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Top 5 Takeaways from SMX EAST

Advanced SEO Tactics from SMX East 2016

As an SEO specialist, you are always looking for that one new tactic that can set you ahead in rankings. For me, the latest tactic wasn’t a new feature released by Google but a trip to the 2016 SMX East Convention. Here are my top 5 SEO takeaways from the 2016 SMX East Convention.

1. Optimizing for Voice Search

Voice search continues to grow and search engines are adapting to this change. Why is voice search becoming so popular? For one, society today craves convenience, so much so that typing has become a challenge. People want information immediately, this includes while driving, cooking or are otherwise occupied.

On average we can type up to 38 to 40 words per minute, while we can speak 110 to 150 words per minute. This makes voice search a faster, more convenient form of gathering information.

SEO and SEM specialists must change their thinking to capitalize on this. We must now rethink. Rethink intent, actions and mobile optimization. We must start optimizing for the who, what, why, when and where of search queries, as well as utilizing schema and knowledge graph to capitalize on all the information you can.

TAKEAWAY: Voice search optimization is the new mobile, that nagging thing you aren’t getting around to on your site but should. Voice search queries, smart watches, personal assistant, and smart device purchases are on the rise. Voice search is even going to be a standard feature in all 2017 Ford vehicles. It is imperative that your site and optimization strategy keep up with this trend.

2. A Push for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

Statistically, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Developed to solve common mobile page problems such as pages that load slowly, non-responsive scrolling, and content that shifts around, AMP is a way to build web pages for static content that renders fast.

AMP has four goals; make pages load faster, be easy to implement, enable monetization, and embrace the open web. What this means for users is a much faster mobile web, and for publishers using AMP, a likely boost in search rankings, as site speed and mobile friendliness are both vital for user experience.

TAKEAWAYS: Put simply, AMP renders faster and ranks better. In a study for Conde Nast, rankings went from an average of 5 to 1 when using AMP. Google is pushing for the use of AMP, which is usually a signal that this could become part of the Webmaster Guidelines, and could cause penalty down the line if not utilized.

Looking to utilize AMP? Plugins are available for popular CMS platforms such as WordPress, Squarespace and Drupal. Also, check out AMPproject.org, AMPbyexample.com, and ampproject.org/roadmap to learn more.

3. Rich Snippets, Schema Markup and Structured Data

Although often overlooked or ignored, rich snippets are a vital part of the optimization process. Structured data helps increase the crawlability of the content on your site. Certain markups including local business, offers, ratings, reviews, events, organization and more all have a large impact on voice search as well.

So what’s new with Rich Snippets? Rich Cards are the newest form of structured data markup. Rich Cards can be utilized by taking advantage of AMP. As of right now Rich Cards can be used to markup news, and soon, recipes and movies. AMP Rich Cards will be a real game changer, dominating the top of organic search results on a page, particularly mobile.

Structured Data and Social – As always don’t forget to leverage markups on popular social channels to get enhanced visibility on social websites. This includes Open Graph Tags, Twitter Cards, and Rich Pins.

TAKEAWAY:
Google has been pushing and rewarding Rich Snippets for a long time now. If you aren’t using them, and using them correctly, you could be at risk for penalization or trailing behind in rankings.

4. Better Safe than Sorry with HTTPS

At SMX there was a huge push for migration from HTTP to HTTPs by Google. “Better safe than sorry” was the motto floating around the conference, with presentations referencing ad injection and even censorship, like the Great Firewall, as risks of not migrating.

According to Google, currently less than 10% of the discovered URLS are HTTPS – this is an absurdly low number. Over time, this should reach 100%. However, over 30% of top page results in June 2016 were secure. So there is a reward that comes along with the move.

TAKEAWAYS: Google is pushing webmasters hard to migrate to HTTPS, but the SEO world isn’t adopting as fast as the search engine giant would like. My recommendation, make the move, or at least keep the idea on your radar. In true Google fashion this may become a Webmaster Guideline and cause for penalization in the future.

5. Google Keynote

At Google’s Keynote presentation, Jerry Dischler, VP of Search Ads, and Babak Pahlavan, Senior Director of Product Management for Analytics Solutions and Measurement, discussed various topics affecting search marketers and made several announcements.

SEARCH AD NEWS
• The release of cross-device remarketing for Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). This follows earlier news that display retargeting is now available across devices. In order words, signed-in users can be retargeted across all of their devices.
• RLSA will soon be able to be set at the campaign level rather than only the ad group level.
• The launch of demographic targeting for search ads. This will be moving from beta and rolling out to allow advertisers to target based on gender and age.
• Lastly, Google announced that similar audiences for search are now in open beta.

ANALYTICS NEWS
• Optimize 360 is launching globally as a free version. Optimize is Google’s testing and personalization product, providing feedback loop on performance.
• Data Studio is now also available globally. In addition, Google has launched several new reporting templates designed to simplify visual reports.
• Google Analytics is rolling out a new metric called session quality score. Powered by machine-learning, session quality score is actually the technology that has underpinned Smart Goals. Session quality score predicts the likelihood of a visitor making a transaction on your site or app.
• Lastly, over the next few weeks, Tag Manager will be adding 20 additional data sources for tags. These include Quantcast, Twitter, Microsoft Boing, Nielson and more.

TAKEAWAYS: Google is putting a lot of time and energy into its tools by ramping up Adwords demographics, increasing Tag Manager abilities, streamlining remarketing across multiple devices, evolving testing and simplifying reporting metrics. It is absolutely essential that Search Marketers be aware of these efforts, and focus future endeavors around these tools.