WordPress is flexible, customisable and has a large development community behind it that are continuously improving and adding new features and functionalities.
  • Future Position – It is important to look beyond the finished product and assess the landscape and where you would like your future position to be. It is vital you plan for peak from the beginning. Quality design should enable you to be flexible and adapt to the ever changing marketplace by enabling you to make improvements and adjustments with ease.
  • SEO – Now that you have invested in your website, you want people to find you, right? It is vital that your SEO strategy is at the forefront of your development plan from the beginning. It is important to have a good understanding of your website’s architecture and how it will affect your SEO performance. It should also play a part in how your content is created, rather than tackling it once the build is complete. By optimising your website from the ground up, it will not only save you on expenditure further down the line, but will give you a solid SEO platform to work from.

Martin McGuire

With a BA Honours in Marketing, Digital Media, and Cloud Computing, Martin contributes his knowledge to all of our ongoing projects. Specialising in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing. Martin’s role is to assist our clients in areas of their digital marketing strategy. Despite his nerdy credentials, Martin is also a committed mountain biking enthusiast. He’s been known to drop terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘shred’ into casual conversation.

Dublin, Ireland https://www.bigdog.ie

SEO Guide for Ecommerce

  • Feb 2017
  • Read Time: 8 Mins

The Ecommerce market is forever growing and so are the challenges facing those competing in it. There are countless ways to advertise online now, but implementing a foolproof SEO strategy can differentiate you from your competitors and ensure that your business is in it for the long haul.

Why is SEO so Important for Ecommerce?

Ecommerce can be a lucrative, but challenging business. As with anything, where there is a lot of money to be made, you can usually find lots of competition. Whatever product or service you are offering online, you can be guaranteed that there are countless others offering something similar. The struggle is real for those running an E-commerce business. Competing in a highly competitive environment, with ever increasing numbers of competitors, means that it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.

On top of all this, there is the challenge of gaining new customers, which can be a steep (almost vertical) uphill battle if they can’t even find you. The best way to combat this is to try and earn yourself a good seat in the higher ranking search results pages of Google. After all, if you’re positioned higher, you will have a higher conversion rate. Yet so many online businesses still don’t have an SEO strategy in place and wonder why their competitors are getting ahead.

Hubspot recently published SEO statistics highlighting the  importance of carrying out good SEO practice;

  • 66% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.
  • 81% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases.
  • 72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic.

Now you’re thinking – what is it that really makes a good strategy and where do I start?

By the end of this article you should have a better understanding of the tasks you need to undertake to optimise your Ecommerce site for SEO, but most importantly, you should have an understanding why each element is so valuable to your business.

Let’s start with the basics.

SEO and the Buyer Funnel:

Keywords are at the heart of SEO, they are the foundation of a good strategy. Rather than going into detail on how to research appropriate keywords, how to analyse your competition and the various tools that can be used to do so; it could be more relevant to see how different types of keywords can be used to target customers at different stages of the buyer funnel.

There can be some variations in how the buyer funnel is represented, depending on the product or service. Ultimately it represents the process of how a user becomes aware of a need and it tracks their journey to the point of finding a solution and making a purchase. The funnel shape is an appropriate representation: the wider section of the triangle represents the wider audience and at this point, there are the most amount of potential buyers. As the funnel narrows, the number of potential buyers lessen but become more likely to make a purchase.

SEO for Ecommerce - BigDogDigital - Buyer Funnel

The Buyer Funnel Explained:

Need Recognition: This is represented by the top and widest part of the funnel.  At this point, the user has become aware that they have a particular need or problem which needs to be solved.

Solution Exploration: At this point, the user begins to seek out a potential solution.

Evaluation of Options: Once the user is happy with the information gathered from researching the various solutions, they compile a list of the most relevant vendors and begin to make comparisons.

Purchase: The user has now determined which solution best fits their needs and they make a purchase.

