SEO and Content Best Practices for 2017

As you kick into gear in 2017, laying out your plans for content marketing domination, you already understand that some of the tips that would’ve helped you years ago will hurt you now, badly. Smart marketers by now understand that keyword stuffing—the practice of loading keywords into meta tags or content of a web page in order to basically trick a search engine crawler—is not just an out-of-date practice: At this point, it can lead to a website being banned or penalized in search ranking on major search engines, “either temporarily or permanently.”

But even if you understand what not to do, you might have questions around the state of SEO and content today. What are current best practices? What might be around the corner in 2017? And most important, how can you position the content you make and the website you host it on for SEO and content success in 2017? We’ve got three tips and links to dozens more below.

3 Tips for Great, SEO-friendly Content Marketing in 2017

1. Keep your Eyes on the User Experience (UX)

At this point, predictions are that in 2017, user experience optimization (UEO) may start to blur the lines with SEO. Search Engine Journal explains it perfectly, if you’ll allow us a metaphor: If your website is a Maserati, then the on-page SEO—the optimization you’re already doing as a regular practice—is like the infrastructure of this snazzy ride. Without that, your car would be useless, right? But! “What really attracts the buyers is the Maserati’s sleek style, luxurious appointments, and century old reputation (brand),” Search Engine Journal explains. “No one is looking to buy a Maserati engine hidden under the hood of a burned out old Chevy.”

To focus on UX, first and foremost you should prioritize great website design. It makes sense: In order to satisfy your customers, they have to have an easy experience navigating through and around your site. To accomplish this, hire great people and keep user experience in mind, but don’t rely just on internal instincts, either—user testing can offer an accurate window into how users relate with your site.

And as with any good strategy, assessing your success comes down to keeping yourself honest by the right metrics. Two good ones to include? Bounce rate and time on site. Bounce rate tells you whether the navigation and site structure that seems intuitive and best to your design team is actually helpful once the site has shipped. Time on site, meanwhile, is a clear way to see whether visitors are engaged enough to remain on your site long enough to get what they’re after—to help boost this metric, you’ll want to hone in on responsive design and keep page load speed in mind, as well.

Assessing your success comes down to keeping yourself honest by the right metrics.

 

2.) Build a Brand, Rather than Keyword-Friendly Content

Though the tactics and trends around SEO for content will continually change, there’s something else worth your focus that won’t: the importance of building a strong brand. Tech.co explains it this way: “Dominating the front page of Google is nice, but it isn’t nearly as valuable as having a strong brand. Your brand is your company’s single most valuable asset. According to market research company Millward Brown, brands account for over 30% of the equity value of companies listed on the S&P 500.”

Your brand is your company’s single most valuable asset.

 

So when you create content, before you ever ask questions around what keywords it might be competitive for, you should determine whether the topic makes sense for your brand to cover, whether it offers a vehicle for an authentic brand voice, and whether taking the time and resources necessary to create great content will help boost your brand value, identity, or equity. If the answer to any of these questions is no, frankly, there’s no need to pursue it—let alone optimize it for SEO.

3.) Aim for Content that Solves the Needs of Your Readers

The bottom line is this: algorithms know now more than ever—and are poised to learn even more—how to consume your content exactly as a reader would. In 2015, Google released RankBrain, opening the door to the possibility of algorithmic machine learning—in other words, an AI system for algorithms. They haven’t released an update since, but experts anticipate we’re overdue for one. At this point, RankBrain is the third-most important factor in search engine results, behind content and links, and this evolution will only continue as we move into 2017.

And the other thing about content that actually solves the needs of the readers? It’s usually not 300 words long. The past couple years seen a tremendous increase in long-form content—precisely because “People are getting sick of reading the same fluff content over and over again, in different words.”

Content that truly solves the needs of readers is usually not 300 words long.

 

No matter what, don’t forget the basics. There are great comprehensive guides out there that can help you ensure each and every piece of content you release into the world is at its best in terms of search-engine compatibility.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.