Yoast

YoastCon 2017: 10 takeaways to improve your SEO

It’s been a week since the SEO conference YoastCon and we’re still processing all the cool stuff we’ve heard and seen. In a few days, you’ll be able to watch the talks on video and make your own to-do list to make your rankings skyrocket. To give you an idea of the story arc of YoastCon, I’ll share ten takeaways that have an impact on your SEO, now and in the future.

All photos in this post by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat »

1. Voice search is changing/has changed search

Both Joost de Valk and Marcus Tandler spoke at length about how voice search is changing search. Since our smartphone is growing ever stronger, voice recognition is getting better and better and the underlying AI is getting smarter and smarter, we are changing how we search. ComScore says that by 2020 50% of searches will be voice searches.

For many common tasks, a voice search gives you the quickest answer. But in contrast to searching in regular search engines, you’ll often only get one result. As a site owner, being that search result is going to be a real challenge. Your content has to answer these questions.

2. Mobile is everything

For years we’ve been talking about the rise of mobile. Now, mobile is the crucial part you should optimize for. Google’s upcoming mobile-first index will rank sites based on their mobile offering. If it sucks, you won’t rank well. There’s no way around it; if you have an OK desktop site, but no great mobile site, you are going to lose out. Make mobile your top priority! Yes, even if you don’t have many mobile visitors – yet.

3. Copy – not just content – is king

You know that content is often called king, right? Well, that’s still true in this day and age. Even with all these developments in the SEO world, content is still where it’s at. But it’s not just any old content; it’s all about quality content. Google’s AI is getting better at determining what piece of content offers the most value for the reader. You can’t rely on your thin content anymore. Better brush up your SEO copywriting skills.

In addition, copy is getting more important. Of course, copy differs from content as it is used to enhance interfaces and improve UX and conversion. You should make your copy personal and offer users solutions, not products. Or, as conversion genius Karl Gilis said in his talk: “Stop selling the way you want to sell. Sell the way people want to buy!”

4. Links are important

Links played a major part in this edition of YoastCon. Both Dixon Jones and Laura Crimmons put links and link building front and center. The importance of links has long been a subject of discussion, but at YoastCon, Google itself probably said it best: “Ranking without links is really, really hard”.

You should put a lot of time and effort in your link building campaigns. Try and find out who your audience is and where they hang out. Find a suitable subject, write great content – or shoot video or make an infographic – and strike up a conversation with relevant journalists. The reward could be enormous: not just links, but exposure and brand awareness.

5. Accessibility matters

Rian Rietveld and Andrea Fercia, both accessibility experts, showed that every site should be accessible. Every visitor has a right to use your site even if they have some sort of disability. Try to listen to your site and see where screen readers run into trouble. Find and fix these issues. Make your content easy to understand in any kind of circumstance. It’s like Rian said: “Google is blind and deaf, so everything you do for accessibility is also good for SEO.” In the end, we all benefit from a perfectly accessible site.

6. User experience = SEO

UX and SEO go hand in hand and we expect this bond to strengthen over the next year. Google is increasingly looking at how users behave on your site. Do they bounce back quickly because the content does not fit their expectations or do they visit more pages after reading the content they came for?

You should, therefore, offer a flawless UX that easily satisfies your visitor’s thirst for knowledge or their intent to buy a product. Don’t hide stuff, use a proper call to action button and write your copy in a human-centered and personal way. Because, according to Karl Gilis: “If you don’t care about your words, you are a decorator and not a designer.” Most of all: focus on the things that matter most, not to you, but to your users. Make people happy!

7. It’s all about the user

Like I said earlier: nothing is about you because everything should be about your visitor or client. Keep them in the back of your mind at all times. Ask yourself if what you say you do is the same as what they experience? Do you sell your products or do you sell a solution to the user’s problem? Does your keyword research focus on variations of the exact same words or does it include the words the users really use to find you? In addition, does your content answer the question a user has? Karl Gilis: “Your visitors only care about themselves. They don’t care about you! So make your content about their needs – not yours.”

8. Search intent

There’s not just one type of search query, there are four. There’s navigational searches, informational searches, commercial searches and transactional searches. These are called search intent and they determine what a searcher wants. Search intent impacts everything from keyword research to content writing. Aiming your content at the wrong search type could lead to less than stellar results. Take a look at your goals and find out where your content could have the biggest impact.

9. Site speed: your site is never fast enough

Site speed has been a hot issue for a while now and rightfully so. Both users and search engines love fast sites. Conversion and user satisfaction is higher on fast sites. Joost de Valk showed that even Googlebot loves fast sites because it can crawl more pages in the same amount of time. And now page speed will be a ranking factor in the upcoming mobile-first index. So there’s just no way around it: work on your site speed!

10. Artificial intelligence is shaking things up

“Google is not using AI to make search better, Google is using search to make AI better,” said Marcus Tandler in his epic talk. AI is everywhere and playing a bigger role each day. Lots of current developments in the world of SEO, like voice search, are powered by an AI. While this AI is getting smarter and smarter, the impact it has will be huge. Not only for SEO but for many aspects of daily life – for better or worse.

Bonus: WordPress’ Gutenberg editor

Not strictly SEO related, but something that popped up many times: the future of WordPress. That future largely revolves around a certain new editor that goes by the name Gutenberg. We’re pretty skeptical, but we also see its potential. At YoastCon, Joost and Omar Reiss, discussed the impact Gutenberg will have. They showed the audience where it’s currently at and what will be coming up. Be sure to watch this session and read up on all things Gutenberg. You can even participate in the development of Gutenberg.

YoastCon helps to improve your SEO

YoastCon was an SEO conference of epic proportions. The speakers were exceptional, the workshops impressive, the location awe-inspiring and the visitors kind and smart. We loved every second of it and we hope you did too. If you couldn’t make it, you can always watch the talks next week. Plus, you can always join us again in 2019.

Here, I’ve discussed several topics that came up during the conference. I hope you find this small overview useful and get inspired to improve your site. There’s always something to improve. Good luck!

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: The day after’ »