Post-Purchase Evaluation: The purchase is now complete, however, this point is still crucial as it can lead to customer retention and brand loyalty. There may be other actions to follow once the purchase is complete. If they have a good experience buying the product and it lives up to its’ expectations, they may leave a good review. Post purchase dissonance may also occur at this point, where a buyer has had a negative experience and they themselves, may leave a somewhat unfavourable review.

Top of the Funnel:

SEO is normally first implemented around the “Solution Exploration” stage of the buying process. Consumers have usually already recognised their need and have started exploring solutions and evaluating the different options to make a purchase. At this point, it is usually a good idea to start using broad keywords that appeal to the wider audience. This can be difficult, especially if you are in a competitive industry. Usually, you will find a lot of your competitors are already using the obvious keywords that relate to your business and product offering. Obviously, you will need to use these essential keywords and phrases to position yourself somewhat within the search range that is visible to users, however thinking outside the box can help target a wider audience especially those that may potentially slip through the net.

For example, let’s look at a yoga studio providing classes in Dublin city. They have a site up and running and are fully optimised for searches related to yoga in Dublin. The analysis would show that there is already high competition around the city centre between the different yoga studios.

SEO for Ecommerce - Big Dig Digital - Yoga SERP

In this instance, rather than targeting with the usual competitive keywords such as “Yoga Classes Dublin” and “Yoga Studio” etc., targeting users with alternative broad keywords could widen the net on your target audience. Optimising the site with keywords such as “ Lower Back Pain” and publishing a blog highlighting how yoga can be an effective treatment for lower back pain.  The aim is to provide a solution to their problem.

Bottom of the Funnel:

Moving further down the buyer funnel, the user, in theory, becomes closer to making a final decision about a purchase. At this stage, search terms become more specific as they narrow down possible solutions. This is a good opportunity to begin targeting users with more niche, long-tail keywords, and phrases. Rather than using broad terms like “Back Pain” the yoga studio could use phrases such as “alternative treatment for lower back pain” or “treating back pain without medication.”

A good tip is to create a list of all the different variations of niche search terms and phrases. Compile a list of appropriate keyword modifiers that are relevant to your industry. For example, if you sell products online use keywords such as; “Buy….”, “Shop for….” and “Compare….”.

Over time it will be possible to assess what works and what doesn’t, but combining both broad and narrow keywords gives the best results.

Clean URLs:

Think of all the hard work, time and resources that have gone into the designing and building a beautiful website. Ease of use and user navigation are some of the key components to any site design. Making sure that the navigation menus are clear and easy to understand. It is important that the user knows where they are along their journey. More importantly, if they want to revisit they know the quickest route to get there.

Why have unorganised and difficult to understand URL structures? An Ecommerce site may showcase hundreds if not thousands of products. As with most online purchases; a user will usually browse through a catalogue of products, find the particular one they like, leave the site and evaluate their options and hopefully return and make the purchase. As browsers now store our previous searches, the user may re-enter the website where they found the product into the URL, in an attempt to take a shortcut. Doing this will give the user the option to visit all the previous pages that were visited last on that site.

Confusing and illegible URLs can be a deterrent to users, they can also cause problems for search engine crawlers. Locating the product they have decided to purchase needs to be easy and fast. After all, they have already put the time and effort into finding your product, so why add an extra barrier. Here are a few tips to beautifying your URLs;

  • Get rid of the ugly string query parameters.
  • Replace with lower case words relating to product and category.
  • Great opportunity to use targeted keywords.
  • Don’t over do it, keep it short and to the point. The user has to understand it in an instant.
  • Use dashes to separate the words, over spaces and underscores.

SEO for Ecommerce - BigDogDIgital - Clean URL

Implement HTTPS:

It has has been over two years since the initiative to drive HTTPS by Google. If you haven’t implemented it, then maybe it’s time to consider it. The basis of success for any Ecommerce business is ensuring site visitors carry out financial transactions. HTTPS was specifically developed to allow for these transactions to take place within a secure environment. Ultimately it follows the same protocols as HTTP, however by using an SSL to transfer confidential data, it adds an extra layer of security.

