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Friday, June 30, 2017

Top 5 SEO Takeaways from MnSearch Summit 2017

Last Friday, hundreds of marketing and business professionals from across the Midwest met up for MnSearch Summit — a groundbreaking digital marketing conference held in the Twin Cities. The annual summit consists of stimulating speeches that are ablaze with innovative digital strategies from some of the nation’s top industry leaders.

2017 was no different. There was swag. There was stimulating conversation. There was a tasty breakfast bar. And, of course, there was a plethora of digital marketing knowledge at our fingertips.

While speakers covered everything from social media to PPC, we found the SEO insights especially exciting.

Here are our top 5 SEO takeaways from MnSearch Summit 2017.

1. Analyze Your SERPs

SERPs (search engine result pages) can be used as a window into Google’s inner workings — giving you a better sense of what the search giant sees as the intent behind your potential consumer’s queries. While maintaining a strong organic search presence is still essential, the Summit hit home the importance of ensuring that your strategy encompasses all of the different types of results that end up on Google’s first page, not just traditional organic listings.

Along with the more traditional organic results, most SERPs contain a selection of categorized search results, including images, shopping boxes, knowledge panels, answer boxes, “people also ask” accordion boxes, and more. With advanced SEO tools and systems, we can analyze these SERPs to determine the rate at which these various results populate in Google. When you know what results are being displayed for different types of keywords, you can format your content or add different types of content so that you provide the exact information Google wants to provide users.

This is important because if, for instance, Google determines that your content is especially relevant to users’ questions, they can pull your content into a knowledge panel in the SERP. That’s a huge win.

2. Have Fun Experimenting

SEO is never boring. It’s constantly evolving and to stay ahead of the curve, it’s crucial that you continue to experiment with new techniques to expand your toolbox. MnSearch Summit speaker Ross Simmonds shared clever techniques to continue pushing the bounds of your SEO strategy without putting your current, hard won web reputation at stake.

The main recommendation involves taking some risks:

Instead of implementing new strategies throughout your entire content marketing plan from the get-go, start small. For 70% of your web content, continue implementing the same SEO strategies that have been working so far. Take 20% of your content and use it to test out moderately risky strategies. Use the last 10% for those high risk ideas that just might pay off. Go big or go home.

Once you start to nail down what is working with your high risk ideas, begin to implement that across 20% of your content, and integrate the strong points from your medium risk ideas into the remainder of the content. Once you come up with a new high risk idea, test that out with 10% of the content, and the cycle begins again.

3. Use AMP

In the age of mobile, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) is a critical component of strong SEO for certain industries, and that list is growing daily. AMP is a project from Google and Twitter that was engineered to create incredibly fast mobile pages. In essence, they are stripped down HTML pages designed to load ultra fast on mobile devices. When you see the quintessential “lightning bolt” icon, you know you’ve hit an AMP page on Google.

At the Summit, we were reminded often about the importance of using AMP. While it requires back end development and/or installing plug ins, making your content AMP-friendly is well worth the effort because you are rewarded with significant ranking and traffic increases.

Especially after Google’s Mobile-First Index launches in 2018, having a strong AMP-enabled site will be imperative. Ensure that you are providing the best user experience possible with AMP.

4. Reviews Matter

Google wants to be the best experience for users, which is why Google is starting to place less emphasis on a business’ website and domain authority and more value on “real-world experiences.” By doing this, Google is hoping to act as an accessible, accurate one-stop shop — providing users with the exact information they need instead of sending them to your website to find it themselves.

Because Google is looking to better integrate a business’ offline branding with their web presence, Google is beginning to ascribe much more value to items like reviews that reflect how the business is performing in the real world. Instead of focusing your energy on local SEO strategies, redirect your attention to accumulating authentic, positive customer reviews. Not only can customer reviews help your rankings, they also help to build trust between businesses and consumers. In addition, if you aren’t getting reviews, your competition certainly is, and your “entity authority” can begin to suffer.

5. Focus on Length

Google is looking for content pieces that provide in-depth, comprehensive information about their topic of choice. Ideally, you never want your user to press the back button. You want to provide your user with engaging, informative content that doesn’t answer just one question but tackles subsequent questions as well. If you don’t have the depth of information that a strong article requires, be sure to link to authoritative sources that can provide reliable answers in your stead.

(Helpful Tip: Break content of all sizes into digestible chunks of 40-60 words. This will help Google sort through your article and pull out pertinent information that it might include in various SERP panels.)

We hope you enjoyed our top 5 SEO takeaways from MnSearch Summit 2017. Maybe we’ll see you there next year!

-- Josh Volk and Molly Work / Rocket55