Optimizing content for search engines does not always create an optimal experience for your audience. Yet, for prospects to find your content, marketers need to create content with search engines in mind.

This raises the question: in the age of Hummingbird, does SEO still work?

B2Google or B2People: A B2B Marketer’s Struggle

With Google’s latest updates, link building, keywords, meta-description, and word length are still essential SEO building blocks. But these best practices alone are not enough. As Google shifts its focus, B2B marketers should be aware of these five trends:

1. Smarter Artificial Intelligence

Google RankBrain uses machine learning to interpret queries better and match them with relevant page content. While it remains somewhat shrouded in mystery, in an interview with Bloomberg, Google Senior Engineer, Greg Corrado, indicated that RankBrain is the third-most important factor for ranking web pages.

Google’s new Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) sorts sites based on the frequency of terms and key phrases linked together rather than the frequency of a single term. Because search engines are now sophisticated enough to identify your content’s context, merely inserting the right keywords will not be a viable content marketing strategy.

2. Mobile-First Indexing as the Norm

After nearly two decades of prioritizing desktop, marketers must now prioritize mobile. In its Webmaster Central Blog, Google’s Doantam Phan reassured us the shift will be a gradual one: “To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first.”

The picture is different for e-commerce—at least so far. In Consumer Barometer, Google reports that desktop is still by far the most-used device for product research.

3. Avoid Subdomains

In their guide to search engine optimization, Google Webmaster Central’s John Mueller says it doesn’t matter much if you decide on subdomains or subfolders. On the other hand, MOZ recommends subfolders over subdomains: “Since search engines keep different metrics for domains than they do subdomains, it is recommended that webmasters place link-worthy content like blogs in subfolders rather than subdomains (i.e. www.example.com/blog/ rather than blog.example.com).”

4. Keywords for the Entire Content Creation Process

Identify keywords that your prospects would naturally type into search engines when looking for your product or service. Then place these keywords throughout social media posts, web copy, blog posts, images, H1 tags, inbound and outbound links, site mapping, and meta data.

5. Optimize Google’s Knowledge Graph Listing and Rich Answers

One of the most effective ways for B2B marketers to control the impression that prospects have about them is to influence what Google has to say about the brand.

According to a study by Stone Temple, around 40% of Google queries currently display featured snippets known as “rich answers.” For a detailed breakdown on optimizing Google’s Knowledge Graph for your brand, see our Kapost’s article on “Knowledge Graph Optimization Tips.”

Following these five tips can help you achieve SEO that works. But will optimizing for Google optimize your customer’s experience?

The good news is that generally speaking, what’s good for Google is good for your customers. The introduction of LSI means that tricks, such as keyword stuffing, that don’t impress website visitors will also not impress Google. With its new focus on machine learning, Google aims to facilitate predictive, personalized search—and B2B marketers should too. Research by MarketingProfs suggests businesses that personalize web experiences see an average 19% increase in sales. According to Forrester, predictive marketers are 2.9 times more likely to report revenue growth above the industry average. Google’s Knowledge Graph makes your brand information easier to find in a mobile-first environment. And visuals are key to getting your message across; according to a study from content platform Skyword, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than text alone. Updating your site is important for search engines, and fresh content will also better engage your audience.

While there are aspects of Google’s latest updates that remain unknown, keeping up to date with the latest SEO developments will make it possible to write content that both Google and your audience will love.

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rochana.rapkins

About rochana.rapkins

Rochana Rapkins is a Colorado-based marketing professional and digital media strategist. She earned her B.A. at Columbia University and her M.A. at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.