Ultimately it follows the same protocols as HTTP, however by using SSL to transfer confidential data, it adds an extra layer of security.

There are two main benefits for its use;

  1. Other than credit card details, Ecommerce sites also collect other private and confidential information, such as home address and contact details. HTTPS ensures that all of this information is securely encrypted. Creating a safe environment for your customers to shop will only help to increase conversions.
  2. Google will love you for it. HTTPS is now listed in their top 200 ranking factors. Implementing this throughout your site will give you higher ranking preferential.

I should point out that an SSL certificate is valuable for all websites, even if they don’t fall under the Ecommerce umbrella. If you already have an SSL certificate on your site and want to ensure all items such as images and scripts are secure – there is a handy free SSL Checker from JitBit.

Canonicalization:

It’s not the sexiest of SEO practices and it’s difficult to pronounce, maybe that’s why nobody really likes to talk about it, but it is important. Consider an online business selling shoes. There might be separate URLs for the different sizes and colour options. This is essentially the same product with multiple URLs associated with it. In this instance, it would be best practice to canonicalize the main product page. A similar practice is advised for content syndication. This is allowing for your content to be copied onto another site. The practice enables for greater exposure from more authoritative site’s audiences. In doing so, multiple URLs are being created for the same content, so you can see how it is important to set a preferred URL.

There are a number of ways to define a canonical URL. One tip is to set a preferred domain, by canonicalizing the “www” version of your domain so that users will be directed to that version without having to type it in. For example “bigdog.ie” is redirected to “www.bigdog.ie”.

There are a number of other ways you can canonicalize URLs:

  • Entering a rel=”canonical” link element onto the desired page will tell search bots that page prioritised.
  • Use a site map to tell the crawlers which URLs are preferred out of the duplicate content.
  • Use 301 redirects for URLs that you do not wish to canonicalize.

It can take a little time, but it is worth it in the end.

Internal Linking:

Internal linking is one of those SEO practices that once you begin to do on a regular basis, it will just become habitual. For any site, especially Ecommerce, this is a good practice to get into. It is described as hyperlinking specific keywords or terms in your content that link to other pages on your site.

Two tips before you begin hyperlinking are;

  1. Make sure that the pages you are linking to are relevant to the page the user is already on.
  2. Ensure that the anchor text you are using is descriptive of the topic you are covering and the page you are linking to. This is beneficial to both the reader and Google as it can understand the topic from the appropriate anchor text.

Important: Don’t use anchor text such as “Click Here for more details”. It doesn’t read well and crawlers won’t understand the relevance of the link.

SEO for Ecommerce - bigdogdigital - internal links

There are a number of key benefits for internal linking, from the user’s perspective and the search engine’s.

Benefits of Internal Linking:

  • It is a great way of presenting site architecture so that crawlers can easily navigate and understand pages and content. It also establishes page and information hierarchy, which helps also helps with indexing.
  • Linking also allows for link juice to be passed on to pages from links. In layman’s terms, it allows for the authority built up from the linked page to be passed on to that page. This is also the case for external links.
  • Using this link juice can also help rank for certain keywords.
  • From a user-experience perspective, it can improve navigation.
  • It encourages users to engage further with the site and explore more content.

Mobile Optimisation and AMP:

With Google now prioritising mobile pages over desktop, it is essential that your site is fully mobile optimised and responsive. If you’re not sure, Google provides a free mobile-friendly test. As you may have read in my previous post, there has been a recent drive towards integrating with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The primary focus of this initiative is to improve user-experience, by creating instantaneous loading of rich media on mobile pages. Faster loading site content = Happier customers.

AMP is great for articles and blogs, as it provides rich snippets of information for the user. From an Ecommerce perspective, it also gives the opportunity to truly showcase the product selection. Not only will images and videos load almost instantly, but it will allow you to jazz up product pages with carousel images and even display related products to the user. Encouraging the user to further explore the site content for alternatives or extras before making a purchase.

