Your Definitive Guide to SEO in 2018

As with previous years, we’ve put a lot of thought into our 2018 SEO best practices and SEO ranking guide. Filled with today’s latest and greatest SEO techniques and strategies, you’re sure to dominate your industry if you properly execute these SEO tactics over the next year. As with all of our suggestions, please be sure to test and measure, use only white-hate SEO techniques, and thank us when you’re ranked!

SEO Ranking and User Experience

As search algorithms become more and more advanced, user actions will play an important role in SEO and ranking. In fact, search engines like Google are advancing so much that they are actually learning user intent – this is called machine learning. Something that we’ve always preached with our SEO services is that you should always give the user the best experience possible. This correlates into longer time-on-site and less bounce rate, translating into improved rankings.

As the use of machine learning increases, user signals will factor more prominently into search engine rankings. UX issues could therefore prevent brands from reaching their potential in the organic search results β€” and, thinking more broadly, could stifle conversion performance.

What is RankBrain?

RankBrain is a form of machine learning that helps Google prioritize search results for their users. Ultimately, Google has a responsibility to provide their users with the best possible results too – RankBrain delivers those results.

In short, RankBrain measures how a user interacts with the provided search results.

Here’s a quick example of how RankBrain affects SEO: Let’s say you do a search for “Best Website Designs of 2017”. You fed a list of Google results based on this query and you click on a listing that’s most enticing to you. You find that this content is the best content ever and you read through every single word of it. Google is picking up on this, noticing the time you’ve spent on this particular article, and guess what? They’ll be using that single to improve the ranking of that page that you clicked on.

The same theory works for content that is not highly valued. If RankBrain sees that users are clicking on the #1 result for this search, arriving on the page but immediately bouncing within a few seconds, RankBrain recognizes this and will demote this page and push it further down on the page.

β€œIn the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”

Important data points for RankBrain and SEO:

Dwell Time – How long someone spends on a specific page
Click Through Rate – The percentage of users that click on a specific result

Clickthrough Rate (CTR) and SEO Rankings

If you’re looking to really improve your SEO for 2018, you must improve your CTR. Google rewards websites with higher click through rates. If you think about it, if no users are clicking on your page then why would Google reward you with improved rankings?

Content Remains King for SEO in 2018

As with previous SEO ranking guides and lists, content has made the list and will most likely continue to be one of the most important ranking factors for most websites. As the data suggests, content that is informative, educational, creative, and lengthy seems to rank the highest.

Looking back at previous SEO ranking factor lists from years past, Google looked at the frequency and volume of published posts or articles when ranking. Now, Google is much more focused on the quality of content, bumping up content that exceeds the 2,000 word mark. In fact, you can go months without publishing a single piece of content on your website and the be pushed to the top of Google for a single piece of content that is highly researched and well thought-out.

How To Write Comprehensive, In-Depth Content that’s Contextual

Going back a few years, one of Google’s top SEO ranking factors was content. As previously mentioned, they focused on the volume of content produced around specific keywords. While Google still takes this into consideration to some degree, they’re getting a bit wiser as you may know and focusing more on context.

One topic we try to continuously drive home is the fact that Google wants to provide their users with the best possible user experience. Afterall, Google keeps its users coming back time and time again because of this. This leads to BILLIONS in ad revenue generated through Google Adwords. While this is a totally separate topic, it’s important to know WHY Google wants to provide the best experience so that users continue to return.

Providing contextual content is important because that page is most likely providing the best imformation for that specific topic. Think Wikipedia. There’s a reason why Wiki pages always continue to rank high in search results. It’s because of the DEPTH of content on a specific topic. Google knows that the information provided is going to proove to be the most useful to the USER.

If you’re looking to provide in-depth content to your end users, try shooting for content that exceeds the 2,000 word mark. With this goal in mind, you’re more likely to give the user the best and most useful content.

LSI Keywords for Improved SEO Rankings

After you’ve mastered hitting the 2,000 word count mark, go back into your content and start adding LSI keywords throughout. These are keywords that are most commonly related to your content and page topic.

How to Find LSI Keywords

Okay, so we’ve identified the fact that Google loves LSI keywords when ranking pages, but how can you source LSI keywords for your content and improve your SEO?

Common LSI tools include:

LSI Graph https://lsigraph.com/
Google. Yes, just Google!

