In depth guide to SEO in 2018
- 16th January 2018
Nothing beats being prepared, especially when it comes to managing your SEO campaigns. By getting on board with the latest trends and integrating the right techniques into your strategies, you can ensure that your website is equipped to deal with everything 2018 has got to throw at it.
So where should you begin?
In the following SEO guide we will explore a range of techniques that are certain to boost rankings and site visitation throughout the course of 2018.
Last year, Google revealed their plans to switch over to Mobile-First indexing, following revelations that 60% of internet searches are done via mobile devices, whilst 57% of site traffic is derived from mobile searches.
How does Mobile-First work?
Under this scheme, Google will consider the mobile version of your website to be the real one, so page and content relevancy for rankings will be based on the mobile version of your site.
Now, whilst Mobile-First Index hasn’t been launched yet; it is not far off, so if you haven’t already prepared for it, we recommend that you make a start today.
This can easily be achieved using the following steps:
- Ensure your content is consistent across all desktops and mobiles
- Whilst you can currently hide content on mobile versions of a page; this will no longer be an option once Mobile-First launches, as your mobile version will be considered your true version.
- This means, any content you have hidden – behind buttons, menus or expandable sections – will be 100% ignored by Google.
- For that reason, it is important that you display 100% of your content across all versions of your site – desktop and mobile – to ensure nothing is missed.
- Move from ‘m’ (mobile version) to responsive design
- If you know you have got a mobile ‘m’ version of your website, it is recommended that you switch to a more responsive design.
- Make sure your website ‘excels’ on mobiles
- Too many sites ‘technically’ work on phones/tablets, but are actually really hard to use, causing lots of users to press the back button.
- That is why you need to ask yourself – is your website ‘legitimately’ mobile friendly?
- If you can’t confidently say yes, then you can soon find out for sure by taking advantage of Google’s mobile test.
- This will not only tell you if Google views your site as mobile friendly, but will also give you some pointers on how to improve.
- Be conscious of keyword rankings
- There is a significant difference between the way keywords rank on mobiles and the way they rank on desktops.
- FACT: 79% of all keywords and 47% of keywords in positions 1-20, rank differently on mobile and desktop searches.
- As a result, it is important to have mobile-first content, as this will increase your visibility in mobile searches.
Whilst voice search may not be the next ‘big thing’, its popularity is certainly growing. According to recent studies, 40% of adults perform at least one voice search a day, whilst 20% of overall searches on mobiles are done via voice search.
Bearing this in mind, all businesses should aim to optimise some of their content for voice searches, so that they can take advantage of this growing demand.
- Get your content onto the first page of Google.
- Get your content to appear in a Featured Snippet. You’ll have seen these at the top of the page, before you are given the official listings. Here, consumers will be presented with a snippet of content and a link to its site.
- Include a question and answer in your content. Given that most searches on Google originate from a question, it is not surprising that Google usually rates pages that contain both the question AND an answer higher than those that don’t.
Above all else, you need to remember that the way we speak and the way we write is very different. During voice searches, consumers use normal, conversational sentences, instead of the usual abbreviated lingo that you see when doing a written search. As such, you need to modify your keyword choices to fit this search style.
One of the first steps to enhancing a user’s experience is speed. Not only is it a ranking signal, but Google pays a lot of attention to it. For instance, Google expects pages to load in less than three seconds, which if you think about it is not long at all. One Mississippi… two Mississippi… three Mississippi… fail to load and you’re out of the game.
So what can be done?
First you should take a speed test (Google’s) to determine your site’s loading time. Once completed, if a problem is discovered, the tool will give you an explanation as well as tips on how to fix it.
Yet speed is not the only factor you need to consider. When striving to improve user experience, you should also:
- Consider your sites readability and navigation structure – to see where you can implement improvements.
- Examine your visitors’ browsing habits and how long they stay on the page – if they are visiting your site directly from a search, but barely last 30 seconds, then that probably means your content or UX is harming your conversion rates.
- Ask yourself – Does your website offer an excellent user experience across all devices?
Get these right, and you’ll instantly begin to see a difference in dwell time and site engagement.
We mentioned the concept of Featured Snippets earlier in the article; however, given the benefits and impact they can have on your SEO strategy, we felt they deserved their own section.
You see, whilst companies have fought in the past to get position 1 on SERPs, this competition has now extended to also getting position 0 in the form of ‘a Featured Snippet’.
Nearly 30% of Google search queries show Featured Snippets, so as a business it is important to optimise your content so it has a greater chance of meeting Google’s standards for Featured Snippets.
Not only do Featured Snippets help to strengthen your image as a figure of authority within your chosen industry; they also appear immediately after a consumer search, showcasing a section of your copy (in response to the consumer query).
So how can you meet Google standards for Featured Snippets?
- Use lists, tables and graphs.
- Put content into a Q&A format (this makes it easier for Google to extract the right content to be seen in a Featured Snippet). By creating content that can serve as a Quick Answer, this can be used in Google’s Answer Box – which is designed to organise search results in a much more useful and attractive way.
Featured Snippets are not the only SERP feature you should consider when trying to manage your rankings.
Within SERPs you will also find local packs and knowledge graph panels that can also go a long way towards grabbing the attention of searchers, and increasing the number of clicks you get from organic listings.