SEO for Ecommerce - Big Dog Digital - AMP Carousel

Schema Markup for Ecommerce:

Schema first came to fruition around 2011; created by search engines Google, Bing, and Yahoo! The initiative was driven by an effort to standardise structured data markup on web pages. Although it has been around for a number of years, it really is only coming into the popular spotlight in recent months. You can expect to see a surge in the number of sites implementing this across the board.

There are a number of benefits to implementing structured schema on to your Ecommerce site.

  • Search Engines – It enables search engines to easily identify and understand content on a page. They can differentiate between a large number of elements. Whether they are products, descriptions, reviews, contact details and even availability for purchase.
  • User – It also gives the user more insight into the product they are searching for. When implemented correctly, Google can display a product image, pricing details, it’s availability and customer reviews.
  • Business – This rich information and extra SERP real-estate also has a higher potential to attract customers. They have a higher CTR and conversion rate. If you are going to try and advertise pricing information and customer reviews, make sure you can do so with confidence. Are your prices competitive and are your reviews positive?

SEO for Ecommerce - BigDogDigital - Schema - Ecommerce

Content is Key:

Leveraging content can boost both traffic to your site and increase sales. Customers like information and I don’t just mean product details. Creating content is an opportunity to showcase the product and how to get the most out of it. Presenting to your audience how the product works and more importantly how it will fit into their everyday lives is key to great content. If the customer can resonate with your message, there is a higher chance of a conversion. It is also an opportunity to validate your authority in the industry, after all, you are helping the user by passing on your knowledge and expertise. Oh yeah, and Google likes authoritative websites.

Steps to creating content:

Take for example a company that manufactures and sells modern cooking utensils.

  1. Find out what is trending in the market. What are your potential customers talking about? The aim here is to find ideas to use later on. Is there a growing trend in vegetarian dishes? Are they following any celebrity chefs? What restaurants do they like? Keep an open mind and take note.
  2. Review what content strategy you think could work for you. With video growing increasingly popular, this is an area that should be considered if at all possible. In the case of your cooking utensils company, this could be extremely beneficial as videos are great for demos.
  3. Create memorable content. It is possible to have a multifaceted approach to your content strategy. Implementing a series blogs, guest blogs, interviews and videos around a product could see your traffic and sales soar. An example using our cooking utensils company, for instance, could be publishing blogs on how to cook certain meals. What about interviewing top chefs and restaurants for tips on cooking techniques or how to cook their favourite dishes.

The goal here is to create content that will engage users and encourage them to share, increasing your traffic flow and sales.

Conclusion:

The checklist for implementing an Ecommerce SEO strategy can seem endless. For this reason, it is important to evaluate and prioritise what elements are important to your business. Building on a good foundation is vital. Depending on your business and specific needs, you can decide the direction you wish to take from there. If you want to stay ahead, you need to have the ability to change things up and be flexible.

Martin McGuire

With a BA Honours in Marketing, Digital Media, and Cloud Computing, Martin contributes his knowledge to all of our ongoing projects. Specialising in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing. Martin’s role is to assist our clients in areas of their digital marketing strategy. Despite his nerdy credentials, Martin is also a committed mountain biking enthusiast. He’s been known to drop terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘shred’ into casual conversation.

Dublin, Ireland https://www.bigdog.ie

Big Dog Digital’s Year in Review – 2016

  • Jan 2017
  • Read Time: 8 Mins

A collection of some of the website design projects launched in 2016.  Our clients range from corporate, to SME, eCommerce to hospitality, financial and everything in between.

212 Yachts

bigdog-insights-212-yachts

About

212° Yachts are a luxury yacht rental and sales company based in Cannes, France. They Offer luxury yacht charters and sales across the Mediterranean, the French Riviera and beyond.

Scope

212° Yachts first approached the Big Dog Digital Team with requirement of redeveloping their existing website. The website 212-yachts.com is a vital component of their success, so it was essential that the finished product was aligned with their brand message and image. Not only was a complete overhaul needed in terms of design and aesthetics, the focus had to centralise around usability and engagement.

