SEO was very different not too long ago. Go back a decade, and you’ll see that the practices and the focus we have today differs greatly from goals and methodologies back then. Most of the changes happening to the industry are because of innovations in technology. SEO needs to be just as innovative – if not more – to maintain its efficiency in connecting websites to their intended audience. In this age of context, innovation means one main thing: personalization.
Moving from Corporate to Casual Conversations
Online marketing was very different less than ten years ago. Businesses created static websites that looked like electronic versions of their brochures, using formal corporate language to talk to the consumers. Providers still held the power over the consumers and dictated where the market was going. Nobody believed blogging and social media would become the important players they are today – many people saw it as merely a fad.
Innovators like Robert Scoble saw things differently. They saw that these new platforms would allow businesses to communicate with their market in a more casual, more personalized manner. They saw how it would benefit businesses in an age when competition is growing. They were right – blogging, social media, and online forums grew in importance as competition became stiffer and the power shifted from providers to consumers. Conversation became a key component of marketing strategies because consumers had unique needs and wanted those needs met. This shift to casual conversation eventually led to where we are today, a time where context dominates the online marketing world.
The Emergence of Context
Keeping audiences engaged became more difficult with the boom of social media, blogs, and other accessible online publishing platforms because of information overload. This is our age today: we live in a world where information is abundant, and we can access everything with a single click. Simply starting conversations isn’t enough to get your audience’s attention – you need to give users the information they want at the right time. To do that, you need to understand your market’s behavior, anticipate trends, and develop SEO strategies based on these two. How do you use this data to make good decisions and target the right people?
Personalizing your SEO approach is easier now because of the same technological advancements that allow you to communicate with your audience directly. Users add more data into computers, mobile, and technology every day. You can access this data through the different platforms people use. This allows you to track, observe and analyze your market’s behavior. Facebook has its own traffic monitoring system integrated into pages. You can install Google Analytics to your website, blog, or any other publishing platform to monitor your performance. SEO tool providers like Raven and Ahrefs develop technology that tracks and categorizes traffic. These are only a few examples of how you can access user data.
Context and Online Search
At first, businesses used this information to know what the consumers wanted at the moment. In this age of context, however, it serves a greater purpose: you can look further and see where the trend is going. The nature of your relationship with consumers becomes anticipatory: You already prepare for what they might want to find related to your business or your industry in general, and you prepare it ahead of time and release it when the demand starts to pick up.
The best example of its application is already in search – Google. The giant search engine already uses context to predict what users will search. Notice how several choices appear under the search bar when you start typing search terms – this is their algorithm predicting what you want to look for based on their search history. Note how the search engine presents results that are in your general area before giving results from other places. This is also part of Google’s drive to provide relevant and personalized results. They continuously refine their process as they amass more information from users daily.
Keeping Up with the Age of Context
In response to this shift of focus in online search, SEO should also shift its focus from the technical aspects to the user experience and intent. Context is all about personalization and detail. Your marketing strategy should reflect this need for localized solutions. Keep in mind that localization isn’t just grouping consumers according to their geographic location, but also according to their similar needs, current status, and other categories that tie them together.
Be open to shifting mediums.
Technology will keep evolving, and with it new solutions will emerge. You should be open to trying new technology and developing solutions based on its new features. A good example is the rise of mobile. With the rising popularity of smartphones and tablet PCs, your market is becoming fond of multitasking. They could be looking at your website from one moment, and then accessing it on their mobile phones the next. Embrace technological evolution and adapt to it by having responsive web design.
Organize and participate in collaborative news efforts.
In this Age of Context, real-time information matters more. People want to know the latest about your industry, and you are not their only source of information. Platforms like Twitter are becoming publishers’ ways of getting and publishing real-time news by asking their followers to share the latest events in their area. Participate in efforts like this organized by respected figures in your industry to get your brand noticed by other followers of that organization. Similarly, encourage your followers to exchange the latest news they find related to the products and services you offer, and get them talking about your brand.
Establish your local and social presence.
These two are very important SEO factors today, and they will continue rising in importance as online search refines its processes through context. It’s never too much to stress the importance of optimizing your local business pages and listings and creating an engaging social media strategy. Keep your voice and branding consistent throughout all your pages. Get people talking by listening in to their conversations and learning what they want to know. These two will become the norm in the years to come, and preparing now ensures you maintain your visibility as the Age of Context progresses.
Focus on user experience.
The way search operates today is it focuses on user intent. A fair amount of social psychology comes into play: what was the user thinking when he entered the query on Google’s search bar? Keep asking yourself this when developing every element of your SEO strategy. Invest on good web design and development to improve your users’ browsing experience. Keep developing new online technology to make processes easier for your potential customers. Finally, learn your market segments and target your content appropriately.
Get more information about your target market.
As search becomes more contextual in nature, more tools for knowing your market will emerge. Update yourself with these tools and install these in your website or use them to gather as much information as possible about your market. Every piece of information counts towards making your SEO strategy a more personalized one.
The main takeaway from this is that search engines are focusing on the technical things a little less and on the user experience much more. As a result, your SEO efforts have to go the same direction – you need to think like the consumer to market to them effectively. SEO in the age of context is personalization: It’s not enough to have a general brand message that appeals to a very wide audience. You need to know your market on a different level and cater to their unique needs.
Karen de Castro
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