Now that we’re nearly a quarter into the new year, we can start to reflect on SEO strategies from 2017 and see where we’re headed in 2018. We’ve seen continued growth with mobile users as expected; citations decreasing in importance for local SEO; semantic search (analyzing searches to improve accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and evaluating the contextual meaning of terms to provide more relevant results) continuing to be used to increase search accuracy; and more. So what’s in store for search engine optimization in 2018? The previously stated tactics are still relevant, but other factors are emerging in importance this year.
Google RankBrain – What is it and why is it important?
RankBrain is Google’s “fancy” new ranking program that looks at how users interact with their search results and adjusts rankings accordingly. They do this by considering dwell time and the click-through rate (CTR). Dwell time is a ranking signal that tracks how long a user stays on a page they clicked on from the search engine results pages (SERPs). Click-through rate measures the number of users who click on your link in the SERPs compared to the number of users who had the option to do so.
Of these two factors, dwell time should be the focus, as this is a clear signal to Google that your content is relevant to the user compared to just a high CTR with a correspondingly high bounce rate. But, if users never click on your link, then the dwell time won’t be considered due to the user never getting to your page. Based on this, the strategy should be to optimize your meta title and descriptions to capture the click (thereby increasing the CTR), and then provide quality content to keep the user engaged, ultimately improving your dwell time. Google’s RankBrain will notice this and begin to bump up your page in the SERPs.
If you don’t have content yet, you should start now
For as long as there has been SEO, it has been said that, “Content is key.” That still remains true today, but the type of content that is key is changing. With the development of RankBrain and the continued improvements to Google’s algorithms thus far in 2018, the old tactics that got your site ranking higher are no longer the top priority. Traditional HTML structure (H1, H2, H3, etc.) is still necessary, but Google is looking beyond that. It’s what that content is actually saying that’s important, rather than how it looks structurally or how many times you can repeat the target keyword in one post. User experience is the top priority, and is what inevitably achieves higher rankings for your site. The content on your site is one of the major factors that affects user experience.
There are many things that go into producing content, but it can be broken down into four major steps:
- Your site has to have both page content and post content.
- Content needs to be engaging to the reader.
- The word count of the post content needs to be adequate enough.
- Organically insert your target keywords with deeper links.
First of all, if you have little to no page and post content, your site’s rankings will suffer. Page content is what tells site visitors and Google what you do. Adding new blog posts regularly is equally important.
That leads us to our second point, which is that if you are adding content regularly, it has to be engaging to the reader. Your content needs to be something that your site visitors want to read. If you are adding content, but it is recycled or stagnant information, people won’t want to read it.
The third step is your post content has to be long enough to thoroughly explain your topic. We recommend anywhere from 1,000-1,500 words per post. Some experts even suggest going up to 2,000 words. The goal is to make sure the reader stays engaged during the entire post to get all of the relevant information. If they’re 4,000 words in, and only halfway through, there’s a good chance they won’t finish reading.
Now that you’ve achieved the first three steps, the final step to producing great content is inserting your target keywords organically and linking them to deeper pages on your site. Stuffing your content with keywords makes it hard to read and is uninteresting; not to mention, Google will penalize you for it. Also, adding links to other pages on your site to the few target keywords within your posts puts more emphasis on those words and helps keep readers on your site longer.
Google shifting to mobile first indexing & what that means for you
According to Google, nearly 60% of searches come from mobile devices, and they predict that number to increase in coming years. Due to that fact, Google will be shifting to a “mobile first index.” That means your mobile site will be indexed as your actual site and the desktop version will be secondary. With that shift, it is no longer a suggestion that your website be mobile friendly – it is a necessity if you want to continue to rank highly in organic search results.
Shifting to a mobile first index means a few things are required of you to make your site mobile friendly:
- At least the high level pages, if not all pages, on your desktop version need to be AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, so the most important information is pulled seamlessly to the mobile version of your site without slowing down load times.
- Your site has to be responsive; a responsive site adjusts to the size of screen it is being displayed on, so the user gets the same site and information on a phone as they would a big-screen TV.
- Optimize for voice search; not only was there an increase in mobile searches, there has been a drastic increase in voice searches. Having questions within your content and the answers to those questions can go a long way for voice searches and can be a great way to implement your target keywords.
Search engine optimization is like the weather here in Kansas City – it changes from day to day, and sometimes hour by hour. The engineers at Google are constantly trying to improve their search algorithms to deliver the most relevant content to the user and with that, other SEO ranking factors will come into play. Here at iFocus Marketing, our team of SEO strategists will keep you up-to-date on the latest developments to help you stay ahead of the competition.