Given that we are two months into the New Year and beginning to execute on our 2016 SEO budget decisions, the Bazaarvoice SEO Team reflected on the last twelve months of wins, challenges, and discoveries, and we developed our 2016 Top 10 SEO Best Practices list just for you!
- Get structured markup correct – On June 2, 2016, we will celebrate the five-year anniversary of schema.org. If you are not familiar with schema.org, or its purpose, and you are in the online marketing industry, it’s time to catch up. Schema.org is a common system of data labeling that the world’s leading search engines asked websites to implement back in 2011. Good markup means that search engines can effectively interpret the various types of topics, numbers, and content within the pages of a website.
- Use Microdata for structured markup – While search engines support formats other than Microdata, such as RDFa and JSON-LD, we strongly recommend you consistently use Microdata, the most well-understood and proven format for structured markup. Replace other formats with properly-formatted Microdata. This practice is critical because search engines do not react favorably when formats are mixed within the same page. Even if structured data testing tools report “All Good,” mixed structured data types prevent your site from receiving the full value of structured data
- Identify and track your most valuable search phrases – This practice has stood the test of time, and remains highly valuable. Every page in your site should have defined primary and secondary target search phrases. By knowing your target search phrases for each page, and monitoring them weekly, you can understand the impact of enhancements and quickly catch issues. Of course, most pages will receive traffic from many more than two keywords/phrases; but as often as not, the majority of traffic to a page comes from only a couple keyword phrases.
- Eliminate microsites for reviews – Some years ago, microsites were a preferred technique for getting SEO value out of review content, but that is no longer the case. In 2016, we are in full agreement with most industry professionals that reviews microsites are no longer a recommended practice – even in cases where a server-side integration is not an option. After dozens of experiments, evaluation of hundreds of domains, and a multitude of enhancements to our integrated ratings and reviews solution, we know that it is best to integrate review content on the main site and eliminate review-focused microsites.
- Place consumer-generated content before product details – Recent research from Forrester Consulting confirms that shoppers trust content generated by other consumers 3 to 4 times more than they trust content presented directly by a brand. In 2016, find ways to prioritize the presentation of CGC ahead of marketing copy and product specifications to get that critical content in front of customers more quickly. Testing various layouts with a statistically significant sample will indicate the approach that resonates with your customers. Remember, search engines like Google strive to send users to websites that have the most satisfying user experiences – a strong presence of fresh, social content is an easy way to impress bots and consumers alike.
- Prioritize category and list pages – The least optimized pages in most domains are category-like pages. In 2016, apply correctly structured markup to each item, make sure that semantically-proper h1 and h2 tags are used for all headings, experiment with page title optimization, and strive to have at least 1200 words of relevant and unlinked content on these pages. Titles, headings, and content should be optimized to focus on no more than two target search phrases.
- Sort review content by relevance – The proprietary Bazaarvoice relevance sort algorithm has been demonstrated to increase revenue per visitor by 4% compared with other sort options in multiple experiments. Our algorithm shows preference to the types of reviews that help users more efficiently determine if a product will meet their needs. Conveniently, these types of reviews are also preferred by search engines.
- Display at least 8 reviews on item pages by default – Item pages, such as product pages or location pages, should include review content as well. Across the web today, users now expect to find opinions of other consumers visible on the item page, and review content enriches pages from an SEO standpoint. Therefore, we recommend that you display at least eight reviews per page, rather than creating separate pages for each piece of review content. Of course, if fewer than eight reviews are available for a particular product, you should show what is available.
- Say goodbye to tabs – There has undoubtedly been a migration away from tabs toward long-form design over the past couple years. If your site has not moved in that direction yet, we recommend doing so in 2016, both to improve user experience and to drive better SEO. Our data shows that a growing number of users scroll all the way to the footer as they scan the entire page for relevant information, so it’s optimal to present information immediately, instead of requiring a click. Long-form design also significantly reduces the chances that the content of your pages will be ignored by search engines.
- Invest in responsive design – Even though Google has documented proper techniques to tag equivalent desktop and mobile experiences, 2016 is the year to simplify and consolidate into a single responsive design. Managing separate experiences for desktop and mobile can be painfully inefficient and difficult to sustain. Our research finds again and again that SEO-related mistakes are compounded in sites that are not yet responsive.
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