Lidia Infante suggests that SEOs in 2023 should go headless without losing your head and understand that the world of SEO has become about much more than just the search bar.
Lidia says: “Move to a headless CMS. SEO is going omnichannel and it has moved way beyond the search bar.
There’s a blog post with every SEO trying to invent the name ‘multi-search’ to talk about their preposition with Google Lens. This involves searching on the search bar, but also with your camera. If you have an android phone and you’re using your Google widget, you’ll probably get a little pop-up that says ‘tired of typing search with your camera?’.
SEO has moved beyond the search bar and, as SEOs, our roles have evolved significantly. We’re not only tied to the 10 blue links anymore. We have a plethora of different widgets, rich results, and other stuff going on in the organic search results. We’ve gone beyond that. We now have to start caring about how businesses are being searched on social media, such as Instagram and TikTok. We have to care about how we’re getting found on Pinterest and visual searches in general. It’s about much more than just a search box.”
Why should SEOs be concerned about what brands do and how people search for us on social media? Does that impact things like click-through rate and brand click-through rate on the conventional Google SERP?
“We should be concerned about this because we’re not Google optimisers - we are Search Engine Optimisers. The moment users are searching on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, or with their phones and cameras in general, we should be concerned.
Google sits in the marketing department where you have a commercial function. SEOs support revenue quite heavily, especially for businesses in eCommerce or SaaS. With those searches, we have to get the right information in front of our users where they are looking for it. It’s not that we are concerned about posting daily Instagram stories; we’re more interested in what happens when someone searches our location on Instagram or TikTok. We should respond to user queries where they are happening.
There are some verticals that are simply more inclined to be searched using visual media - for example, food and travel. Industries like these are more conducive to video results and you’re going to satisfy your user intent better with video. We already assumed and understood this when we started to look at YouTube SEO. This is something that’s not as hard to debate anymore, but you should definitely ensure that your video content ranks on YouTube. If it does, your video content will rank on Google as well.
Search is happening omnichannel - it’s not only happening on Google anymore. A few years back, you would start a product search on Google, with many of us starting on Amazon. It is evolving and has been evolving for a few years. In 2015, even Facebook was convinced that they were going to be a search engine and they were encouraging you to search on Facebook. It didn’t work for them, but it definitely worked for Amazon. Product searches happen on Amazon instead of Google, and it’s time to respond to that.”
Lots of SEO roles are moving to optimise a brand’s exposure online as opposed to traditional SEO. Does the name SEO need to change?
“Maybe. We’ve always been marketers, despite some people pretending that we’re programmers or data scientists. We’re marketers that use some resources like Python and some technical lingo. We’re quite affiliated with that side of things - and we have to understand it for our jobs otherwise we’d never rank for anything - however, we’re marketers and we’ve always been marketers. There’s no point thinking that we’re better than a social media or PPC marketer. We’re in the marketing department most of the time.”
How do you leverage structured content and skill?
“It’s really difficult to explain and grasp for yourself. Structured content involves treating content as data. Instead of thinking of documents, you’re thinking of fields. Instead of thinking of a product page for eCommerce, you’re thinking of a template and what goes in it.
It’s like the page template is the recipe and the content is the ingredients. The page template calls for a title, a picture, some feature information, a description, a price, related products, and maybe some tags. We are already somewhat leveraging structured content when working on eCommerce projects. Imagine being able to do this as a publisher.
If you’re thinking of fields instead of thinking of documents, you could program an API to push out all of the titles as Instagram stories and maybe include a link. You should essentially just tag the content you have and organise it into types, with attributes and relationships between them. It’s difficult to grasp but it’s like a massive mental map of everything.”
This could be very useful from a publisher’s perspective, but what about other types of businesses? Is it just as easy to take advantage of?
“For eCommerce, definitely. This also brings us back to the business side of things. We’ve got direct-to-consumer brands - for example, Adidas sell in major retailers and in their own stores. However, why would you go to the Adidas store over any other shoe shop in the UK or US? You’d go there for the brand experience. You’re walking down the street, see a brand that you like, identify with the store’s values and enter. You go into the Adidas store and it’s got a special type of music, a specific look, and a specific smell. The people that work in the store are representing the brand. You’ll see sales assistants there to help and exclusive products on offer. You’ll have personalisation options that are not available anywhere else.
