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3 Ways SEO is Evolving

businessman with smartphone. Semantic search Seafoam MediaWe're all familiar with how search engine optimization is constantly changing, but to what extent? Experts seem to constantly have differing opinions on things like the importance of social in search, or discussing whether or not SEO is "dead" (just a heads up: it's not!)
The biggest thing you can takeaway from the current state of SEO is that it has come a long way in the past few years, and we're about to see even more complex, albeit amazing, changes on the way. As a digital marketer, here are three things you'll want to keep on your radar:

1.  Semantic Search

"Semantics" refers to the idea of meaning. In the context of SEO, this has become an important part of searches, thanks to the "Hummingbird" update that Google rolled out. The update changed their algorithm to include semantics in determining what content users should see. In layman's terms, this means that previously Google would scan your search for certain words to determine what was relevant. Now, it is looking more at your overall query to deliver better results.
If you were to search the "Where is the nearest Starbucks?":
The old Google would have just pulled up results using Starbucks as your keyword. Using semantic search, it now understands the entire sentence, translating "where" to provide you location based results, and "nearest" to mean you want to use your current location to find stores!
As a result, pages that match the meaning of semantic based searches will fare better than those aimed at a specific keyword. To meet this criteria, you'll want to continue using long tail keywords for your business, as well as LSI, or latent semantic indexing keywords. LSI keywords are synonyms and plurals of your main keywords. Using coffee as an example, a local latte-serving business might want to include keywords pertaining to both coffee house and coffee shop.

 2. Mobile- Friendly Labels

A large percentage of users primarily use their cell phone to access the internet, and this number is only growing. As a society, it is increasingly becoming the norm to be able to make purchases quickly and easily using our smartphones, especially when many of us use our smartphone as our primary form of internet access. Statistics from Pew Research back this up, and show that:
- 31% of cell phone internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone
- Among 18-29 year olds, 45% of them do most of their online browsing from a mobile device.
These findings tell us that mobile optimization is incredibly important for businesses, and Google has reacted accordingly. In November of 2014, it released "mobile-friendly labels", which is their way of distinguishing websites that are better optimized for mobile users than their competitors. They've also stated that they are "experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal", which means that sites which get the mobile-friendly label may also see a boost in their search ranking.

3. Earned Links

Your owned media is what you can personally control, which includes your website as well as your social media pages. Conversely, earned media is when someone else shares your content or talks about your brand online. Although it is becoming increasingly more difficult as a business to get organic traffic on sites like Facebook and Twitter, social media provides a strong way for your site to have a higher search ranking. Why? The reason, explained by Matt Cutts of Google, is simple:

Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index, so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results.

This means your Facebook or Google+ page could rank higher than your actual website, if it is receiving lots of activity (such as +1's, shares, comments, etc).
Content marketing will continue to be an important element in successful SEO. The way you go about doing it has evolved, but at the end of the day, your goal should be the same: to get people having conversations about your brand. Focus on high quality content that can be easily seen, and take these 3 key points into consideration when moving forward with your strategy.

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