When searching Google for your main target keyword, scroll down to the bottom of the results page and look for “Searches related to…” The search terms you see in bold are LSI keywords. Google is actually doing the work for you and letting you know that these should be included in your content.

SEO and Mobile-First

In 2017 Google announced that they they’ll be moving to a “mobile-first index”. What this means is that the version that Google see as your mobile version will be used as the most important version. In other words, if you have a separate mobile website with outdated content that differs from your main desktop version, Google will be serving the mobile version first.

This update is huge, but I think we all saw it coming from a mile away. Today, 60% of searches are made on mobile, and we can expect this figure to grow in the future.

How Can You Prepare for Mobile First Index?

In the past, it was common to see websites with both a desktop version and a mobile version of their site. While the content that was served to users on mobile devices was clean and easy to read, maintaining this content meant double-duty. You needed to update both your desktop and your mobile website. So it’s very important that your content is consistent across mobile and desktop. The best way to do so is to have a mobile-responsive website. As mobile-responsive website will ensure that ONE singular version will fit on almost any mobile device AND your desktop. This should eliminate the need to maintain two separate versions of your website.

Voice Search and SEO

Did you know that at least 40% of adults perform a form of voice search every single day? In fact, voice searches performed in Google are up for than 35 times since 2008, and, 20% of all searches on a mobile device are made through voice search.

So, how do you optimize your website for voice search?

First, it’s important to know that your website mush be on the first page of Google in order to appear in the search results. Next, your content is best presented in question and answer format. Data is certainly suggesting that the results generating by voice search are in question format. Feel free to test it out yourself.

Visual Content is Critical for SEO in 2018

Just like text based content, users love visuals. If you notice most forms of ads on social media these days are either video, gifs, or image based. Rarely do you ever see simple links being promoted on social media these days.

To take advantage of this upward trend and to improve your SEO, use lots of images, especially embeddable images. Embeddable images are images that a user can easily grab and use on their own website. The benefit is that the embed link and ALT text will be pointing back to your website.

Run a Blog? Encourage Blog Commenting for Improved SEO

While they sometimes appears to look spammy, blog comments actually help with SEO and rankings. In 2017, Google announces that blog commenting can actually help.

In fact, Google also stating that on-site blog commenting is a better engagement signal than social commenting. So go ahead and produce great content that attracts comments from your community. It can only help!

SEO Ranking Basics Not to Forget

While the landscape and trends typically shifts a bit from one year to the next in the SEO world, there are many SEO ranking factors that are always consistent. Below is a short list of actionable SEO tasks that even the most novice SEO can handle. Tackles this handful of SEO tasks in 2018 to ensure your site is well positioned for the future.

Crawlable, accessible URL whose content Google can easily crawl and parse.

Google has a lot of pages to crawl. So why not make it easy for them to crawl your website and figure out what’s going on? Short, easily distinguish URLs are great for SEO. In fact, for 2018, we recommend keeping your URLs as short as possible. In the past, it was common to see an entire long-tail keyword string appear in the URL. While this isn’t necessarily a bad tactic, it’s not optimal.

Here’s an example:

Instead of https://examplewebsite.com/search-engine-optimzation-checklist-2018

Why not use https://examplewebsite.com/seo-checklist-2018

Both provide the same content, but the latter is more concise and to the point. From what we’re seen with our clients, Google appreciates this and rewards the page with better rankings.

Keyword research

Be sure to keep a good list of your core keywords. On top of that, expand those “money” keywords into long-tail keywords. This kinda goes back to that question and answer format for voice search. Long-tail keywords are perfect for this type of content and great for SEO.

Compelling title, META description, and heading tags

As we’ve mentioned CTR is a great signal to Google that your page has something interesting to say. The best way to get a high CTR is to create compelling titles and META descriptions. Once on-page, users find that content that’s easily organized using proper heading tags is easiest to read. Keeping users engaged on your website is one of the best ways to keep them coming back for more!

Use rich snippets and schema markup

Schema.org is the result of collaboration between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to help you provide the information their search engines need to understand your content and provide the best search results possible at this time. Adding Schema markup to your HTML improves the way your page displays in SERPs by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title.

Fast loading times

Google has indicated site speed (and as a result, page speed) is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. And research has shown that Google might be specifically measuring time to first byte as when it considers page speed. In addition, a slow page speed means that search engines can crawl fewer pages using their allocated crawl budget, and this could negatively affect your indexation.

Page speed is also important to user experience. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions.

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