Marco Bonomo believes that 2023 presents a fantastic opportunity for SEOs to focus on content and content strategy, specifically designed to please and delight your users.
Marco says: “You should ensure that all of the content within your website is unique. Rather than focusing on providing an ultimate guide for a specific topic, you should really reach in and think about introducing some extra elements.
For example, if you’re having a conversation with a specialist, you could incorporate some visual data, charts, etc. to consolidate the unique thoughts shared throughout the conversation. Ensure that your content is specifically made for users and not for bots.”
So the focus is shifting from pleasing Google’s algorithms to pleasing users?
“Definitely, but the bar is getting higher and higher. Google is getting smarter at understanding how granular a topic can be, which means we must learn to adapt. Content is one of the main pillars of SEO, so we need to make sure that what we write is comprehensive, simple to understand, and easy for most users to read.”
How do you bring stakeholders into the discussion, incorporate them into your content strategy to inform them of your SEO desires, and develop a content marketing strategy that appeals to all?
“Most businesses have a department strictly for PR. You need to work on trends. For example, in the vaping industry, you might look into the future of disposable vaping devices. You should work on specific data to discover the current trends. Each market is different so you’ll have different shades of the same topic. The content you present must be unique. Different marketers will have different approaches, but the content must be really direct to the specific user that is going to use the specific content.
PR efforts are important but, at the same time, if you’re working as a manufacturer to produce specific items, you can go to customer service to help limit the number of people that call with queries. This can be achieved with informative content via your FAQs, which should be updated regularly for all the products you sell. Proper content will offload the time your teams will have to spend contending with calls from customer service. Optimise with the resources you have and provide better service for the end user.”
How do you determine trends that aren’t popular yet but are likely to be in a few months’ time?
“If you work in a large organisation where you’re selling to multiple markets, you can try to split your approach in waves. Every year you could have six to eight waves of content. Though it’s difficult to predict what’s around the corner, the core point is that you’ll be able to identify what the primary trend is.
For example, you’d know that disposable vaping is a growing market. You’d know where users are moving, how they interact with devices, and how the legal framework is changing over time. You must have a strategy that tries to comprehend all the little shades needed. Not everything is going to be up to date right now, but you should try to follow the trends and anticipate the needs of the user and what’s going to be up to date in a year to two years’ time.”
How do you publish FAQs on-site? Is it important to publish all of your content on one page or do multiple pages appeal to search engines?
“You can have single pages talking about a specific FAQ or you can have FAQ category pages. For example, you could have one for a dedicated pillar of your content. The risk of adding a singular page for each FAQ is that Google will not consider that particular FAQ as worth enough. If you have a page with a couple of lines of content, will it really be worth crawling these pages for more indexing?
Always put yourself in Google’s shoes. If you try to create a proper category page and interlink, you’ll develop the content and be able to explain things in a more simple way. You could then link all the categories together and improve internal linking to signal whether you’re a manufacturer, sell physical products, sell software, or do something else. Being really focused on FAQs will make your end users’ lives easier. If you never work on FAQs, now is the time to plan, improve existing sections, or make new ones.”
Let’s say your business has a relatively short list of FAQs on one page. Is it easier to get each answer ranked if you have everything on-page as opposed to on individual pages?
“It’s probably easier to create a single page, like a category page for FAQs. You can publish an additional layer of content for maintaining structured data. Creating categories is probably more beneficial than single pages.
Also, publishing FAQs and having structured data with rich snippets could cause you to lose traffic if the user gets their question answered on the SERP and doesn’t click through. It’ll be a trade-off between providing better content for the user and securing more clicks.”
Would you classify appearing directly in the SERP as an SEO win?
“Yes. Your ultimate goal will be to have happy customers that keep buying from you. Even if you get fewer clicks, what matters is how you serve your end user. Did you do a good job of informing users? If you did, you’ll align with Google’s end goal.”
How do FAQs fit into the helpful content update?
“The update should stop us from simply copying and pasting content from manufacturer descriptions. Google is honing in on looking at how much additional value you can provide the end user. Why should they consider your content when the same content is already listed in the original corporate funnel manufacturer? FAQs are very particular and niche, but at the same time useful for the user. They must be highly allocated and provide specific answers.”
If you’re focusing on the user, will it matter where you provide that value for them, e.g. on social media, review sites, etc.? How does Google treat your brand being found on third-party websites?
“Going forward, Google will have an enhanced understanding of whether it’s a good brand, whether it provides good customer service, etc. When you launch something, you’ll always focus on the ‘wow factor’ because things have to be big. However, how good will your particular brand be at keeping promises, listening to social media, providing support, and helping the end user?
Further in the future, Google will provide a bird’s eye view where you can figure out whether something is worth buying or not. It’ll be about more than having perfect SEO and complementary content. You’ll have to look at how users determine whether something is worth buying, whether a company is good, etc. The value of SEO is becoming more intangible.”
Is it becoming harder and harder to measure the ROI of SEO? How do you prove the value of what you’re doing internally?
“For the next few years, the value of SEO will focus on driving traffic to the web for certified ROI. Google is just an advertising company, so SEO is definitely going to shrink, though it has somewhat already. You’ll also have Google providing FAQs that didn’t exist a few years ago. SEO will still be a part of the bigger picture. Justifying SEO as a pillar in your overall strategy won’t be more difficult, but it will need to be more integrated with other channels.”
Do you think SEO will die?
“No. Google is relying on users looking at specific query results. These users can be described as ‘freemium’ - with Google, pay-per-click, and YouTube representing the same philosophy.
There has been an Amazonification of Google, which is an irreversible trend. Amazon is getting much more aggressive at taking over the eCommerce world, so Google must expand to maintain its position. Google needs to adapt, so we need to adapt to what it’s providing as a service.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“It would be great to see content that isn’t as flashy and useless as we’ve seen. When you do product reviews, for example, you should avoid clickbait and focus on what the product will include, when it will be released, etc. Also, avoid content made for the sake of producing content. If a copywriter is forced to create a specific article within a specific timeframe on the same topic, it’ll provide practically the same low value.
Hopefully, the Google content update is going to provide clarity, and maybe exemplify how intrusive the ads on publishers are. If you discover content in five parts - encountering a video and an audio stream before getting to the main piece of content – it’s probably not going to be worth reading.”
Marco Bonomo is Global SEO Operations Lead at Phillip Morris International and you can find him over at marcobonomo.co.uk.
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