On the other hand, for eCommerce, you’ll have the same experience in the online Adidas store as you do on Amazon. There is no experience and no differentiation. This is a big loss for B2C brands, because Amazon is using their user data and consumer insights around how people are behaving online. They’re losing margin because their distributors are going to be selling at a similar price or lower. Users are more likely to go with the distributor, and there’s a margin that they’ll take for their final revenue.
It is expensive for B2C brands to not offer a brand experience and an allegiance with the brand’s online values. You can resolve this issue by structuring content a certain way. Most online pages look the same. You’ll see a title, a breadcrumb, a picture, the product title again, a description, the price, reviews and then maybe a full accordion menu where you can go to dimensions or product descriptions and learn more about a product. There’ll normally be a line of related products underneath as well.
That template is being used for super high-end lifestyle products. Consumers are not making the same purchases from an emotional perspective or a needs perspective. We are excited about different things. You can use structured content to mark up your products. Imagine you have an electric bike business. The electric bike itself is a lifestyle product and people can use it to commute. Maybe customers are interested in health and fitness, maybe they want to take their kids to school on the back of a bike and are interested in safety, or maybe they’re super into mountain biking and want an electric bike to power their hobby. In this sense, your target customers could be making a lifestyle choice. Then you’ll have parts, like someone wanting a bell for their bike. Prospective customers could be browsing those parts via the same templates you’ve used for selling bikes - and that doesn’t make sense.
You should ensure lifestyle products are shown differently to parts, because the journey and the emotions of the user are different for those sales. You can mark them within your backend, and within your content database, and create different templates for them. For parts, you could use a classic Amazon template, and then for bikes, you could have a video and maybe an image of a mother or father looking happy and safe taking their kid to school. It can be very detailed, but also beautifully highlight the features of a product. Is this fast charging? Is the battery detachable? How long does it take to charge? Are there specific security features? Are the wheels sturdy? If you can explain the features clearly you can make the user feel like they’re making a very important purchase in a very informed, inspirational way.
This is something that Apple absolutely nails. When you go on their new iPhone page, you’re shown people that look like you and are doing the things that you want to be doing. There are going to be aspirational images - a beautiful way of displaying product features, characteristics, and limitless possibilities. That’s what you can do with structured content.”
Will everyone be moving to this type of structured content? If so, where’s the differentiator in future and what opportunities do you have to demonstrate that you’re better than the competition?
“In 2023, the differentiator is going to be using structured content to highlight your products better. This will be very helpful for publishers who can make their content go omnichannel in a better, faster, more efficient, API-driven way. As an eCommerce, very few people are creating product pages that don’t look exactly like Amazon’s. That’ll be the first thing to do - especially if you’re in B2C eCommerce because where there are endless wins to owning your own user and consumer data.
Things will probably look a lot different in 2025. It’s exciting to see the headless and structured content approach is an enabler for creativity. What do you want to do next? You’re no longer constrained by the limitations of your CMS and page template. You can literally plug anything with an API into your content. It’s tough to know what people will do but it’ll be curious to see.
Some people are doing incredible internationalisation work with translation, localising information on train routes, currencies, and whatever matters to the users. You can use Sanity and structured content to power electronic billboards, kiosks, websites, physical stores, and apps. In structured content, everything is powered by a single source of truth. When you give your editors and creators a single source of truth to take care of, you’ll be freeing up their time to do other essential things. You could even run a guest authorship program, which as a publisher is super interesting. This could enable and encourage authors to create amazing articles and make them SEO-optimised from the outset. You could make brilliant editorials for your writers and editors that will improve the productivity of a publishing business.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What’s seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Stop obsessing over Google updates. Google is going to Google and it’s always going to be in August when you’re on holiday. Don’t waste your time looking at what Google is doing specifically with each update. You’ve already been told the route to go down, just look at the Google quality rater guidelines. Create trustworthy, authoritative, expert-led content and publish it in a way that’s user-friendly and doesn’t absolutely drain your customers or user data plans. Don’t obsess over minor updates.”
Lidia Infante is Senior SEO Manager at Sanity and you can find her over at lidia-infante.com.
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