Having been completely immersed in the SEO (search engine optimization) industry for the last eight years in the U.S., it's been fascinating to experience how rapidly search marketing strategies must adapt based on the evolution of user behaviors and the advancement of technologies used on a daily basis. In the Asia Pacific Japan region, both large and small brands appear to be, in many cases, still in their infancy with respect to SEO. This means there is significant opportunity for first-movers throughout the region. With so much potential and so many possible directions to pursue, it can be overwhelming for businesses to know where to begin.
Ultimately, it's important to adopt a well-rounded approach to SEO that focuses on clean site architecture and optimization strategies for keywords that directly resonate with target audiences. Historically, doing these things was enough to succeed. However, with the onslaught of social media and mobile device usage in Asia, it's now equally critical to have a firm understanding on exactly how and where your audience wants to engage with you. A few years back, brands in the U.S. that were engaging in local and social media channels had developed mobile sites/apps, or even knew about the concept of structured data and authorship authority, were considered cutting-edge. Today, these strategies are no longer optional - they're expected.
As online trends in Asia are rapidly following in the same direction as the U.S., the timing is ripe for first-movers to gain serious competitive advantages. It's far more efficient, in terms of resources and budgets, to start out as the leader of the pack than it is to play catch-up with the competition. Through a series of posts, I will dive into newer SEO tactics and the importance of their early adoption for brands throughout Asia.
The first strategy is developing structured data for your organization's website. I start here for two reasons: it requires the least amount of resources while also having the potential to drive immediate results.
What Is Structured Data and Why Should I Care?
Structured data refers to on-page markup within the HTML, called schema, around areas of content throughout a page. In other words, it's a method of providing meta information about individual pieces of content directly to the search engines that better informs them to what the content is referencing. For example, an e-commerce website can leverage structured data to highlight a product name, description, pricing, ratings/reviews, and availability. Structured data is becoming critically important because search engines, Google and Yandex specifically, have begun providing enhanced rich-snippet search results based on these tags. An example from CNET, a review site, shows ratings, the author, and a price range of a camera:
Not only is the additional information beneficial to the searcher, but when present, rich-snippet results have shown to dramatically increase click-through rates vs. a standard result. This is true even if your site is not ranking in the top position. With rapidly increasing competition, rich-snippet elements in combination with a well-crafted Title and Description tag can be used to further differentiate your site from the crowd of search results.
As mentioned earlier, worldwide mobile device adoption and usage is exploding. According to Pingdom and data from StatCounter, mobile device usage is on the rise globally and most predominantly in Asia:
Along with the growth in device usage, there has been a natural progression toward a more local-focused search phrase – restaurants, store locations, services, and other points-of-interest are directly searched for at the city or even neighborhood level. Incorporating schema tags to properly structure and send signals about your content, specifically your business addresses, phone numbers, operating hours, ratings, and reviews, is critical for gaining visibility.
Structured data through schema tagging has been around for several years. However, its adoption has been surprisingly slow. As the search engines continue to shift more toward a personalized experience based on search history, social circles, immediate locations, and even the device type being used, businesses that move first on implementing structured data today can have the foundation in place to put themselves well ahead of the competition. For detailed information on structured data and how to appropriately implement it into your site, full documentation is available at Schema.org. Google also provides a rich-snippet testing tool that will allow you to check and ensure you've done it correctly. Has your organization implemented Schema.org tags already? If so, I'd love to hear about the results you've seen thus far.
In my next article, I will discuss the importance of developing authorship authority and how Google is planning to directly leverage this data to provide better search results.
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Scott Kellam is a search engine optimization professional with over 8 years of experience in the industry. Scott has developed SEO strategies for marquee clients such as SAP, HSBC, Humana, Saint Laurent (YSL), SanDisk, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and many others. He has worked in search marketing since 2005 with a proven track record of developing profitable SEO and social media strategies. With a deep understanding of both technical SEO issues as well as search marketing’s role in identifying and connecting with target audiences, Scott has been able to effectively scale strategies that directly impact bottom lines for clients of all sizes across B2B and B2C industries as well as non-profits.
March 19, 2014