Category Archives: SEO Tips & Tricks

6 Best Tips for Creating Evergreen Content

At some point during your research to find better ways to improve the performance of your content, whether it is for a blog, company website, or as part of your overall marketing strategy, you have likely encountered the term “evergreen content.” This is not a new term and has been used for over half a decade to describe content that stays relevant over time. The more staying power your content has in terms of relevance to searchers, the more evergreen it is.

To expand the explanation a bit more, evergreen content is engaging, useful, and topically relevant for an extended period of time. If someone uses a search engine to find information about a specific subject today and a year from now and both receive the same result, that content is evergreen. The longer your content can stay visible in search results and relevant to search queries, the more evergreen it is.

As the internet becomes increasingly saturated with a variety of content pertaining to similar topics, it becomes more important for marketers and content creators to produce content that has the most potential for long-term importance to online searchers and surfers.

Create content for beginners. You might be tempted to think that technically advanced, in-depth content would be more appropriate as a candidate for being evergreen. In reality, the opposite is true. Most of the people who use search engines to find information are relatively new to a particular subject and are expanding their knowledge. The individuals who seek out technical content usually have a source location in mind, and they often avoid search engines unless they are performing a cursory search without a specific data acquisition goal in mind. There are also far more people new to a certain subject using search engines on a regular and recurring basis than there are people who want material on advanced subject matter.

Avoid making assumptions with your phrasing and terminology. Because the majority of your readers will be those who are only now familiarizing themselves with a specific topic, you should anticipate their lack of in-depth knowledge and write accordingly. Technical jargon or industry-specific phrasing should be left out unless absolutely necessary and, if it is necessary, make sure the average reader understands what the words or phrases mean.

Use outbound links cautiously. Many writers who provide online content, especially bloggers, are often tempted to include outbound links to reference and source material. This is usually done to give the reader more information about a subject or establish more authority for facts, figures, and other data provided in the content. Problems can arise, however, when you have included links to external web pages that have shuffled off their mortal (internet) coil and been removed or disabled for one reason or another. A “page not found” error is much worse than not including a link at all.

Strive to be the only source of information for your topic. If competition exists for your content that prevents you from being the only source of information about your subject, you need to make sure your content is the definitive source. One of the key factors in creating evergreen content is that you are publishing something that people will want to read today, tomorrow, and years from now (if possible). This means your content should be the most complete, authoritative, and definitive resource for those who want to know more about the subject.

Focus on one specific subject. The more singular your subject, the more definitive your content can be in terms of delivering the most useful information to your readers. When you try to cover several subjects in one piece of content, the end result is usually a disjointed jumble of thoughts that lack a cohesive connection or strong purpose. When choosing your subject, narrow it down to as finite a point as possible. For example, rather than writing about divorce, you could write about divorce and child custody. Rather than writing about divorce and child custody, you could write about how to help children cope with the divorce and custody process. If your topic is as specific as it can be, this gives you a limited range within which you can write, which means your content will have the best opportunity to become a definitive source of material.

Avoid including information that can “date” your content. Dated content automatically creates a shelf life for the material, meaning it will expire when more updated content becomes available. This includes “top ten” lists of any information for a specific year, data relating to current trends (which are called “current” trends because they, too, have a shelf life), breaking news, future speculation that can be proven wrong, or event-specific content. Undated content remains viable and useful when the following year rolls around or the newest batch of trends makes an appearance.

Now that you know several key tips regarding what makes (or breaks) evergreen content, you may be wondering what type of content performs best in the evergreen arena. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules for the type of content that will always find relevance to a significant audience regardless of the passage of time. Some content formats, however, do tend to find themselves staying relevant and useful long after their author has clicked the “publish” button. This includes:

  • Tutorials and how-to content
  • Historical information and “origin” content
  • Curated resource lists (“top ten” content with long-term relevance)
  • Informational posts or encyclopedic content (“ultimate resource” or “complete guide”)
  • Single FAQ industry-specific content (pick one frequently asked question and thoroughly answer it)

Once you have become more adept at creating content that is designed to be evergreen, you will find it easier to adjust attributes of your writing more toward longevity and relevance over time. As you move forward with the creation of evergreen content, you can even go back over old material to see if anything can be re-purposed and turned into content that can stand the test of time.

The development and growth of a portfolio filled with evergreen content only ensures that your material will continue to appear in search results, providing more traffic, visibility, and popularity for your blog or other online content.

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27 SEO Strategies to Keep Your Content Competitive

Many things can be measured in terms of days, weeks, months, or even years.  The constantly evolving nature of the Internet, however, demands a more accelerated time frame, where things are measured in seconds, minutes, and hours.  What may be popular, trending, or successful right now could become a distant memory tomorrow.

This continual ebb and flow in the online world requires that online marketers and website designers perform site optimization in a way that ensures as much longevity as possible – despite the fact that all too often, the words “longevity” and “online” generally don’t complement each other very well.

For the most part, SEO has consisted of three primary methods: (1) continuing to use SEO that has worked in the past (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”), (2) integrating strategies that are overlooked and underutilized in an attempt to create a fresh perspective with content that is rarely seen, and (3) leaping ahead of the herd by employing innovative techniques that have not been time-tested or vetted through other means.

With all that in mind, how do you know which SEO methods to use on your own website to drive traffic, generate interest, and cultivate a base of prospects (readers, visitors, customers, etc.) that will keep coming back?  You really don’t know, and the best way to implement SEO strategies into your website design, online marketing, content writing, or other Internet-based activity is by finding out what’s out there and giving it a try.  What works for someone else may not work for you, and what has failed miserably for another site could propel yours into an unheard of dimension of popularity and success.

