Question every part of your organic search strategy in 2017

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When was the last time you really tore apart your search strategy and looked at why it is what it is? We’re much more likely to make necessary, iterative changes to our campaigns – but I challenge you to make 2017 the year you question everything.

It’s an exercise that really doesn’t need to cost a lot of time or money, but the answers you discover could have direct, sizeable effects on revenue.

Here are some questions to start asking about your search strategy:

What even is our search strategy?

A simple question on its surface, but it’s a great place to begin. When was the last time you actually defined your approach to organic search? Does that initial plan still apply in today’s environment, considering the rise of mobile and voice search, and with new insights into searcher intent? Reexamine how your initial strategy might adjust to better serve your current business goals (and ensure that those goals align with what your brand and its leadership is trying to accomplish).

What have our competitors been doing in search lately?

Has the competition been acting as content creating machines, publishing highly ranked content for phrases that you hadn’t thought of yet? There are tools to help answer this question. On the paid side, consider BrightEdge, which offers a valuable “Data Cube” for uncovering keywords that your competitors’ sites rank for. Using this tool, you can recognize some of those content strategies, and adapt your own practices accordingly.

Alternatively, you can use SpyFu; its free version will give you a small sample of this type of information. If that doesn’t uncover all the content strategy pieces you wish to see (and it probably won’t for most brands), the low-cost upgrade to the paid version of SpyFu may be well worth it.

Another solution that’s more tedious to use (but completely free) is the “site:” operator in Google search. Simply enter “site:www.example.com”, and the results will be the pages that Google has indexed from that website. By adding a tilde (~) and a related broad keyword, you can then find related pages with that term. Such a query looks like this: “site:www.example.com ~keyword”.

Where are our customers?

Emerging technologies and new customer bases can cause changes in where your potential customers find their information – and how they search for it. This is where you need to dive into web analytics data and understand how your current visitors are arriving at your site. Is there a big shift to mobile for your customers? (Yes, generally mobile traffic is very much on the uptick, but this definitely isn’t the case for every single industry or company.)

When looking at current data, it’s important to be thoughtful about cause and effect – do the numbers represent visitors’ natural intents or are you influencing their actions? For instance, you might have low mobile engagement because your site is not optimized for that experience, and thus customers don’t stick around for long.

Outside of your analytics data, you can further scrutinize the landscape by extending your view to areas where competitors are active and you aren’t. Ask yourself: do those areas align to customers you also want to target?

What are we trying to say?

Does your content just talk about you, or does it meaningfully address your customers’ needs? Most people don’t like being lectured to – they’d rather have a conversation, or have their question answered.

Now more than ever, search engines focus on satisfying the intent behind a query rather than just aligning results to the words typed in the search box. Is your content satisfying those search intents, or is a content refresh in your future?

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Is our site quick to load and secure?

Maybe you’ve taken all of 2016 to implement an awesome new design that makes visiting your site an engaging experience. That’s good, but have you been thoughtful about your site’s load time? Speed is still a crucial factor for earning better visibility in search engine results, as well as in delivering a good user experience.

A detail that’s too-often neglected, it may be time to revisit this data point and revise some pages.

Maybe you’ve also made some smart moves in getting more information about your visitors. You use perfectly placed lead forms, and return visitors are now signing in. But are all the sign-in pages secured?

Google has announced that Chrome will start flagging pages that have sign-in forms but aren’t secured with HTTPS as “Not Secure.”

That’s not a message that visitors will find too inviting. As search engines trend toward placing a greater value on security – and as customers are ever more expectant of it – it’s beneficial to consider implementing more secure measures.

By asking the right questions, and putting the answers into action, you can set your business on the path to a more updated and effective organic search strategy.

Kevin Gamache is a Search Marketing Strategist at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.

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