It is just a matter of knowing how to use them…
As Google’s third most important ranking factor, it is essential that you understand RankBrain and the relevance of user experience signals.
What is RankBrain?
RankBrain is essentially a learning system that helps Google to sort its search results. It is designed to measure how users interact with search results, so that they can be ranked accordingly. Meaning, should a site in a lower ranking position garner more attention than a higher ranking one, OR a site in #1 receive more page bounces than those below it; RankBrain will take all of this information into consideration and will modify each of the sites rankings.
To put it more simply, RankBrain will focus first on how long consumers spend on a page (dwell time), before examining the percentage of people that click onto your results (click through rates).
Why is this important?
You might not think it, but dwell time is considered a ranking signal – especially by Google and in turn RankBrain – as the longer you can keep a consumer on your page, the more obvious it is they are happy with what they see.
In fact, according to the latest figures, the average dwell time for a top 10 Google search result is 3 minutes and 10 seconds. This suggests, if you want to succeed, you need to match or even beat this dwell time. Do so, and you can boost your ranking.
Organic click through rates similarly hold a lot of power when determining site rankings with RankBrain. After all, if no one is clicking on your result, then why should you hold a higher position than someone who is getting clicked on all the time? It wouldn’t be fair and RankBrain recognises this.
What else can RankBrain do?
Whilst in the past it was possible for websites to trick Google into believing that their website contained content that was relevant, high quality and comprehensive; now it is no longer the case.
Alongside using Latent Semantic Indexing to assess content quality, RankBrain can also be used to further analyse best-performing search results. By doing so, similarities between the usage of certain terms can easily be identified, and then be used to create query-specific ranking signals for given search terms.
This means, now more than ever, it is vital that your content is comprehensive and engaging!
Structured data may not be considered a ranking signal; however it does have some uses within your SEO strategy.
To describe it simply – structured data is a way of ‘formatting HTML that uses a specific vocabulary, telling search engines how to interpret your content and how to display it in the SERPs.
In many ways it can enhance your search listings, as it allows you to stand out; utilise knowledge graph panels and rich snippets, and increase your click through rates.
Gone are the days when Google would just focus on how many times you used a specific keyword within your content i.e. in your title tag, URL, Image ALT text, description tag and H1 tag etc.
These days, as well as allowing their spiders to measure your content, they now pay a greater amount of attention to the context of your web page. This means, keyword-stuffed content is no longer enough to get your site noticed. To ensure your website is the one Google recommends first, you need to ensure that your web pages not only cover the topic of your page in-depth, but also offer consumers everything they need in one place.
So how can you achieve this?
To make sure you are offering the depth of content that Google requires, you need to bear in the mind the following tips:
- Content should be at least 2,000 words long. This ensures you cover everything Google Searchers need to know about your topic, whilst helping to make you an authority figure within your niche. In fact, studies show longer pieces of content e.g. guides and long blog posts, regularly outrank shorter articles.
- Add LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords to your content – these are words and phrases that are strongly associated with your topic. So if for instance your site discusses diets, then you would use LSI keywords such as nutrition, weight loss, recipes etc.
Now if you aren’t familiar with LSI keywords, or don’t know how to locate them, you can find them using any of the following three ways:
- LSI Graph: this free tool allows you to enter your target keyword, before showing you a selection of LSI keywords that link to this term.
- Google: search for your target keyword and explore their ‘searches related to…’ section. The words in bold are LSI keywords.
- Google Keyword Planner: type in your keyword and click ‘get ideas’. Within its results you’ll find many LSI keywords.
According to Cisco, by 2021 80% of all online traffic will come from online videos – and it is easy to see why.
YouTube – already the 2nd largest search engine in the world, more and more people are turning to this online video platform for their search needs instead of Google. For that reason, you should aim to create and optimise content specifically for use on YouTube so you can grab these searchers and turn them into website visitors, leads and customers.
At the same time, by publishing SEO optimised YouTube videos, you’ll own more Google real estate. Why? Because 55% of Google search results contain at least one video AND Google owns YouTube.
Embed Video Content – by inserting these into your text-based blogs, you can increase dwell time and garner a larger, more receptive audience.
As we are writing this, 40% of consumers are calling for more video content. 40%! Add into the equation all of the above SEO benefits, and video content has the potential to make a massive difference to your SEO campaign.
Even as SEO continues to evolve and delve into new areas i.e. video content; at its core SEO is still all about creating engaging content and links.
And it makes sense…
Without amazing and informative content, you’ll never get any links… and if you don’t get these, you’ll never be able to get onto the first page of Google.
What to do?
- Don’t aim for new links that don’t add value or help build your authority within your chosen niche. Try to get coverage from sites that are relevant to your service offerings, ethos and products.
- Build relationships and help your brand to develop powerful contacts and links.
- Don’t heavily rely on guest blogs for link building – since May 2017, Google has paid closer attention to guest blogs in a bid to control spam and what they deem to be ‘questionable’ links.
- Create a complete backlink profile instead of single links.
As you can see, 2018 is set to bring many challenges to the SEO industry; yet with the right preparation and know-how you can harness these new trends and incorporate them into your SEO strategy. It is just a question of evaluating the best course of action for your business.
To learn more about these SEO trends and how they may impact your rankings, contact 01 Agency today.