Here are 27 SEO strategies and techniques for you to examine, contemplate, and integrate into your website to increase your exposure and attract more interest in what you are offering, whether it’s information, ideas, products, or services:

  1. Be creative.  Never follow someone else’s lead, because you’ll always be in second place, at best.
  2. Include ALT text for every image or graphic that is contained on your site.  Images are part of the site’s content, so a description like “Luftwanstelbadtt, Germany’s oldest castle” is much more search engine pleasing than “001_39023.JPG,” and it also lets visitors know what the image is supposed to be if they have a slower-loading internet connection or the image becomes broken for some reason.
  3. Use long-tail keywords as often as you can.  By using a more specific keyword (long-tail), you are ensuring that visitors with both general and specific search terms can find your site.  (An example of a long-tail keyword would be “living on a budget as a single mother” rather than “living on a budget” or “budget living.”)
  4. Do not use deceptive anchor text with links to your site.  Google deciphers linkage and attempts to determine if the landing page a user reached is actually the one they wanted (based on the link they clicked), and if it was not, the website can be penalized.
  5. Determine your keywords, research them thoroughly, and place them naturally.  Don’t stuff keywords, don’t use keywords that aren’t relevant to the page’s data, and don’t include them in content where they don’t seem to fit.
  6. Stay away from selling links on your site.  If you do, make sure you nofollow them.  And it’s probably just a better idea not to sell them in the first place, because Google will likely change their mind on the nofollow and make it noselling.
  7. Blog often, and promote your posts through your website, social media pages, and other online outlets.  Make sure your blogs are relevant to your industry and link to pages on your site where appropriate.
  8. Do not employ page coding strategies that prevent a user from clicking/using the BACK button.  Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has an article on this and specifically refers to performing this underhanded tactic, where an advertisement-laden page is displayed instead of the previous page the user had been viewing.
  9. Establish a valuable linkfolio (“link portfolio”) by placing links back to your site on popular, reputable, and authoritative online locations.  These can be your social media sites, industry-specific directories (not “free for all” directories), through the use of affiliate marketing, and cataloging sites.
  10. Optimize your above-the-fold content for quick loading and minimal advertising.  Site visitors want their information “right now,” and if they have to wait to see it, they’ll go somewhere else in a hurry.  This tip is especially critical for mobile versions of your website (because Google seems to think that, based on user data, mobile phones can deliver information faster than the speed of NOW).
  11. Provide high quality, in-depth content.  This is straight from the search engine’s mouth.  According to Google, users are turning to search engines more often for information on a much broader scale than before, and they are seeking bigger quantities of data.
  12. Create a sitemap.  Both users and search engines like sitemaps.
  13. Don’t embed links in JavaScript and Flash plug-ins.  Search engine crawlers cannot find these links, and embedding links into a plug-in that a user may have disabled for security reasons may prevent them from finding your content.
  14. Make sure your website’s pages load quickly and accurately.  Nothing is more frustrating than waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a page to load, and when it does – it’s only half there.
  15. Avoid faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors on mobile versions of your site.  Again, from Google, regarding misdirection of links that provide a generic or main page result rather than the intended page when a mobile user clicks a specific link.
  16. Make use of keywords that are phrased in a way that real people would use them.  Don’t use “Denver residential sanitation repurposing facility” if you are a “trash recycling business for homes in Denver.”  People search for things in the way they would be said in a spoken conversation, not in a way that uses technical jargon, buzzwords, and officious-sounding titles.
  17. Make use of page titles and Meta descriptions in ways that emphasize your specific focus (via keyword insertion).  If someone is searching for “rare cat breeds” they won’t find you if your titles and descriptions say “exotic feline genus and species.”  (This is part of the “real world phrasing of keywords” tip.)
  18. Find, read, and use as many free SEO tools and resources as you can.  While a great deal of the “expert” SEO advice out there may not truly be expert, it can still be useful.  Learn all you can about SEO and use what sounds logical.
  19. Avoid duplicate content, period.  Google’s Penguin update targeted sameness in website content, and that could be anything from copying text from another site or even duplicating your own content from page to page.  Don’t do it.  You will be punished.
  20. Develop and publish resource and information-only pages on your website about industry or niche specific data.  Create something that WANTS to be shared and linked to.  Not only can this boost your status as an expert or authority figure, it can also help generate popularity via linking.
  21. Don’t include an internal link (to another page on the site) on any page on your website unless it’s important to do so.  Just because your site has 10,000 pages doesn’t mean links to all of them have to be on every page of your site.
  22. Create content for people.  The ultimate judge, jury, and executioner for your website’s content is the person who visits it, not the search engine that crawls it.  If you hold the #1 spot on Google and your content sucks, people will visit #2 or #10 or #1,000 because they are providing what the USER wants to see.
  23. Observe what your competitors are doing and learn from them.  Whether your competitors are wildly successful or flaming failures, you can learn something from what they are doing.
  24. Develop a unique and creative branding scheme to set yourself apart from the pack.  If your brand, company, content, or site is plain Jane, who is going to remember you five seconds after they leave your site?
  25. Create hyper-local content wherever possible.  If you have a target audience that is geographically restricted, capitalize on that in every way possible.
  26. Create longer content, blog posts, articles, etc.  Longer content is ranking better on Google than shorter content on the same subjects, so write more (and make sure it’s quality stuff).
  27. Make use of social signals within your site’s content.  Google is looking more and more at how users respond to a site and are taking that into consideration when it comes time to rank a site in search results.

Search engine optimization is not some mythical concept that gets bandied about by attendees at technology conventions.  It is a method of making your website as attractive to potential visitors as possible, getting them interested in what you have to offer, engaged in your content, and coming back for more.  The secondary goal of SEO is to make Google happy.  No website will likely ever reach THAT goal.

Making Branding Work: 27 Top Tips

Now that we have defined what a brand is, let’s move on to how to make a brand work for you and how to market your business in such a way that capitalizes on your brand, improves your branding capabilities, and increases your market exposure and visibility.

Here are 27 tips for making branding work for you and your company:

  1. Cater to your target market’s wants, not their needs.  Wants establish an emotional connection that goes beyond simple need, and it is how you can create a personal relationship with your customers and keep them coming back time and again.
  2. Create a mission statement that puts in words what the focus, aim, goal, or future direction of your company is, and the value your business can provide to consumers.
  3. Purchase your own domain name (if you haven’t already), and make sure the domain name has something to do with your company.  Make sure the name is as short as possible, easy to spell, and doesn’t have punctuation in the name (i.e., hyphens, underscores, etc.).
  4. If your company participates in local or regional events, trade shows, exhibits, fairs, or similar public activities, make sure you include a calendar on your website that tells people where you will be and when.  Invite the public to attend and visit you at the event.
  5. Create a periodic newsletter available via e-mail and distribute it to subscribers.  Make sure you included ample information about your company, products, services, or other industry information specific to your brand.
  6. Create an opportunity for human connection by telling your company’s story, thus making it become a tangible construct rather than a vague concept in your prospects’ minds.
  7. Create a memorable tagline that conveys what your company does in as few words as possible.
  8. Make sure your company has a great name.  Also make sure your company name doesn’t invoke images of other companies or have any negative associations with the word or words used for the name.  (You wouldn’t want to call a luxury cruise ship – or a communications company – the Titanic, would you?)
  9. Provide content on your primary website that is strictly informational – no marketing, promoting, or selling involved.  Do this on a regular (at least once a week) basis.
  10. Put your customers first.  Yes, you are here to make money but without your client base, you have no income.
  11. Ask for help when (if) you need it.  Tackling branding and marketing schemes on your own can be daunting and you may not be up to the task simply due to lack of knowledge or experience.  This can be a fatal mistake, so if you find yourself treading water to stay afloat, make use of the variety of diverse professional services out there that can help you position your brand, market your company, and increase your revenue.
  12. When you provide informational material on your primary website (see #9), make sure it demonstrates your authority and expertise in your industry or niche.
  13. Establish a blog and make regular posts that focus on your company’s industry, products, or services.  (Make sure you add a new entry to your blog at least 3 times a week, if not more.)
  14. Do not follow the crowd.  Be different and stand out from your competitors.
  15. Develop a great logo for your company, and make sure it doesn’t resemble anyone else’s in any way that could cause brand confusion.
  16. Put your company’s logo, brand name, products, and services on as many social networking sites as possible.  Make sure you update your social media sites regularly and keep your content changing to reach out to different types of consumers.
  17. Be consistent with how you advertise and market your brand image.  If you have a dozen different logos, taglines, slogans, and other means of associating with your company, that only creates confusion.  Find one and stick with it.
  18. Make sure your promotional efforts don’t appear to be “used car salesman slick-pitches.”  You want your marketing to demonstrate your value, not emphasize your greed.
  19. Be accessible.  Provide your company’s physical address, and include a phone number where the phone is answered by a living human rather than a recorded message.  Not being able to connect with a company is extremely frustrating and has turned many customers away from businesses that are stand-offish.
  20. Offer something for free.  Whether you offer a “gift with purchase” or free do-it-yourself instructions, make sure you give something to your target market at no cost at all.  (This is a great way to get otherwise uninterested people to sample what your company does.)
  21. Determine what you are REALLY selling to your target market.  Someone once said that people don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes.  What are your customers buying from you?  Figure that out and then determine how to reinforce your brand by tying in what you sell with what you are.
  22. Be committed to your company, products, services, ideas, goals, and mission.  If your heart isn’t in your business, you’ve already failed.
  23. If you have a restricted target audience (elderly, female, geographically limited, truck-driving, married, cat-loving, etc.), make sure your company’s image and marketing efforts specifically focus on that audience.
  24. Know your competition.  Study what your competitors do and how well they do it.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is  not a phrase you want to apply to your competition because what you don’t know CAN hurt you through their successful efforts versus your failure to be aware of their strategies.
  25. Make every customer feel like they are receiving VIP treatment.  By giving them a “special” or “exclusive” experience, you’ve turned them into a customer for life.
  26. If you are changing your branding scheme, do not implement it in pieces.  This creates confusion.  Roll out your new branding package when you are able to do so for all aspects of your business.
  27. Make sure your company, logo, and brand are associated with a “face.”  This can be you, another employee, your pet, a mascot, a fictional creation, or whatever you choose – but develop a visual personality to go with your branding package.

Above all else when you are marketing your company to the public, never – ever – settle for “good enough.”  Once you decide that your efforts are “good enough,” you’ve committed your company to the grave and are just waiting for it to expire.  Aim high – higher than you think you can go – and then constantly and consistently do everything you can to achieve those aims.

43 Lead Generation Tips To Boost Conversion Rates

If you have an online marketplace, one of your biggest concerns is how to generate leads that will convert to sales.  Don’t deny it, because if you did – you’d be lying.  The existence of an online marketplace means that you’re interested in making money, and money comes from good leads that turn into good customers.

So how do you get people to visit your site, learn about what you’re selling, and buy it?  Oh, and it doesn’t matter whether you are selling information, ideas, products, or services – you are still marketing something and you still want someone to pay for it.  Generating leads isn’t as simple as creating your site or landing page and watching the dollars come rolling in.  You do have to work for it.

Here are 43 tips for online lead generation that will help you get traffic to your site:

  1. Use engaging, valuable, original, and informative content on your landing pages.
  2. Be creative and specific with your calls to action.  (“Click here” or “contact us” are SO boring; use relevant anchor text so you can boost your SEO.)
  3. Your landing page has about 5 seconds to keep your visitors’ interest.  Make those seconds count.
  4. Don’t put anything above the fold that isn’t vitally important to what you are offering (whether you are offering a product or service for sale, a newsletter to sign up for, a publication to download, or something else entirely).
  5. Give your landing pages short and high-impact headlines that snatch a visitor’s attention.
  6. Don’t ask visitors to BUY anything; tell them how what you’re offering can help them solve a problem, meet a need, or accomplish a goal.
  7. It’s not about you, it’s about your site visitors.  Keep yourself out of the equation.
  8. Prove your credibility.  (Don’t ask me how – that’s for another blog at another time!)
  9. ALWAYS have a landing page for whatever you are marketing.
  10. Avoid generalities (“it’s the best”) and be specific about why yours is better than your competitors.  Consumers already know that companies think their products and services are ‘the best’ – so you need to dig deeper and specify what, exactly, about your offering is superior to that of your competition.
  11. Provide content (articles, information, etc.) on your site that have nothing to do with selling at all.  This content should focus instead on letting people know that you are an expert in your industry or that you are the most knowledgeable about the product, service, or idea you’re marketing.
  12. If you ask people to fill out a form, give them a good reason why they should.
  13. Your landing pages should be very minimalist.  Avoid any links, information, or content that is not 100% focused on convincing the visitor that they need to take action NOW to obtain what you’re trying to give them.
  14. Do not use descriptive words for your products or services that are already overused.
  15. Do not use technical jargon or industry buzzwords.  The average person will not understand them and will therefore not understand what’s so great about what you are offering.
  16. If people fill out a form, reward them for it.  This can be with a discount, promotional offer, free newsletter, or anything of some ‘value’ that makes it worth your visitors’ time to complete your form.
  17. Locate sites that offer products or services that would enhance yours if paired together and arrange a mutually beneficial linking strategy.
  18. Do not hide your calls to action in your web page design; they are meant to stand out, so make sure they do.
  19. Less is more when it comes to landing page design.  Really.  Less is more.  Start chanting that.
  20. Monitor the ways in which people reach your site (referrals, direct URLs, search engines, etc.) and capitalize on those methods.
  21. Create landing page keywords that are extremely specific to what you are offering.  Long-tail keywords work most effectively for this strategy because they narrow down the pool of searchers to those that have a focused and specific interest in your offer.
  22. Use keywords that are designed with “real world” usage in mind.  Make sure your keywords reflect how people enter words and phrases into a search engine.  In other words, select keywords and phrases based on ‘conversational’ choices rather than ‘algorithm’ choices.
  23. Never link your calls to action to your home page.  Your CTAs need to go to very specific landing pages that contain very specific offers.
  24. Create a blog, post to it regularly, and link back to your landing pages where appropriate.
  25. Be chatty about the benefits of what you are marketing.  If your product or service has several fantastic features that totally set it apart from the competition, say so.  Be specific.  (But don’t include your greatness when it’s the same as your competitions’ greatness.)
  26. If you can do so, let your visitors know how many other people have downloaded, purchased, obtained, or contracted the products or services you are selling.  If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t they?
  27. Use your blog to increase your credibility as an authority or expert on what you’re selling.  (This builds trust and trust makes sales.)
  28. Sign up for as many quality affiliate marketing programs you can find.
  29. Create something that is the “first and only” and let people know you’ve got it and they can get it, too.  Exclusivity is a great motivator for many potential consumers.
  30. Use e-mail as a marketing method (but don’t spam!).
  31. Offer things that are exclusive, rare, or in high demand.  This ties in slightly with #29 in that exclusivity can motivate people to engage with your calls to action and/or enter your marketing funnel simply to have something that no one else does (or that everybody else wants, in the case of ‘high demand’ offerings).
  32. When you do create engagement through an online form or sign-up page, redirect the visitor to a “thank you” page and add more information on that page than just your appreciation (put more CTAs, product data, freebies, etc. on it).
  33. Make use of “free” in what you offer – free trials, free subscriptions, free newsletters, etc.
  34. To compel a more timely decision, add “limited time” to your offers.  Along with creating offers that are in high demand or exclusively available to a select few, a time limit can inspire action for some people simply because they do not want to miss out on something.
  35. Use multi-staged calls to action.  People go through different stages when they are contemplating a purchase, and if you multi-stage your CTAs, you are progressively directing their decision closer and closer toward a final YES.  This strategy can also help you overcome those indecisive consumers who fall out of a sales funnel, abandon a shopping cart, or simply choose not to make a choice until they have been pulled farther along toward the action you want them to take.
  36. Place calls to action everywhere you can (but don’t make them “used car salesman” obvious or make your web page look like a carnival freak show), and definitely put them above the fold.  For how NOT to place CTAs, visit Ling’s Cars (and prepare for bleeding eyes).
  37. Don’t use deception between what your call to action says the visitor will be seeing on the landing page and what they actually see.  This will instantly destroy your credibility.
  38. Include social sharing links so people will spread the word.  With social media playing a significant role in the online lives of many people these days, providing social sharing options allows you to obtain greater visibility and audience saturation simply through ‘word of mouth’ advertising.
  39. Don’t offer more than ONE thing on each landing page.  Restricting your landing page content to a single subject or offering will ensure that your visitor’s focus is on exactly what you want it to be on; also, if you present too many pieces of information at one time, it’s very likely that your visitors will make no choice at all.
  40. Keep your online forms short and sweet.  The more information people have to give, the less likely they are to give it.  (See #12 and #16 for more tips about online forms.)
  41. Don’t use the default SUBMIT button for forms; make it creative and make it specific to what they are going to get when they do complete the form and submit their data.
  42. Add customer testimonials and references when and where you can.  These types of information let your visitors know that other people have already taken advantage of your offering(s) and are glad they did.
  43. Test your different methods of acquiring leads frequently and discard those that aren’t working favorably.  Regular testing of your lead generation methods will help you redistribute those that work well, refine those that seem to be missing something, and either completely revamp or remove those that aren’t generating leads at all.

One of the biggest things to consider when marketing online is that your leads do not always come from the same source.  One person may come directly from a referral link on another industry-specific website while a different person may arrive at your landing page because they used certain words in a search engine query.  Make your lead generation techniques as diverse and varied as the people who will be finding you, and always – always – give them quality, information, relevancy, and appealing content FIRST.

Make E-Mail Marketing Work For You

Social media marketing and on-page sales strategies (like pop-up ads and micro-moments) have, over the past decade, begun to replace older and more traditional (at that time) marketing methods such as email, cold calls, direct mail, and television or radio advertising.  While those seemingly outdated marketing tactics may seem like little more than wasted effort for small returns, they can and do retain the marketing power they possessed in their ‘hey-day’ – if applied correctly.  This post will focus on using email marketing as an effective and positive tool in your marketing arsenal.

In most cases, companies that use email marketing as part of their overall strategy do so because they are selling something and want to inform the recipient what it is that’s being sold and how that person can get it.  Blatant salesmanship is obvious and excessive, and the email content is overwhelmed with calls to action and direct attempts to push the recipient into a sales funnel.

That is not the way to make email marketing work for you, unfortunately.

We all have a ‘spam’ box as part of our email program, and many people use it as a repository for a large percentage of the contents of their inbox (the parts that don’t automatically filter into the spam folder on their own).  To take the first step in preventing that from happening to your message, you have to make the recipient NOT want to ‘spam’ your message right away.  This means your email message must have an amazing subject line.

Studies have shown that shorter subject lines are more actionable than longer ones, and most analysts recommend that you use five words or less to convey the intent of your email message – and put the most important words at the beginning of the subject line.  Rather than saying “Do you want to know more about making millions in your sleep?” – your subject line should say something like “Become a millionaire while napping?  Yes, you can and here’s how!”

The subject line, aside from being short and sweet and to the point, should also be accurate with regard to what your recipient will find within the content of the message.  Always avoid using sensational and sensationally false phrasing to attempt to trick recipients into opening your message.  As soon as they find out that the contents do not deliver what the subject promises, your message will find itself in the spam folder or trash bin.

There is some debate regarding whether or not certain words compel clickability more than others.  Do active words get more emails opened than passive phrasing?  The debate continues to rage on and there is no true guidance or definitive study that places the answer on one side of the fence or the other.  A/B testing with your own subject lines can help you determine which lines garner more attention and more positive results.

After you have found a subject line that stands out, you should move your attention toward the actual content of your email message.  Is it extremely long-winded with technical jargon and industry-specific language, or does it speak to your readers in terms and phrases they can easily comprehend?  Are you simply selling something or are you providing information and enticing your recipients to click your CTA to find out more?  Is there true value in your email message, or is it just advertising fluff?  These questions are important when it comes to how engaging and appealing your email content may be.