The two core objectives for the new site were to;

  • Enable users to consume content easily in all areas including brand, products and blogs, ultimately leading to an increase in conversions.
  • Improve user experience throughout the site by refining the navigation and ensuring a logical structure with multi-device functionality.

Since completion of the project, 212-yachts.com has seen a great improvement in a number of key areas:

  • Site traffic has increased by 18%
  • User engagement is now up by 48%
  • The top 4 pages are now in line with their business goals
  • Homepage bounce rate is down by 40% compared to the old site

The Big Dog team are proud to see such great results in such a short time frame. We look forward to taking our annual yacht trip around the French Riviera this summer!

Acacia

bigdog-insights-acacia

About

Acacia is a privately owned supplier of Independent Facilities Management & Facilities Consultancy, operating across Ireland, the UK and the Middle East.

Scope

Big Dog Digital were successful in tendering for the redevelopment of Acacia’s new website. The previous website had become a little dated, it also lacked flexibility and growth due to it’s complicated bespoke build and was not optimised for their mobile traffic.

Our team provided a digital asset which was customer focused, content manageable, mobile friendly and built with a strong SEO strategy.

We look forward to working with the great team in Acacia again this year.

Blackstone Motors

bigdog-insights-blackstone

About

Blackstone Motors is a multi-award winning Renault and Dacia Regional Dealer for the North East of Ireland.  Based in Louth and Cavan, Blackstone pride themselves on their personal approach to sales and customer service.

Scope

The central focus of the project was based on a total redesign and rebuild of their website. Their previous website was developed using a third party template, offering very little custom capabilities in terms of design and functionality.

The objectives were based on three key areas. First of all, Blackstone Motors wanted to tell their story and demonstrate how they are the leading dealership for both product and service. Secondly, to ensure an increase in not only traffic to their site, but conversions and customer contact. Finally, to refine their user experience from the navigation, information architecture, product display to content and brand.

Upon completion of the project, Blackstone Motors have seen great success with the end result being:

  • Vast improvement on the customer journey from the landing page, through to services and the product search
  • Dramatically improved mobile experience for customers, which makes up 48% of their overall traffic
  • Reduced overall bounce rate and increased time spent on web pages, increasing enquiries and sales
  • Blackstone Motors now have full control of their content management system, enabling content editing in-house

Blindeye Barbers

bigdog-insights-blindeye

About

Blindeye Barbershop is progressive new barbershop situated in Georges Street Arcade, in the heart of Dublin 2.

Scope

As a new barbershop, it was important for Blindeye’s customer focused core values and brand ethos to be reflected in their site. Big Dog’s objectives for this project were not only to create a site that showcased Blindeye’s work, but to create a forward-thinking, user-friendly responsive design. The team were also were able to create online booking functionality, ensuring all aspects of project were delivered upon.

College of Computing Technology

bigdog-insights-cct

About

College of Computing Technology (CCT) are one of Ireland’s leading specialist Colleges in the areas of Computing and Business Studies. They offer students a range of part-time, full-time, corporate and semester-abroad courses.

Scope

CCT requested that we improve their existing site in terms of user experience and design. This new direction would ensure a clearer overview of what CCT offer students and position them in-line and ahead of competitors.

The existing structure and information architecture functioned well and where Big Dog added real improvements, was with layout and design.  The primary goal for users was ease of access to course content, life at CCT and facilities offered etc.   These primary users goals were balanced with clean, visually rich content and mobile friendly design.

Chelsea Drugstore

bigdog-insights-chelsea

About

The Chelsea Drugstore is one of Dublin’s newest cocktail bars. This bohemian themed establishment is located on Georges Street, Dublin 2.

