The 7 Wonders of SEO in 2018: What You Simply Can’t Ignore This Year
SEO (search engine optimization) is constantly changing, but one thing remains consistent: you have to have a presence in the organic search results if you want to scale your business, unless you have an unlimited advertising budget. Some companies do, and they operate strictly on a paid traffic model, but it’s rare, and for the majority of small business owners they don’t have that luxury.
So, this leaves businesses to compete for first page traffic form Google, which is the world’s largest search engine, with Bing and Yahoo being very small players. You need SEO, and the cost to play keeps increasing as the landscape becomes more competitive and the strategies used to pull traffic to websites changes.
Back in the day all you had to worry about were people searching for your business on their desktop computer at home. Now, smartphones are where most searches originate from, but not in the form of traditional searches. Now there are searches on maps, as well as voice command searches. Devices like Amazon’s Echo also give users new devices to search from.
I wanted to touch on some of the points that you need to not only be aware of, but focus on as you work on building your SEO campaigns and strategies for this year.
SEO is ever changing, and if you don’t stay ahead of the curve you will be left behind, fighting for the scraps.
1. You can’t have thin content on your website.
Publishing long-form content isn’t anything new, as it’s been something that we have known Google preferred for a couple years. But, there are still websites out there that feature thin content simply because it was posted back in the glory days of SEO when 500-word articles were the standard.
Google wants to show the best results to those that use their search engine. That ensures they come back time after time, which increases the chances of these people clicking on ads, which is how they make money.
If you are writing new content for your blog, always shoot for at the very least 1,500 words, and if you have old posts, spend the time and effort to update them, converting them into long-form content. After you update a piece of content, make sure you submit the URL through the Search Console, so Google crawls it ASAP and indexes your new version on the post.
For websites that have hundreds of thin blog posts, this is a great chance to update the posts so they are relevant to the current time period, while giving Google what it wants. You can be rewarded for this effort, pulling in more organic traffic because your overall authority is increased and your impression rise.
When you do this, make sure to keep an eye on the Search Console stats, especially when it comes to impressions for the URLs that you change. If you start seeing a huge increase in both impressions and clicks, then it is well worth the cost of updating all of your old content.
2. You need to invest in video SEO.
If you perform almost any search these days there are video results on top, and the number that are show at the top of the SERPs is always increasing. There are some niches that are completely dominated by video, and it’s clear that Google is putting it in the prime positions.
This should not shock anyone, as they own YouTube. So, placing YouTube content at the top of the SERPs just pushes their users onto another platform that they control and have a chance to monetize you on. If they show you a relevant video result and you click over to watch it, they are going to generate ad revenue. You don’t see Vimeo results on top, do you? Of course not!
Google owns the search engine, so they can do what they want. Video content is very easy to consume, from any device or screen size and it requires the least amount of effort from the users’ standpoint. They don’t have to spend time reading a blog post; they just simply watch a video.
The more entertaining and educational the video, the more people will watch. Watch time plays an important role in video rankings, as do titles and descriptions. Make sure you write these for humans and real life situations and not for an algorithm. Remember, Google is heavily invested in AI, and they are now reading (and understanding) content in the same capacity a real human would.
3. Mobile-first index is live.
Google originally announced that it would introduce a mobile-first index, which will give priority to websites that provided a great mobile user experience. Well, it’s fully rolled out and if you aren’t mobile-friendly then you honestly have no business even ranking on the top of the SERPs.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to delivering a mobile-friendly experience that Google will see as beneficial to the user and reward accordingly. First, you need to have a responsive website that has the same URL regardless of what type of devices is browsing.
If you have a separate mobile, or .m version, then you need to get that taken care of quickly. Mobile versions will not be included in the mobile-first index. Websites must be responsive.
You also need to make sure that the same content and features are shown to desktop and mobile users. You can’t display different content to your mobile users. Everything that is accessible to desktop users needs to be on the mobile optimized version.
Page speed is one of the easiest things to optimize for, yet so many websites ignore it and they get dinged by Google for it and have no idea why they don’t show up high in the mobile results. Mobile searchers want quick access to info. Nobody is going to sit around waiting for their phone to load. Run your site through all of the free speed tests you can find and make the suggested changes to ensure you are loading well under two seconds.
If you want to know what Google thinks of your website in terms of mobile-friendliness, run it through their free testing tool.
4. Voice search is the new mobile search.
Remember years ago, when every SEO expert was warning you to be prepared for mobile search? Well, now replace mobile with voice search, because that is the newest technology that is going to dominate search.