People do not, as a rule, like being sold to.  They want to feel like any buying decisions they have made were made independently with little overt influence from the company they choose to patronize.  If more than one product or service is offered, they want to feel like the final selection was made independently without coercion or force from ‘outside’ influences attempting to tell them what they should buy and for how much.

This means, quite honestly, that your email content should almost totally leave salesmanship at the door.  Provide useful information to your recipients.  Answer questions, solve problems, present unique ways of utilizing your services or products to solve problems or get results.  Give them details on why you offer something that is better than anyone else – don’t just tell them so and expect them to believe it.  Skepticism abounds.

When it comes to the visual presentation of your email message, less is more.  Choose one or two images that support and emphasize your message.  Avoid colorful and garishly designed CTA boxes that look like a miniature carnival.  Simplicity should be the rule of the day, more so now than ever before, because people are often checking emails while they are on the go, which means they are doing so via a mobile device and in between Point A and Point B.  This gives you a few seconds to convince them that they need to read your email and act on it.

Speaking of acting on it, make it extremely easy for your recipient to click something within your email message.  A clear and easily understood CTA works very well.  It should contain text or a description letting your recipient know what they will find at the end of the click.  Whether you want them to sign up, download, buy, or subscribe to something – say so and make it simple to do so.

This information can give you a better idea of what consumers are looking for in email content, as well as what they don’t want to see.  If you use email marketing or plan to do so, keep this in mind when crafting your messages.  Make them irresistible to your recipients, give them a clear path of action, and make it ‘stupid-proof’ for them to enter your marketing funnel.

What Is Lead Generation?

The most basic definition of lead generation is that it is ‘the initiation of customer interest or inquiry into the products or services of a business‘ (Wikipedia definition).  While some lead generation tactics are used for passive purposes such as list building or newsletter sign-ups, most tactics are employed for more active and aggressive purposes like cultivating demographically desirable and pre-qualified sales leads or refining a global audience or pool of potential consumers into a targeted one.

The Purpose of Lead Generation

Whether you are selling to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B), there are two obstacles that must be overcome before you can actually close a sale.  You have to provide a compelling response to the following questions:

  • Why should I talk to you?
  • Why should I buy from you?

Most companies try to answer both of those questions simultaneously, using the same content, calls to action, sales pitches, and other strategies.  In reality, those two questions make up two distinctly different parts of the equation and should be treated as such, with your marketing strategies and sales processes focused on each one individually rather than looking at them as being indistinct from one another.

When you tell a potential customer why they should buy from you, you are engaged in the sales process.  Convincing that customer to pay attention and respond to your marketing content, however, by telling them why they should talk to you in the first place, is the primary purpose of lead generation.  A potential customer must first be interested enough to want to know more about what you are selling before they will begin the earnest effort of deciding whether or not to finalize their role in the sales process.

The Lead Generation Funnel

Lead generation, just like making sales, has a ‘funnel’ through which a potential customer must go before they become a qualified lead.  Some marketers consider lead generation as part of the sales funnel, albeit the broadest part at the beginning of the funnel, but others separate it and tackle it as a separate part of the overall marketing process. While the processes of generating leads and making sales should be viewed as separate and distinct for your overall marketing strategy, the bottom of the lead generation funnel overlaps with the top of the sales funnel.

Once a lead has reached the bottom of the lead generation funnel and attained the status of qualified and interested/engaged lead, he or she is ready to begin (or has already begun) the journey through your sales funnel to the end – which is the completion of a sale and the conversion of that lead into a paying customer. The first part of the lead generation funnel comprises your marketing efforts, rather than your sales efforts.  Before a potential customer can become a final sale, they must first be attracted to your offer (whether it’s a product, service, or something else entirely).

Associated with the book, Lead Generation for Dummies, Dayna Rothman writes for the ‘for dummies’ website and provides a comprehensive explanation of the components of a lead generation funnel and how they are used to move a person from a window shopper to a qualified lead to a final sale.

Stage 1: Awareness – At this stage, an individual is dancing around the widest opening of your lead generation and sales funnel.  They are aware of who your company is by name or that you offer certain products or services (in general), but they have done little more than visit your website, check out your social media page, or anonymously download a free document (like a white paper or eBook) through one of your marketing links.

Stage 2: Name – The interested individual has now become part of your database of potential leads, because they have signed up for a newsletter or other subscription, or given their personal contact information as part of a non-anonymous download.  While the individual’s interest may be slightly piqued, they are still not officially a lead at this point, because they may decide your company isn’t worth patronizing or your offerings don’t meet their needs.  A name is, after all, just a name until they become an actionable lead.

Stage 3: Engagement – Once your company has established meaningful communication with the individual, there has now been introduced a certain level of engagement.  This can come through the individual’s initial actions (such as downloading a white paper and expecting a marketing response from the company) or through your company’s initial actions (such as including that individual in an email marketing campaign with a targeted recipient demographic to which the individual belongs).  At this point, the individual is fully inside your lead generation funnel but not yet committed to your sales funnel.

Stage 4: Target – After you have established engagement with your potential lead, you must determine if they fit within your target audience.  The use of targeted recipients for email campaigns is slightly different than establishing an individual as belonging to your company’s desired customer base.  For example, someone who downloads an eBook describing symptoms, attributes, and cycles of drug addiction might be interested enough to reach Stage 2 and 3, but they cannot be compelled to achieve Stage 4 because their interest in drug addiction is to enable them to act in a support role for a friend or family member; thus solutions and assistance for addicts would be of no benefit to them personally.  A ‘target’ (in this context) is someone who has a desire or need for what you are offering and is ready to explore available offers so they can make an informed selection.

Stage 5: Lead – Closely aligned with Stage 4, this stage means the interested individual has become more engaged with your company through various methods and meets the criteria you have established for your target audience or desired customer base.  This is the point in your overall marketing funnel where the individual progresses from deep within the lead generation funnel to the beginning of the sales funnel.  While not a qualified lead yet, he or she is well on their way.

Recycling – At this point, when the individual is passed from your lead generation efforts to your sales team, he or she may not be ready to commit to a sale.  There are plenty of reasons why an interested and engaged potential consumer can fall out of the sales funnel at this point, and you should not discard them entirely.   Recycle them back into your lead generation funnel and attempt to re-engage him or her in the future.

Stage 6: Sales Lead – After your potential consumer has reached this point, it’s time for your sales team to step in and take action to guide the individual to a final sale.  The individual has expressed interest, become engaged, and should now be vetted by the sales team as a qualified lead.  This is the final point before the individual makes a commitment to a sale.  (If the sales team finds that the customer is firmly hesitant, for whatever reason, the individual can be ‘recycled’ back into the lead generation funnel for future action.)