Scope

Situated in a building that is shrouded in history, it was important to the management team to not only tell their story, but to tell the building’s colourful past. The boutique bar offers unique cocktail and food menus to its customers, along with masterclasses in mixology. The objective for Big Dog was to create a platform that showcased the various elements of the bar that made it so unique, from the historical and contemporary blended design, to its unique and vibrant food and drinks menu.

Big Dog look forward to sampling a few of these cocktails, that’s for sure!

FTI/TMS

bigdog-insights-tms

About

As part of the FTI Treasury Group, TMS provide Treasury Management Systems and their headquarters is situated in Dublin city. These integrated solutions encompass all treasury transactions, business cash flows, bank accounts and liquidity.

Testimonial

“We chose Big Dog because they offered a flexible and collaborative approach to our website project. They were easy to communicate and work with and took the time to understand our business needs. We are happy with the end result and would work with them again!”

HEIDL

bigdog-insights-heidl

About

Based in South Dublin, Heidl specialises in the development of innovative products, focusing on Medical Device and Healthcare Industries. Heidl offers Design and Engineering Consultancy and other related services from brand development, product design, prototyping to engineering and manufacturing.

Scope

Heidl’s core objectives were to update and improve their online presence, reposition their brand and ultimately lead to an increase in user engagement. It was important to Heidl to outline to potential clients their entire product development process.

With the number of objectives that needed to be achieved in order to ensure a successful end product, it was paramount for Big Dog to work closely with the Heidl team to develop a clear project roadmap. This collaborative approach resulted in a website that not only reflected Heidl’s brand, mission and goals but a product that demonstrated responsive design based on flow and user experience.

Heneghan PR

bigdog-insights-hpr

About

Heneghan HR is one of Ireland’s leading independent public relations and communications companies. Established in 1990, Heneghan are a leading strategic corporate communications company, which represents some of the leading names in Irish and international business, across a wide range of sectors.

Testimonial

“As a leading corporate communications firm, it is essential that our services and approach are accurately reflected through the website. The Big Dog Digital team were very flexible and provided excellent advice in terms of website management and how to successfully increase our SEO.”

Idlewild

bigdog-insights-idlewild

About

IdleWild Bar is situated in the heart of Dublin’s bustling Fade Street. They offer their customers a wide variety drinks to suit all palates. Serving everything from Irish craft beers to ales, ciders and whiskeys, as well as gins and cocktails, all in a surrounding decor that has taken its inspiration from the American era of the 30’s and 40’s.

Scope

Big Dog had the task of designing and building the new site from scratch. Focusing on the important elements that drove the design, we told the story of the building’s colourful history and what inspired this unique bar. It was also important for the management team to showcase the venue and it’s unique decor, as well as its food and drinks menus.

The Big Dog Team look forward to trying out some of the Irish crafts on offer in the year to come!

Medicare Rentals

bigdog-insights-medicare-rentals

About – website

Medicare Health & Living supply maternity and respiratory supplies and equipment for use in hospitals and homes. Medicare provide equipment for rent from their offices in Wicklow and through Rental Agents throughout the Republic of Ireland.

Scope

The main goal of this project was to simplify the ordering process for rental equipment. To do this, the Big Dog team built a site that meets the requirements of three user groups – customers, rental agents and the Medicare staff. We designed and built a website where customers can rent equipment to be delivered by medicare or collected from a rental agent. Rental agents can manage their orders through their own account section.  The website is integrated with Medicare’s internal business software to manage customer relationships, secure recurring billing for rentals, and track inventory thereby automating much of Medicare’s administrative work.

Nathan Trust

bigdog-insights-nathan-trust

About

Established in 1999, Nathan Trust are one of Ireland’s leading company’s for Law and Corporate Governance. They provide comprehensive cost effective advice and solutions on all aspects of Company Law, Company Secretarial Practice and Corporate Governance.

Scope

Nathan Trust requested that the Big Dog team to carryout a complete revamp on their existing site. The core objectives which drove the project are as follows:

  1. Focused landing page for international clients
  2. Funnel these users into simple steps
  3. Conversion optimised (live chat / contact)
  4. Video segments for each process stage
  5. SEO best practice needs to influence all design decisions

With the site completed and all the necessary objectives met, Nathan Trust noticed a substantial increase in content engagement from their users. This ultimately led to an increase in users engaging with the call to actions including live chat and contact forms.

