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A New Era of Search: Leveraging Google’s Suite of Tools to Optimize Your SEO

Ryan Sorrell

With more people spending time at home in recent weeks, audiences are searching online more than ever before. To take advantage of this shift in online user behavior, marketers are seeking opportunities to leverage new tools and SEO tactics to boost their brand’s digital footprint and capture a greater share of organically converting traffic.

To offer up SEO insights to the broader communications community, I led a training session at Ragan’s Google for Communicator’s Virtual Boot Camp where I discussed the latest trends and techniques you need to optimize your content for mobile and voice search, as well as noteworthy Google tools you can take advantage of to hone your SEO and analytics strategies during this time.

Whether you’re new to the world of Search or are looking for actionable advice on how to optimize your digital marketing program to drive high quality traffic and leads, below is a synopsis of the session with some of the biggest key takeaways from the discussion.

Mobile optimization: Trends and techniques

Mobile devices now account for the majority of online searches, with 58% of all Google searches taking place from mobile phones. Not only do more searches take place from mobile devices, but Google research has also shown that searches on mobile tend to have a higher buyer intent, meaning that users who search on a mobile device are further along in the buyer journey and are more prepared to purchase something than users who search on a desktop. With more users searching on and purchasing from mobile devices, it’s never been more critical to ensure that your website is not only mobile-friendly, but optimized for both users and search engines.

Additionally, to account for the surge in mobile usage, starting in September of 2020, all websites will be mobile-first indexed, meaning Google will primarily consider the mobile version of your website to determine its organic search results rankings. Therefore, mobile optimization is no longer a competitive advantage for your company’s search rankings, but a necessity for improving your website's organic lead generation.

Mobile SEO best practices

While most sites have already made the transition, it is worth mentioning that to improve your chances of ranking highly on Google in the age of mobile-first indexing, having a responsive design, or a design that changes based on the type of device being used, is an absolute must. A great mobile site should be easy for users to navigate and find the information they need both quickly and seamlessly. 57% of mobile users report that they would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website, another indicator of the critical importance of providing a high quality user experience in terms of mobile design, configuration and performance. Most of us in the SEO community are familiar with the oft-quoted Google stat, that up to 70% of users will leave your mobile site if it takes more than 5 seconds to load. Needless to say, speed matters. Take advantage of Google’s free Page Speed Insights tool to assess the speed of your mobile website and gain insight on what you can do to improve your site’s performance.

From a content perspective, mobile search tends to have a more local focus, so include relevant geographic information about your business, such as your address or key areas you service, to increase your likelihood of being ranked. Setting up a business profile on Google My Business can also help you show up for users searching local listings on their mobile devices. Similar to desktop, you won’t be ranked for a keyword on mobile if you don’t have excellent content that’s targeted for that term, so aim to create killer content that outperforms your competitors to give your brand the best opportunity to show up on the search engine results page.

Voice search optimization: Trends and techniques

Along with the proliferation of mobile search, the adoption of voice-powered technology is taking off with over 50% of all searches in 2020 occurring on voice platforms and over 55% of households expected to have smart speakers by 2022. With the smart speaker market projected to be worth over $30 billion by 2024, marketers should be strategizing ways to integrate voice search optimization into their broader Search strategy.

Voice search best practices

Voice search optimization entails optimizing your content, location and brand information to increase your likelihood of powering voice search results. Similar to mobile, users making voice searches are three times more likely to be searching for something local than on desktop, so a best practice is to include local information about your business in your content to meet the rapidly increasing demand. Additionally, Google uses natural language processing to determine the voice search results given to the user, so use direct, conversational language in your content to make sure your brand shows up in the results. The average reading level of a voice search result is in 9th grade, so use this to inform your content strategy and optimize your content with simple long-tail keywords (search phrases with longer word counts and increased specificity) that reflect verbal search queries and indicate intent. Another best practice for making content easier for Google to read is to include identifiable extracts to be featured by utilizing H-tags providing meta information, and using bullet points to make the content more organized.

Google Voice also prioritizes quick-loading websites, with voice search results typically loading in 4.6 seconds, which is 52% faster than the load time of the average page. Since the voice search results that are given to a user are normally the fastest loading page on the search page, again, be sure your site is optimized for performance. It’s also important to keep in mind that 80% of the voice answers typically given to users come from the top three organic search results, so continue to build domain authority to help with your brand’s search rankings by including high-quality links in your content and having structured data and schema markup to increase your chance of appearing in rich snippets.

Track your digital marketing performance with Google Data Studio

As SEO’s, regardless of how innovative our strategy and recommendations are, we must be able to measure it against KPI’s to determine whether or not we’ve hit our goals and if we’ll need to make optimizations or pivots to our strategy moving forward. Insert Google Data Studio. Google Data Studio is a free data visualization tool that centralizes all your raw data in a single dashboard and enables you to transform it into detailed and digestible reports that are easy to understand.

Data Studio is one of my favorite Google tools because it allows you to cleanse, combine and slice data, or automate dashboards, all without needing to write a single line of code, which means it helps with sophisticated data analysis even if you don’t have robust technical skills like Python, SQL or other data manipulation languages. With its pre-built data connectors, you can easily import data from sources like Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google BigQuery, Campaign Manager, MySQL and more to gain actionable insights into all of your campaigns and accurately report on the real number and quality of leads your SEO investment is generating.

Tips for using Google Data Studio

One of the benefits of Google Data Studio is that it allows you to customize your data reports however you like through the use of customizable widgets, charts, graphs and data sources. For example, if you want to analyze which of your landing pages have the most conversions, Google Data Studio can automatically sort those for you using its intuitive drag and drop feature for different metrics and dimensions. Furthermore, if you want to analyze something more specific than what the platform provides, you can also blend data sources and create your own custom metrics and dimensions.

With Google Data Studio, the reports you create are also dynamic, meaning you can automate the process and have your data refresh as frequently as you like, saving you time and money by giving you full access to nearly real-time reports. Finally, Google Data Studio is fully cloud-based and has all the real-time collaboration features of Google Drive, which you can take advantage of to actively collaborate with your team on reports and ensure all internal stakeholders have visibility into the progress of your campaigns through the whole ecosystem of mediums.

Google has so many powerful capabilities and tools you can take advantage of to enhance your SEO strategy during this time, and this virtual boot camp session just scratched the surface. If you need help building or maintaining a strong SEO strategy to generate leads and gain visibility for your brand, get in touch with our team of Search experts today.