In the ever-changing landscape of SEO, maintaining a first page presence on Google is a challenge. The ability to rank well is largely down to the strength of your content but what other factors and key SEO trends do you need to be aware of in 2018?
Whilst the focus of your SEO in 2018 should continue to be on your content, there are other important factors that will help you to rank better, for the search terms that matter.
SEO Trends to Be Aware of in 2018
1. Voice search is on the rise
More and more people are using voice searches on their mobile devices to find what they are looking for. In fact, it is thought that as many as 40% of adults use voice search on a daily basis, a figure projected to rise to 50% (source) over the coming years, and the types of queries people make verbally as opposed to when they type do differ.
Voice searches are generally longer, typically consisting of 3-5 words in length, often characterized by the inclusion of a specific question e.g. ‘where can I find’, ‘what is the’ and so on. Making it more important your content is written in a natural and conversational tone that directly anticipates the kind of questions people will be asking and the type of information they are seeking.
It’s worth paying attention to the depth of content on your site and how you answer customer questions. Quality content that is considered by Google to be most relevant and authoritative, means you could bag the hallowed Google Answer Box location, putting your content and a link to your website right at the very top of the search results in a highlighted box.
2. Google’s ‘Mobile First’ update is coming
There has been much discussion about Google’s Mobile First index which is coming soon. Quite simply, if your website doesn’t adapt for mobile devices you’re going to suffer, so having a responsive website is more important than ever.
Not only that, but the content you display on the responsive version of your website is vitally important. It’s common practice to hide certain functionality and content from mobile devices, but when Mobile First hits, Google is going to see and rank you based only on the content on the responsive version of your site – if key content is missing you’ll suffer.
If you don’t already have a responsive website, now is the time to get serious because if your text is too small, there’s content missing from the mobile version of your site, it takes too long to load or makes it difficult for people to click on buttons, you stand to lose out.
3. Could ‘linkless’ backlinks be the future?
Whilst backlinks do still play a role in SEO, their role is changing. In previous years we’ve been advised that having a combination of ‘follow’ and ‘nofollow’ will result in a more natural link profile, but now, it seems that could be changing.
Bing have confirmed that they already use unlinked mentions for ranking (source), and industry experts believe that Google may be doing this too, which means you might need to rethink your use and pursuit of backlinks, though we’re pretty certain your existing backlinks from authoritative, relevant sources will remain of value.
4. Local SEO matters
Mobile search volume continues to rise, driven by people searching for services and places of interest whilst they are out and about. Typically, such searchers will request specific information like “restaurants near me” or directions to a place of interest.
For any business that has a physical location, local search is an absolute must, but ensuring your presence is fully optimised is critical. We’ve come across Google My Business listings missing key information and even displaying the wrong opening hours leading to customers turning up and expecting a business to be open based on what the business listing told them, when they turned out to actually be closed.
People will rarely check your actual website for key information like phone number, address and opening hours, so ensuring this information is readily available and is correct is vital.
What Should You Do Now?
Below we explore a handful of things you can do now to ensure your SEO efforts remain relevant and effective throughout the coming year.
Stand out in SERPs
Bagging the number 1 spot in Google organic search remains the holy grail for many website owners, and whilst it still holds true that the higher up that first page of results you appear the more likely you are to attract a click, there are other ways you can attract more clicks even if you aren’t as high up as you’d like.
Featured snippets, local packs and knowledge panels are all highly effective ways to drag the searchers eyes down to your listing. Essentially, your regular SERPs listing will display additional information that’s more likely to capture attention.
This additional information can be given to Google often by way of but not limited to, Structured data markup.
Strengthen your content
Keyword stuffed copy is out, and in-depth content that answers customer questions, demonstrates your expertise and explains a topic in detail is in.
Google use Latent Semantic Indexing to assess billions of pages and the search terms that are used in them, which helps Google to evaluate how relevant and comprehensive content is.
Whilst brevity might hit the mark in terms of aesthetics, Google is really looking for depth, and the rise in voice search means a natural conversational tone to your content is important too, something to be considered when reviewing your website copy and writing new blog articles.
The FAQs page is often the ideal place to start improving your content. Instead of providing very brief single sentence answer to questions, make sure your answers are as comprehensive as possible, and you could even look at taking individual FAQs and turning them into much more detailed articles for your blog.
If your FAQs page isn’t a suitable starting point and you’re struggling for content ideas, you could use LSI Keywords for ideas on what to write about, and we’d also recommend using Google Search Console to check what search terms people are using.
Making sure you have detailed information on your website that matches your most popular search terms, is a great starting point in optimising your content and it could even result in you bagging a place in the Google Answer Box.
Review your local search presence
Most businesses now have a Google My Business listing tied in with their Google Maps listing, but it’s crucial that the information within your listing is as comprehensive as possible and is accurate and up to date.
If you don’t already have a Google My Business listing (Bing have their own version called Bing Places), it’s easy to get one set up and verified.
Now is a great time to review your local search listings, add anything that’s missing and to make sure your business is providing as much information as possible to people who are looking for you.
Achieve better SEO results
It’s all well and good knowing what needs to be done, but it all takes time, and if there’s one thing most business owners don’t have, that’s time! That’s where a digital marketing partner like Surefire can help.
As well as staying up to date with all the latest trends and techniques in SEO (so you don’t have to!) we can help you to improve your content and can do all the hands-on work necessary to boost your visibility in Google.
With a proven track record of successfully working with businesses in a wide variety of sectors to improve their rank using sustainable, ethical SEO tactics, we can help you achieve better SEO results!