Ryanair Careers

bigdog-insights-ryanair-careers

About

Ryanair is Europe’s favourite airline, operating more than 1,800 flights daily to over 200 destinations. With a fleet of over 300 Boeing 737 aircraft and a team of over 10,000 highly skilled aviation professionals, they are Europe’s No.1 airline.

Scope

As part of Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” program, the CEO requested the current Careers section of the Ryanair Corporate website to be completely revamped and modernised. The key objectives were to give the user a rich experience in an easy-to-navigate and easy- to-search portal. It was vital that the new site would sit seamlessly within the brand guidelines and be consistent with the main corporate site.

  • Fully responsive (Desktop, Mobile and Tablet)
  • Dynamic platform for each core business area, such as Operations, Labs, Cabin Crew, Engineering, Head Office.
  • Full CMS control for entire content
  • Integrated with existing HR system
  • Filtered search and intuitive results for all vacancies

The end product fulfilled all of the necessary objectives required in addition to an increase in sessions, page views, greatly reduced bounce rate and increased dwell time.

Ryanair Investors

bigdog-insights-ryanair-investor

Scope

In addition to the design and development of their careers site, Ryanair asked the Big Dog team to also dig their teeth into the Investor Relations website. As before, it was essential for the overall design of the site to be consistent throughout and sit within the brand’s guidelines. There were a number of key technical objectives that sat at the core of the project these included:

  • Replacing Home-page slider
  • Update Icons and Service Boxes
  • Update Shareholders Landing
  • Homepage parallax slider
  • Update header and footer
  • Add SSL and Additional Security
  • Update Plugins
  • Align Styles and Branding

The finished product addressed all of the necessary technical components and greatly improved user experience and navigation throughout the site.

Martin McGuire

With a BA Honours in Marketing, Digital Media, and Cloud Computing, Martin contributes his knowledge to all of our ongoing projects. Specialising in Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing. Martin’s role is to assist our clients in areas of their digital marketing strategy. Despite his nerdy credentials, Martin is also a committed mountain biking enthusiast. He’s been known to drop terms like ‘gnarly’ and ‘shred’ into casual conversation.

Dublin, Ireland https://www.bigdog.ie

SEO Trends for 2017: Tips To Get You Ahead

  • Jan 2017
  • Read Time: 8 Mins

As we say goodbye to 2016, there is a lot of talk about what is in store for the next twelve months in the world of SEO. I have a compiled a short list of what I believe will be the most popular SEO trends for 2017.

Mobile is Mandatory:

As I’m sure you already know, mobile optimisation has become increasingly important in recent years. This is ever since 2015 when Google announced that mobile searches surpassed desktop. As you can imagine this is only going to increase in the years to come, so they are putting mobile towards the top of the priorities pile. Google recently stated they will be experimenting with mobile first index. Meaning, the search engine will now crawl the mobile or mobile-responsive version of your site first, prioritising mobile pages over desktop. It will then use that content in the search engine results pages (SERP).

If you are unsure if your site is up to date;

  1. You can carry a basic mobile-friendly test.
  2. You can also read Google’s Guide on mobile optimisation for a more detailed overview of what is needed.

Google - Mobile Optimization

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP):

With mobile optimisation at the forefront, it is important to highlight Google’s primary focus which is based on increased mobile responsiveness. This is driven by the desire to reduce bounce rates and ultimately improve mobile user experience. AMP integration seems to be the favoured solution for this and as its open-source, it is available to everyone. So take note.