Stage 7: Active Opportunity – Your initial, tentative lead has now reached the point where they are a qualified lead and you have an active sales opportunity that aligns with his or her needs.

Stage 8: Final Sale – Your qualified lead has made a purchase and become a bona-fide customer of your company.

After the Sale – Ongoing Lead Cultivation Efforts

Once your lead has reached ‘customer’ status in your sales funnel, you should make every effort to maintain a strong level of engagement and on-going relationship with him or her.  Many companies see a high level of profitability through repeat business and customer referrals, so it is important that you maintain the B2C or B2B relationship to encourage future purchases and referral leads and customers. It is extremely important that you devote attention to maintaining a relationship with your now-existing customer and either soliciting repeat business from that individual or encouraging them to provide you with referrals for potential leads and future business.

I realize this was already stated in the previous paragraph, but it is critical to your business that you stay ‘friends’ with your current customer base.  An extremely easy way to do this is by reaching out to your existing customers on a regular basis by sending an email. Your email can be short and sweet (‘we hope you are enjoying our product/service’) or it can encourage a response (‘please let us know if you have any questions, problems, suggestions, feedback’) or inform them of a new or similar product or service (‘check out the upgraded version’).

Regardless of the content of your email, make sure it opens the door to communication rather than closing it. Many companies just don’t realize how vital repeat business is to their success, and often let existing B2C and B2B relationships fall by the wayside while they focus on attracting new leads and customers.  Eventually, that pool of potential leads will dry up, which means you certainly should not neglect the customer ‘oasis’ already in your back yard.

Managing Leads and Making Sales

Part of an effective marketing strategy is the use of lead generation management and the establishment of mutually agreeable (to sales and marketing) criteria for determining when a potential or qualified lead should or can move on to the next step in your overall marketing funnel. Without knowing how to maximize the lead generation efforts of your online content, whether it is blogs, social media, landing pages, or your company’s website itself, you could be losing countless leads (and profits) simply because you aren’t utilizing effective lead generation management.

Furthermore, if you do not have criteria in place to help determine when a potential lead should be progressed forward through each stage of your lead generation and sales funnels, you could lose leads (and profits) simply due to indecision or ineffective sales or marketing on your part rather than the consumer.  Your marketing and sales teams will not have a cohesive guideline for determining whether or not that lead is ready to move forward, ready to be recycled, or ready to be converted into a paying customer.

Today’s digitally-driven society makes it incredibly easy for you to capitalize on numerous methods for generating leads and making sales, especially if you have the right support teams in place to nurture leads and encourage engaged individuals to complete their journey through your sales funnel. Don’t let a lack of understanding about the importance of lead generation or your failure to truly grasp how it can boost conversions and sales when used effectively keep your company from reaching a high level of profitability and achieving your marketing goals.

36 Must-Read SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

seo-trends-2017

The beginning of the year is always the perfect time to find list after list of trends and predictions for the coming year relating to a variety of subjects.  For web designers, marketers, business owners, and others with a vested interest in an online presence, getting information about SEO trends and predictions usually ranks rather high on their ‘to do’ list each year.

When it comes to lists, especially those for trends or predictions, most writers will put together a ‘top ten’ that provides the reader with the ten most popular items (or the items that are expected to have the most impact).  This leaves the searching reader with plenty of digging to do, in the form of searching the internet and scouring the pages of countless websites for the information they are seeking.

Rather than leaving it up to you, the reader, to scour the internet for as many SEO trend and prediction lists for 2017 as you can, I have curated a complete list in this post.  Outbound links to external sources, of which there are many, are NOT provided because WordPress feels that outbound links appear to be nefarious in some way.

SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

  1. A greater focus, especially from search engines like Google, on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs).  AMPs are designed, via code changes, to load web pages on a mobile device almost instantly.  Google is already showing SERP preference for AMP content, despite the fact that page load times are more often the result of data transmission speeds instead of design coding.  AMPs are Google’s ‘baby’ so preference despite flaws is expected.)
  2. Page load time will continue to have a significant impact on SERP positioning.  Optimizing page load times for mobile experiences is the dominant focus, especially since mobile device usage numbers continue to climb steadily.  Google implemented a mobile-friendliness algorithm in mid-2015 and the search engine juggernaut continues to make tweaks to ranking factors that impact mobile content.  You can check your web page(s) at Google’s online Mobile-Friendly Test.
  3. Developing and implementing an effective content marketing strategy will remain important for the coming year.  Content continues to be ‘king’ and there is no way around the fact that high quality content always outperforms lower quality content.  An effective content marketing strategy as a core component of your overall SEO strategy will assist you in determining what content works best when and where, and how well it is performing once it is in place.
  4. Link building is not only an effective strategy for driving traffic to your online content, but it also continues to play a role in your content’s positioning in search engine results.  The long-term results of strategic link building can have a substantial impact on your content performance and remains an important factor in SEO.
  5. Page Authority may have a higher influence on SEO and search results than Domain Authority.  This will be due to the fact that some domains have become tainted over time if they have been used for certain negative (in the eyes of search engines) purposes.  Pages, on the other hand, are almost like fingerprints in that no two are ever alike, and it is easier to rank imperatively on Page Authority when determining content worthiness than it is to rank using Domain Authority.  Google examines both Page and Domain Authority, as part of their many ranking factors, with no official statement regarding whether one has more weight than the other (though they have stated that they do not use an ‘overall domain authority’ ranking signal).
  6. Personal branding will have an elevated importance in search engine ranking and greater popularity among online users.  Personal branding is the development of a ‘brand’ that is associated with you personally, not with your company, product, or service.  It is a great way to emphasize your online identity and style, and it also promotes your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.  Personal branding lets you draw attention to your content individually, rather than attracting attention because your content falls under a corporate umbrella or business brand.
  7. The content revolution will compel a content evolution back to shorter content, but with a twist to benefit the on-the-go mobile user.  A decade ago everyone was scrambling to churn out as many 300 word posts as they could in a single day, just to increase their saturation level.  As time went by, the trend shifted toward longer, more detailed content that provided more value to the reader.  Articles and blog posts began to easily exceed the 3,000 word mark, despite there being experts and analysts on the long and short side of the content length debate.  In 2017, we will see the trend devolve back to shorter content, but they will no longer be the bite-sized fluff pieces of a decade ago.  Content creators will, instead, be packing as much ‘punch’ into each piece as possible while keeping the word count to a minimum.  This trend shift is largely due to the continued increase in mobile device usage and the time constraints of on-the-go people who don’t have time to sift through a 3,000 word piece to find the 300 most important words.
  8. Despite a shift back toward shorter content, long-form content will remain popular and valuable to a large number of users.  While mobile users want the short-and-sweet content when they are on the go, long-form content stays popular because it provides in-depth, highly detailed, and thoroughly discussed subject matter.  Shorter content may see preference for users and search engines, but longer content will not disappear at all, or lose that much ground in terms of search result positioning.  The key to keeping longer content popular in search results is to ensure that it stands out from the thousands (and millions) of other pieces of content published to the internet on a daily basis.
  9. Speaking of content, great content will – as always – be highly important for SERP ranking.  As the internet becomes more saturated with content, however, this means that the struggle is real for content creators to develop original, informative, and value-filled content that hasn’t already been done and re-done to the point of exhaustion.
  10. Artificially intelligent ranking components (like Google’s RankBrain) may change the way web designers and content creators optimize web pages and content to adjust for allegedly intuitive machine-learned ranking signals.  A variety of publications and online experts provide the answer for ‘what is Google’s RankBrain‘ along with details on how it works and how it can affect SEO.
  11. The focus on user experience optimization (UEO or UXO) will see a revival, not that it has declined in prominence since becoming an important element of SEO over half a decade ago.  On-page optimization emphasizes UXO and search engines have taken note of the fact that internet users prefer pages that are very user-friendly.  Aside from navigational ease and more simplicity in design, users also look for certain qualities and attributes of well-designed pages that increase the opportunities for lead generation, sales conversion, longer time spent on pages within a site, more shares and back links, and other actions that improve visibility, traffic, and page ranking.
  12. As search engines continue to cater more to mobile users with preferential search results, apps will become more dominant (for users and SERPs).  The number of mobile users continues to increase, and search engines have to provide mobile-optimized results to stay in the game or get left behind.  This means that mobile apps will increase in prominence in mobile search results, and SEO must be fine-tuned to accommodate a higher demand for apps.
  13. Personal digital assistants (like Siri for mobile and Cortana for desktop) will become more prominent in terms of usage.  This adds another machine-learning element to SEO and search results, as users begin to rely more on the ‘assistance’ of their PDAs and less on manual entry of specific search parameters.  PDAs already see significant use for mobile users because they allow more hands-free operation, and desktop usage of PDAs is growing as well (albeit more slowly than mobile PDA usage).  Search engine optimization should be shifted to factor in the increasing use of digital assistants, and there is some speculation that PDAs could actually function as a replacement for search engines.
  14. Long-tail keywords and specific phrases will become even more important.  Internet users become more savvy over time, and gone are the days of simple search queries accomplished with a word or two.  Users generally know exactly what they want and are more frequently entering longer phrases to narrow down the millions of results generated by a search engine.  A refined search query with very specific wording yields refined results, rather than pages of mostly useless links that must be plowed through to find exactly what the user is seeking.  Designers, content creators, and marketers will have to ensure that keywords compensate for this trend shift and SEO should be tailored to align with highly specific search query input.  Keep in mind that Google has stated title tag keywords are not relevant for ranking purposes.
  15. Google provides rich answer and branded search results to users who enter certain search queries, and structured data markup in your web design can provide opportunities to have your content featured in those results based on user queries.  Structured data markup is also known as schema markup, and using it allows search engines to give more informative responses to search queries.  According to a Kissmetrics blog post about using schema markup for SEO purposes, this type of page coding tells a search engine what your web page means, not just what it says.
  16. Speaking of Google’s rich answer results, pages optimized for placement as a rich answer naturally see higher ranking.  This means you should include SEO for search queries that will place your content higher on SERPs through its selection as a rich answer.  With users being more selective with their long-tail search queries in 2017, it is imperative that you match their queries with tailored rich answer results.
  17. Utilizing cross-channel marketing will become more important because spreading your brand across multiple channels in an integrated way will significantly increase traffic, leads, and conversions.  Multi-platform marketing has been in use for a while and considered part of a core SEO strategy, but cross-channel marketing allows you to retain a user’s interest if you have lost it on another channel.  Integrating your brand, company, products, or services across several channels allows users to move from one platform or device to another without losing engagement with your business.
  18. Mobile-friendly optimization will become almost mandatory for 2017.  Mobile usage surpassed desktop usage some years ago, and the number of mobile users only continues to grow.  Search engines are responding to that usage by using ranking signals and delivering results that are optimized for mobile devices, and the trend continues to shift toward highly preferential treatment on SERPs for mobile content versus non-mobile content.
  19. Because more users are interacting with search engines on mobile devices than desktop computers, local search will achieve higher status in search results.  As a result of this, marketers should ensure that SEO includes options for local search results where applicable, especially if your business is brick-and-mortar and relies to a large extent on local and personal patronage.
  20. SEO will evolve to focus on the most important ranking signals, rather than the entire list of signals.  According to various experts, analysts, and studies, there are less than a dozen ranking signals that have the biggest impact on search results positioning.  Web designers, content creators, and marketers will refine their SEO efforts to place an emphasis on the signals that make the biggest difference in search results, rather than trying to encompass a list of hundreds of signals on one page, site, or piece of content.