The technology itself isn’t all that new, as it’s been around for more than six years, but it’s now increasingly popular because there are so many devices that support it. Aside from your mobile phone, there are “smart speakers” like the Amazon Echo and even Google has a home smart speaker, called Home.
Google is heavily invested in this technology, so you can be certain that its search engine will favor results that are optimized correctly. It is a safe assumption to think Google will sell voice replies just like they do PPC traffic. Highest bidder receives the traffic. Simple as that.
There is a strong rumor that Google is going to update the Search Console to include data related to voice search. If this happens, then there is a good chance Google Analytics will also feature some voice data.
To best prepare, make sure to optimize your content with some Q&A style tidbits, which enables Google to quickly identify answers to common questions related to your niche. Also, if you aren’t familiar with how it works, invest $100 and pick up an Amazon Echo or Google Home device and start to reverse engineer how it works. Those that fully understand how it works will be best prepared. Search keywords and phrases related to the products or services you sell and see what kind of responses it gives you.
5. More authority links are becoming no-follow but that hasn’t changed their effectiveness.
Even with all of the advancements and changes I already touched on, one thing remains consistent: links are still important and the main component of ranking high in the SERPs. Last year, we saw authority websites like Entrepreneur and Forbes flip a switch and make all outbound links no-follow. Inc. was already no-follow and Huffington Post did this the year before.
Want to know something? This hasn’t slowed down link orders one bit. In fact, there is a higher demand now than there ever has been for links on the top websites. Google still puts heavy weight on links from authority domains, even if they have the no-follow attribute.
There were so many articles by the SEO gurus claiming that editorial links are dead. Know what? It was FAKE NEWS, because they still work, and they work mighty well. There will continue to be articles published by so-called experts, claiming that guest blogging is dead, but nothing has changed.
Links are still the number one ranking factor and links from the big boys will always help push you to the top of the SERPs. They are getting harder to secure these days because editorial standards are higher than ever, so it takes a little creativity, but that is where the best SEOs will always shine.
There is such a demand now that pay-to-play is the easiest way to get links. The days of securing placements on a regular basis just by responding to a few H.A.R.O. queries a week are long gone.
6. Featured snippets are required to pull attention away from all other options.
Years ago, the SERPs were very standard. There were some PPC ads on top and bottom of the page and to the right, and then ten organic results per page. Now that is not the case at all.
There are video results featuring preview images of the video, product ads with images, and even just image results in the mix now. These are all visually more appealing than just a regular organic website listing.
So, in order to stand out in a sea of boring, make sure you take full advantage of featured snippets and get them to display in the organic SERPs. As Google puts more emphasis on these other listings, your organic result is going to continue to move down the page, even if you are technically the number one ranking organic listing.
The smartest thing to do it to perform an SEO audit and identify all of the pages that are showing on page one of the search results. You can easily do this easily by running a SEMrush report. Then, optimize these to include featured snippets, helping you to get more clicks to these pages that already have page one exposure.
If you are not technical, consider hiring a coder or developer to do this for you, because there are a lot of things that need to be done right in order for them to show up. Or, if you are on a tight budget install a plugin designed to populate featured snippets.
7. Google’s Rank Brain is proof that machine learning rewards quality SEO work.
Google Rank Brain is a machine learning initiative that analyzes how people interact with the SERPs. They use this information to change the results, with the aim of giving their users the best results possible.
This is why good well-thought out SEO work gets rewarded these days. If you create solid content that keeps your visitors on your page long, Google’s Rank Brain will consider it to be of high value. On the other hand, if your traffic bounces within seconds, it will assume it’s not relevant and you will see your rankings tank.
Click-through rate is also something that Rank Brain takes into consideration. A high CTR can help push you up in the SERPs, over taking results that don’t receive the click love. Also, if someone clicks on your site and then clicks back to the search results fast, this is a strong indication that they are displaying the wrong content and you can see your website plummet.
Machine learning makes Google stronger, and the days of gaming the SERPs are coming to a screeching halt.
This is what needs to be your main focus areas in 2018. Is it different than what was important a couple years ago? Yes. Will next year bring additional changes and other areas of focus? Yes.
SEO is never in a standstill. It will always change, as the search engines change and how we access their data. I predict that in the future there is going to be even more of a demand for voice-based search. Devices like Amazon’s Echo make it very convenient to find information.
You don’t even have to get up and walk to your computer or pull out your mobile phone. You can simply ask Alexa to find information for you. Times are changing, and as they do, SEO will be along for the ride.
Do you have any SEO questions that you would like me to answer for you? If so, please leave them in the comments below. I am more than happy to try to help you with any search engine optimization related questions.
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