This time each year, SEO experts give their predictions for what is the next big thing in SEO. Yet in reality, no one knows what this will be. So, in this guide to a strong SEO strategy I’ll focus on what is working now so you can prepare to dominate Google next year.
In this article, you’ll learn:
● What is a SEO strategy?
● Why a strong SEO strategy is still important for your business
● 12 SEO strategies that work remarkably well now and will continue in 2018
What is a SEO strategy?
A SEO strategy is a roadmap for Search Engine Optimisation activities that can be mapped out in definitive steps. It is a long term but effective solution to drive pre-qualified traffic to websites, improve visitor conversion rates and boost website rankings and revenue.
Why a strong SEO strategy should be at the core of your online business
SEO isn’t an exact science, if it was, then we’d all be doing it. Knowing how to rank higher in search engines results is a closely guarded secret. That said, there are certain strategies that – when used consistently – greatly increase the likelihood of getting higher rankings.
These strategies are learned through trial and error tactics that SEO experts use and it is these tactics that are paying off – but there is a caveat, the more you try to beat the system the more search engines adapt their algorithms to battle those more unscrupulous tactics.
In this post I’ll outline 12 of the most effective SEO strategies you can use right now to prepare a strong SEO strategy for 2018. These are based on the team’s own experience, as well as the latest research from SEO experts.
1# Optimise for Google’s mobile-first index
Then in November 2016 Google announced the launch of mobile-first indexing. What this means is that previously, Google crawled the desktop version of a site, using that as their primary search engine index. However, with this update, Google has now started to use the mobile version of a site as its primary index. In other words, Google will consider the mobile version of your site the “real” version, even if someone searches from a desktop.
So, ensure that you prioritise your mobile site for content and its design is responsive. To check that your website is mobile friendly, use this free Google Mobile-Friendly Tool.
2# Speed up your site
For years, Google has been placing emphasis on site speed. With the introduction of the mobile-first index site speed will be more important than ever.
Google again emphasised this importance for websites, especially those with e-commerce websites that those who load in 5 seconds or less, received 2 times more revenue than competitors. The same research found that 53% of mobile site visits we found that 53 were abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out your website’s page speed on both mobile and desktop.
3# Pay attention to user experience signals
Google announced that RankBrain was their third most important ranking factor. RankBrain is a machine learning system that helps Google sort their search engine results pages (SERPS).
RankBrain focuses on two factors:
1. How long someone spends on a page (known as Dwell Time)
2. The percentage of people that click on a result (Click Through Rate or CTR)
Dwell time is important because if a visitor clicks on a search result in the #4 position but stays on the page for several minutes, Google realises this is highly relevant. Is a visitor clicks on the #1 result but leaves the page in seconds, Google will then boot this result from the #1 position. Google has always stressed relevancy, and if visitors are not staying long enough on web pages, then Google deems them irrelevant.
If pages have an above-average CTR, RankBrain uses this as a sign that the page should get a permanent rankings boost. This is hardly surprising. After all, if no one clicks on search results result, why would Google keep it on the first page?
Similarly if a result is getting clicked on like there’s no tomorrow, why would Google keep it buried at the bottom of the page?
4# Optimise for featured snippets
Featured snippets, or rich answers are now accounting for over 20% of search inquiries. If you want your content to show for common industry-related questions, it’s vital that you intentionally optimise for these queries.
Google is now crowding out the organic search results with these Answer Boxes, Ads, Carousels, “People also ask” sections and more. Organic listing results are now decreasing in CTR by 37% according to Wordstream.
There are a number of ways you can do this, including explicitly ask the question in your content, providing a direct answer even including the question at least one of your headers. Another top tip is to provide Q&A lists to satisfy the “People also ask” sections of SERPS.
5# Optimise for Voice Search
You could argue that Voice Search is still in its infancy, yet when you think about, we use Voice Search in one of two ways – find apps and information inside our smartphones; and to find information on the internet.
If you take into account “People also ask” sections and Google Answer Boxes, then Voice Search is only going to become more important. Since 2008, Google voice searches has increased by 35 times, with 20% of them done on mobile.
Knowing this, SEO experts are beginning to optimise their content for voice search – by ensuring the content is included in a featured snippet. (See step #4). You can read this excellent guide on how to optimise for Voice Search here.
6# Aim for topical, in-depth, written content and context
Previously search engines would analyse pages to see how many times a specific keyword would be used and whether this was added in certain tags and images – known as technical, or on-site SEO. For example, your page would be crawled to determine whether your keyword appeared in:
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Image ALT text
- H1/H2 tags
This is still important, but search engine crawlers are getting smarter. Not only do they measure the content of your web page but the context. What this means is that to avoid showing shallow content to web visitors, search engines are now checking whether the content on the page has an in-depth knowledge of the topic concerned.
To write comprehensive, in-depth evergreen content, according to Brian Dean of Backlinko, it should be at least 2,000 words long and be inserted with Latent Semantic Indexing keywords (LSI, also known as secondary keywords). LSI keywords are words and phrases that are strongly associated with your page’s topic. When crawlers crawl the page, they view the page as highly topical, covering the content title really well.