Its primary function is to create instantaneous loading of all rich media on mobile pages, such as; image, video and graphics. This is down to the fact that an average website uses eight times more data when loading than AMP. As Google have dedicated Search Console AMP Test, you can expect a surge in the trend for 2017.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

User Intent:

Keywords are still an important component of a brand’s SEO strategy, however, they are losing some weight in terms of the results they produce. This is down to two key factors; user behaviour and evolving search engines. Consumers are now more specific in their search terms, they know exactly what they are looking for. Search terminology has evolved into full queries and phrases being entered into the search engine. To facilitate this, search engines are becoming more intelligent, allowing them to identify the user intent.

How do brands adjust their SEO strategy?

Examine

Examine what users are searching for that brings them to your site. Obviously, the important keywords will be apart of this, but take note of the different variations of search terms used. What are users really searching for? What problems do they want solving?

Adjust

Once you’ve compiled a sufficient amount of data and analysed it, you can make the necessary changes to your content. The most important factor when creating or editing your content is to make sure it resonates with your customer. Do you have the solution to their problem?

Repeat

This is a continuous process. Compile regular reports from your analytics and make changes as you see deem necessary. Keeping up to date and responding to your customer needs in this way is what will differentiate you from your competitors and will ensure that you one step ahead of the game.

Structured Data and Schema are Important:

Structured data is one of those components of site design that every developer knows about but not all use. However, its importance is becoming more prevalent of late. The best way to describe it is; if your site is using structured data, it will be easier for the search engine to identify and understand the content. This will result in better rankings in the search engine results pages.

Schema.org was developed in 2011 by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex, to promote the standardisation of structured data markup for web pages. A perfect example of how structured data is being used and its benefits to both the search engine and the user are Rich Snippets. These are extra pieces of information that appear under a search result. For example; a recipe or cooking instructions.

SEO-Structured Data- Rich Snippets

Personal Branding:

Personal branding may not seem like an obvious choice when it comes to your SEO strategy. With more and more consumers shifting towards brands that they can connect with, it is important for organisations to have a face. Personal branding for digital marketing is focused on using different identities and personalities within the organisation and using them to communicate with the individual audience segments. Think of it as appointing an expert representative for each of your customer bases. Each has their own needs and requires different solutions.

First and foremost it is vital you adhere to best practices for on-page and off-page SEO if you want to position yourself higher in the search rankings. For example, building a keyword strategy, developing local SEO strategy and link building. Personal branding can be then leveraged to build trust and ultimately driving more traffic to your site. Here are some of the SEO benefits;

Trust Building

Consumers have a desire to create relationships with brands they can trust. As personal branding in centralised around the individual communicating with the consumer, it gives your brand a personality and human traits, enabling you to empathise with your customer and potentially provide solutions to their problems. This will result in an increase in your user-base, and followers and ultimately drive sales.

Build Authority

Publishing content from individual authors is far more appealing to consumers. By providing individual expertise communication, it allows brands to tap into separate audience segments and spark up conversations without disrupting their overall consumer base. Over time, as your authority and expertise amongst consumers increases, other external publishers may also see the appeal and request guest write-ups. This will result in increased relevant site links, a key ingredient in SEO link building.

Aside from analysing the benefits of personal branding from the user’s point of view, Google are now rumoured to start favouring those sites who are becoming creative with their own personal branding. It is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate websites amongst competitors. Some brands are combating this through the use of personalised URLs. Google see this as another creative avenue to build brand awareness and they will award you for it. For example;

Similar to services such as TinyURL and Bitly, they allow the user to shorten their URL link, making it easier to add links into instant messages or character restricted posts such as Twitter. However, by branding and personalising the URL it allows you to be more creative and it will be even shorter. If you want to have a look at some great examples, check out Vanity URL Shorteners or if you’re curious vnty.us.

Conclusion:

The next few months will be an exciting time for SEO, that’s for sure. There were a lot of big announcements last year, in terms of SEO trends, so we will most likely see a lot of those areas growing in popularity, such as user experience, long-form content and mobile optimisation. The main thing to remember as a digital marketer is to keep on top of your current SEO strategy. Once you have a good foundation to build on, you can then begin to add in some new factors into the mix.