  21. Natural/organic link building will be more important and effective than ever, especially with intuitive content evaluation from RankBrain and other adaptive digital assistance.  Using different platforms to create organic links will be more significant for SEO, and search engines have already established a preference for organic links.
  22. User-focused content design and creation will rise to the top in terms of what designers are publishing on the internet.  When search engine ranking became the ‘end all, be all’ of web design years ago, content creators and web designers began designing content for machines – the search engines.  It is now evident that designing for machines is not the way to go.  Despite best efforts to implement the perfect SEO strategy, content designed for users always wins in the end.  This means marketers will have to focus more on finding out who their target audience is, what they want, and how it can be provided to them, in order to enhance the user experience and create content specifically for the wants and needs of the user, rather than the algorithms of the search engine.
  23. Social media signals will have greater impact on search results as search engines lean more toward SERP personalization.  It has already been predicted that social media signals are, in fact, a ranking signal (despite Google’s denial at the time), but studies have continued to show that social media signals do make a difference for search results.  With search engines paying more attention to delivering personalized results, it is only natural that social media – which dominates the lives of many internet users – will indeed have more of an impact on the results provided for search queries.
  24. With the increasing necessity for long-tail keywords (see #14), keyword research will remain a top priority for an effective SEO strategy.  Once you have identified your target audience and learned more about what makes them tick, you will also want to know more about what keywords and phrases they are using to perform their online searches.  This means that you will still need to perform keyword research to stay ahead of the curve and keep your content aligned with current user demands.  Some words and phrases may fall out of use or lose popularity in favor of others, especially as internet users become more capable in their ability to phrase their search queries with more natural and conversational language.
  25. Mobile optimization will increase its focus on data security.  With more people using mobile devices and mobile content to search and shop, they are also sharing more of their personal data.  This goes beyond a name and email address to information like bank account numbers, credit card information, and other very personal data.  Mobile content will have to promise security to individuals wishing to share that information or lose out to a competitor who can.  (As a side note, Google started giving ranking boosts to secure sites in 2014, so there already exists a benefit to your SEO efforts to increase mobile security of your content.)
  26. Lead and revenue generation optimization will focus less on search engine placement and more on diversified platforms for developing a following and popularity.  Product, service, and information search queries provide users with a list of results that might as well be pre-packaged.  The most popular companies get listed first, that’s a given.  Many marketers are trying to make their way into that list of popular results, often to no avail.  Instead of trying to get into the top ten on a search engine, you should diversify your content on a wide number of platforms and channels to achieve popularity elsewhere.  Search engines cull results from everywhere on the internet, and if your content is highly rated and extremely popular on social media sites, YouTube, app stores, or other locations, it will get noticed by the search engines.
  27. There will be more emphasis, for marketers, to track visits, leads, and sales to know where those users came from.  Site analytics for SEO purposes has always been important for online businesses, but it is often performed in a more generalized way.  By knowing which of your marketing efforts is providing you with the most returns – whether it is in terms of traffic, lead generation, conversion rates, or sales revenue – you will be able to streamline your SEO in a more specific direction.  Did your visitor arrive at your site through paid search?  Organic link building?  Social media advertising?  Using SEO metrics is important for you to know if you want to capitalize on the opportunities presented.
  28. The use of video content, and optimizing web pages to include video, will become more pronounced.  Video content is steadily gaining popularity as an SEO strategy because of the increase in mobile users.  Providing a message via video is easier on mobile devices and mobile users often have no difficulty with viewing the content and immediately acting on it while they are on the go; in fact, many mobile users prefer video feeds over text-based content because it requires less attention to the small details.
  29. It is expected that Google will implement Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as a ranking signal at some point in the near future.  Google has provided guidance on PWAs, as well as a PWA checklist, to assist web designers, and some analysts believe PWAs will become a mainstream part of site design.  As such, it would then become necessary to modify your SEO strategy to include optimization for PWAs.  They are supposedly reliable, fast-loading, and engaging, which means the user experience will be enhanced by their use.
  30. While SEO may experience a shift to focus on more important ranking signals (see #20), marketers should adapt their SEO efforts to utilize a holistic approach.  SEO is, after all, the sum of all parts, even though some of those parts are more effective than others.  A well-rounded, fully-engaged, and effectively implemented SEO strategy will encompass a rich variety of SEO factors, rather than just a few select ones deemed ‘most important.’  The highlight can be on those few elite signals, but the overall effort should make the best use of the wide range of SEO options available.
  31. With millions of potential competitors on the internet vying for the attention of users, companies will have to refine their brand image into one that stands out in a significant way.  Ideally, you want your business to be recognizable in a word – literally.  Whether that is your company name, logo, products, or services, your brand image must reflect what you are known for, and you have to attain global saturation of that brand awareness.  No matter what market, niche, or industry you belong to, you want users to look for you by name.  Start working on brand awareness, brand marketing, and cultivating a brand image that is recognizable, shareable, and considered the ‘authority’ in your field.
  32. The authenticity of content will be extremely important in SEO for 2017.  This is partially due to the fact that we have entered the era of ‘fake news’ and inaccurate product information.  The internet is already over-saturated with content, making it easy for a few minor changes to produce information that looks legitimate (but isn’t), so it will be important to report data accurately and avoid embellishment or fiction (unless warranted).  Search engines cannot yet tell if web content is true or false, leaving it up to the user to find out once they’ve selected a link from their query results; false information creates an extremely negative impression.  This is something you do not want associated with your site, brand, business, writing, or products/services.  Always verify the authenticity of information before you publish, to avoid the backlash of inadvertently misleading or misinforming your readers, visitors, and users.
  33. There will be a revival of technical SEO to ensure the structural integrity and functional stability of online content.  Technical SEO focuses more on the behind-the-scenes components of a web page or site, ensuring that all parts of the site are working as they should.  Nothing is more frustrating to a user than to click a link and receive a ‘dead page’ error; this can sometimes cause the user to leave a site altogether in favor of one that works as it should.
  34. The importance of effective content marketing remains prominent.  Years ago, content marketing was considered as a peripheral addition to SEO, rather than a core component of optimization.  With the impact of rich content clearly showing that it makes a difference in search results, content marketing (along with content optimization) has become a vital part of an effective overall SEO strategy.  The content marketing process may continue to be refined and streamlined in the future, but it will stay in place as a critical part of your SEO efforts.
  35. While natural/organic link building (see #21) will be emphasized, link building itself will also stay as important in 2017 as it has ever been.  A great deal of online content receives much of its attention from inbound links, whether those are paid, organic, or otherwise.  Search engines pay attention to the number of links pointing to a site (and where they come from), which means that obtaining links from relevant, authoritative sites is highly desirable.  You should make sure you avoid, as much as possible, any inbound links that come from sites or content that is not relevant to the content to which it points, or links that come from locations that are filled with spam, fluff, thin content, or other undesirable traits.
  36. The importance of content usability will increase in 2017.  Search engines already pay attention to how  long a user stays on a web page, which is an indicator of the ‘value’ of that content.  Valuable content typically translates into a high level of usability, meaning that the page and content are easy to use, read, decipher, and share (if desired).  A high level of content usability means that your content can be read and acted upon regardless of screen size and device type, and some usability standards are now incorporating voice-activated content for mobile devices (especially since Google is transitioning to a ‘mobile first’ stance on search result placement).

While this list is certainly not authoritative in terms of what trends and predictions will be written in stone, most of the items listed here were culled from a consensus among SEO experts, analysts, and other individuals.  You can take it with a grain of salt or take it to the bank – either way, you should be prepared to evaluate your current SEO strategies and refine them, if necessary, to keep your content aligned with what search engines and users are looking for.