Lastly Brian found that even pages that comprehensively covered a particular topic outranked shorter content that was highly-optimised for a certain keyword – even when the comprehensive page didn’t use that particular keyword at all. You can use this LSI tool to add some secondary topical keywords to your content.
7# Optimise your URL structure
Using descriptive, keyword-relevant URLs has been an effective SEO strategy for years. However, some research seems to indicate that using shorter URLs may actually lead to higher rankings.
While there’s no set number of words you should include, Google has indicated in the past that anything after the first five words won’t be given as much credit. This is not surprising really, as when a search enquiry is presented to search engines, they crawl the words at the beginning of the URL to check for relevance against the search term.
Plus, you should remove stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ – search engine algorithms do not read them and they waste valuable URL space that could be scanned for a keyword.
Thus, whenever possible, use your primary keywords in the first few words of your URL where possible – ensuring that is makes sense for a search term, and try to keep your entire URL to around five words total.
8# Structured data and Schema.org
Search engines, in order to read websites, need to be able to read it easily. Google is pretty good at analysing the context of a website’s content. When it comes to reading a page, usually the most valuable information to a searcher, search engine crawlers require some assistance.
Structured data then, is the data you add to your website to make it easier to understand for search engines.
Structured data is a general term that refers to any organised data that conforms to a certain format, it is not only for SEO. When search engines read your website, they want to know if a piece of content is relevant – it could be to a job advertisement, blog article or a product offering.
If you want rich snippets, mobile rich cards, AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) or a listing in Google’s knowledge graph, you’ll need to mark up your pages with Schema.org. Unless SEOs are experts in coding, then this can be daunting, but within the Google Search Console their a data highlighter that allows site owners to click and drag structured data, but only if the websites that have a few things to mark up, like products and blog articles.
Correctly implementing structured data might not give you better rankings, but it will indirectly make your site a better search result – and increasing Dwell time and telling Google your web pages are relevant. Ahrefs provide more detail about structured data and its benefits.
9# Adding video to your SEO strategy
Internet browsers are showing no reduction in their insatiable demand for video content. The rise of platforms including Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and Facebook videos are driving video content higher in their newsfeeds. And that’s not forgetting YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine.
YouTube is growing fast, people are taking to the video platform for not only entertainment but for “how to videos” for a range of topics from how to wire plugs to user tutorials for software. 64% of consumers are more inclined to buy a product after seeing a video on it.
YouTube then, is a search engine that is too big to ignore as part of your SEO strategy. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that YouTube videos are appearing as part of your search results – and these surely are going to increase in the future.
The key takeaway here then is to embed videos into your content and boost your Dwell time (see step 3) so that viewers stay on your web site for longer, boosting your rankings.
10# Link Building
Links have been one of the most important driver of rankings for years now. Google has confirmed
they’re one of the top three ranking factors (along with content and RankBrain). In the past, it was easy to obtain links by buying them from so called “link farms” that would add your website domain to their websites. Google quickly caught on and “blacklisted” this practice. (Again, don’t try to cheat the system.)
Genuine back linking then is very powerful for increasing domain strength. Higher ranking domains linking to websites act as a “vote of confidence” – passing on what Moz calls “link juice” and thus increasing the domain strength of that website (if the link is dofollow). Higher domain strength increases URL strength – and this aids in SERPS when search inquiries are made.
The same with the opposite, if you have lower ranking or low confidence domains linking to a website, this will harm your rankings. Pornography websites are an example of low confidence domains.
If your content is not relevant or competitive, even adding high domain links won’t help your ranking so leave poor performing content alone. If your content is pushing onto the lower echelons of page 1 of Google, then getting high-quality backlinks to that page could push it higher in the rankings.
11# Local SEO is a must
Given the move toward a mobile-first mind-set, it’s no surprise that many experts are placing increased emphasis on local search these days. If a website has a local presence, like restaurants, then appearing in local mobile searches is a must.
More customer searches are turning to mobile to find local businesses, products and information, getting found for local keywords is imperative.
Google’s 3 pack at the top of searches displays the top 3 results dependant on the localised search term. The move to the 3 pack was to better satisfy mobile browsing and include maps and reviews of local businesses.
Those businesses outside of the local SEO 3 pack saw a 40% drop in CTR. Adding critically important keywords then, including location and contact details to your website is vital to appear in these search results if local websites are to remain at the top of the page.
12# User intent is king
You’ve probably heard that “content is king” – but actually user intent is king. Since the corresponding relationship between keywords and rankings is diminishing, optimising for intent is even more crucial.
A strong SEO strategy means focusing not just on specific keywords, and writing content that is entertaining, engaging and valuable, but on the motivation behind those words and content.
What are people actually looking for when they use those search queries? When they click on a search result, will they get the information they wanted? Will they be able to navigate easily around the website to find other information? Is it easy for them to complete an action? Whether to buy a product, sign up to an email list, or even share a piece of content?
Think which keywords drive conversions and not just traffic. Search engines want to show visitors relevancy for a specific search enquiry – if the visitor performs more actions on a website, this boost the sites rankings.
None of the tactics and tips mentioned above are anything new, or even surprising. They are the strategies that experts have been implementing to boost rankings in response to the rapidly changing nature of SEO.
If you’re planning to implement a strong SEO strategy for 2018, then get a head start and incorporate these steps into your planning. Or contact the team for more advice.
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