While the basics for SEO stay the same from year to year – keywords, links, high-quality content – each new year brings a few new considerations and techniques to add to your SEO arsenal. Most of these concepts aren’t new themselves, but changes in Google’s algorithm and searchers’ behaviors have brought them to the forefront for 2018.
As you move into the new year, make sure you’re ready for these key elements in SEO.
2017 was the year that voice search exploded. Thought it’s been a hot topic in past years, voice search was always relegated to the “someday” pile. Now, voice search is growing faster than type search, and we’re starting to see two interesting takeaways.
The first: Websites that traded in quick, easy-to-answer questions are hurting. For years, Google has been pulling simpler answers into answer boxes. Now, those answers are going straight to the user, without having to interact with a website at all. While the searcher (unsurprisingly) love it, websites that provide those answers are increasingly cut out of the loop. To stay relevant in the future, make sure you create content that needs more context than a quick answer, or Google will quickly pass you by.
The second: Searches are becoming more “human,” and Google is ready. Until now, searching on the internet meant carefully crafting keywords to get relevant results. When you wanted to buy your daughter a bike, you awkwardly stacked adjectives (“girls bicycle blue 10 years old”) until you found what you were looking for. Now, searching “I want to buy 10yo daughter a blue bike” will not only serve you popular stores’ selections but also give you advice on what size and cost your child’s bike should be. The release of Rank Brain in late 2015 prepared the way for this ease of search, and it will change the trajectory of keyword search in the new year and beyond.
User Experience (UX)
Google has always made user experience a priority, but that demand will only increase in 2018. Site speed is the phrase of the day, as Google has significantly factored that into its rankings. Keep a special eye on other UX metrics like your bounce rate and time-on-site. Google doesn’t like to see searchers “pogo sticking,” or visiting your website and immediately returning to the Search Engine Results Page (or SERP) for a better result. Look for any pages with high bounce rates or low time-on-site, and update them to be closer to what your searchers want.
SERP Features and Searcher Intent
Along with serving up answers to voice searchers, Google has been embedding more and more information directly into its results pages, called SERP Features (learn more about SERP Features here). Thanks to its unimaginable volume of data (experts say Google sees 80-90% of all actions on the internet), Google knows exactly what people want and works to serve it up as simply as possible. For SEOs, that means that understanding searcher intent is critical.
Before you optimize for any keywords, analyze the SERP. Is Google serving up an answer box or an image pack? Take advantage. If you craft a better answer or more optimized photo, you can bypass the competition and scoop up the #1 spot. Google is basing these SERP Features on what users interact with. If you want to engage users, you want to be in those SERP Features.
Security is a holdover from our 2017 SEO 101 list, but it has only gotten more important. Before, only websites that take credit cards or other sensitive information were expected to have HTTPS. Now, any website that collects any information, including just a name or email address, is expected to upgrade. In October, Google started putting warning signs in Chrome for non-secure websites. As soon a user begins typing anywhere on the website (even in a search bar) Chrome will warn the user against entering information. No matter what your website does, it’s time to upgrade. Your hosting company should be able to set you up quickly and easily.
Another 2017 holdover, Google released another mobile update in 2017. That’s two major releases in just over 2 years, which shows SEOs the priority Google is placing on your mobile experience. Having a mobile site isn’t enough; site speed and user experience are equally critical on mobile.
SEO often comes back to the same core issues, but keeping up to date on the trends for the year can put you ahead of the competition.
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