SEO in 2018 - Bonsai’s Tips
SEO is always changing, and 2018 is no different. SEO in 2018 has brought emergent technologies like voice search and mobile search into conversation, and with it new complexities to the field. But, site speed, quality content, and the right keywords remain the pillars of good SEO. If there’s one thing we at Bonsai Media group love it’s good SEO, so let’s dig into all the changes and updates that have happened or are set to happen in 2018.
In 2017, Google let the world know that RankBrain was their third most important ranking factor. RankBrain might sound scary, but it’s essentially just another algorithm Google uses to rank search results. RankBrain focuses on two metrics: 1) Dwell time, which measures how long a user spends on your page; and 2) click through rate, which refers to what percentage of people click on your page. Let’s break those down.
SearchMetrics recently found that the average dwell time for a top-10 ranking page was 3 minutes and 10 seconds. If you’ve spent time analyzing your own metrics, you can appreciate just how long 3 minutes of dwell time is. So, why should dwell time matter? Well, if someone is spending a significant amount of time on a page, it probably means what’ they’re finding there is relevant to what they searched for!
How, you must be wondering, can you increase dwell time?
The answer to that question can be fairly complicated, but the absolute, most essential way to increase dwell time is with quality content. The better your content addresses the topic users are searching, the more time they’re going to spend with it. Not just quality content, but readable content.
What does that mean?
Well, not just breaking copy up with images and videos, but possibly reconsidering the way you present your copy entirely. No one wants to slog through a wall of text. That’s why bucket brigades like the “What does that mean?” above, and the image below are so important! They help break up the visual monotony of endless text.
Pro Tip - Think about a newspaper - the mixture of headlines, text blocks, images...that’s one easy way of making your content more engaging.
As essential as quality content it is, it’s not the whole story. The right keywords are essential to getting the right users looking at all that quality content. For example, if your brand name is Apple Pie, people looking for apple pie recipes might end up on your landing page for only seconds before they click away. Those misdirections will bring down your overall dwell time, and with it, your rankings.
Forget ‘Shallow’ Content Marketing
SEO used to mean very little more than seeding your pages, title tags, image ALT texts, and description tags with your targeted keywords. Google was looking solely at content as such. These days, however, Google is examining content in context.
Search engines care less about how stuffed with keywords your content is [kw density], rather, they care much more about how in-depth you go about a particular topic.
How can you be sure you’re providing in-depth content?
A simple rule is to keep your word count at a minimum of 2,000 words. Long-form blogging gives you all the space you need to cover every facet of a topic. Ultimate guides and long-form blogs usually outrank short articles.
Once you’ve rounded out a lengthy piece of quality content, spice it up by peppering it with well researched LSI.
What is LSI? It stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. That sounds pretty scary, but it just refers to keywords that are semantically related to your keywords. No, not synonyms or similar keywords.
For example, if your keyword is “propane grill,” your LSI may be “BBQ,” “recipes,” “summer,” or “outdoor cooking.”
When Google sees these LSI’s on your page, it signals that your page is covering its topic in full depth.
To get the LSI that will help you climb to the top of your SERP, you can use the handy free tool, LSI Graph. It’s as easy as entering your target keyword and hitting Enter. LSI Graph will show you a list of LSI keywords relevant to your target.
And, of course, Google knows best. Just enter search your target keyword and look over the “related searches” box.
Pro Tip - You can also crack Google Keyword Planner open by using their “Get Ideas” feature. Many of the results generated there are LSI keywords.
Mobile Index is Almost Here
You’ve been hearing about it for years already, but it’s actually coming! Seriously, Google even publicly announced the switch to mobile-first index. That means Google will consider your site’s mobile version even if it differs from the desktop version. The switch is no doubt encouraged by the fact that 60% of google searches are made from mobile devices.
Though the announcement came over a year ago and mobile-first still isn’t live, it’s liable to happen any day, which means you should be getting your ducks in a row right now.
Make sure you design and content is consistent across platforms. Buttons, menus, or slide bars that hide or truncate content are already annoying for users. What should matter more to you, is that whatever content is hidden will be completely ignored by Google. Give mobile users the same content your desktop users see.
Google recommends responsive design over mobile “M.” site versions. If you’re trying to improve your SERP ranking, it’s best to take the advice of the largest search engine in the world.
Be the Best!
It might seem obvious, but your mobile site should rock! Responsive design and load speed are paramount.
Pro tip - Google has a mobile-friendly test you can use to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Video is the Next Big Thing
It may be hard to imagine video becoming even more important than it already is, but brace yourself. TechCrunch recently reported findings from Cisco that, by 2021, video will account for 80% of all web traffic.
YouTube is the best place and way to tap into video. It’s the second largest search engine behind Google and that’s something you can’t ignore. In fact, 55% of all Google searches include video results, and almost all of those videos are on YouTube.
Video is still largely untapped within certain industries, so publishing optimized videos on YouTube can edge you ahead of your competition and expand your SERPs.
Keeping in mind that Google owns YouTube, it’s safe to bet you’ll be seeing even more YouTube videos in regular Google searches. We’ve already seen indications of this in the way that Google has begun blending YouTube stills into image search results.
Like most things in SEO, video is ultimately another way to serve your site users. People want more video. Then embed, embed, embed! Embedded videos satisfy user desire for more video experiences, but it also helps to break up text-heavy blogging and create a more user-friendly experience.
Pay Attention to URL Structure and Crawlability
The eerily named Googlebot spiders are what crawl through URLs and page content to determine what pages might be relevant to given keywords. If your URL doesn’t reflect the content for a given page, you probably won’t rank for your target keywords.
Pro Tip - Googlebot spiders aren’t the only ones that notice URLs. A tidy, relevant URL can signal to users that your page is legitimate. Similarly, if your page gets linked, but all users see when they hover their cursor is a string of nonsense characters, they’re not as likely to follow that link to your content.
Do KW Research and Investigate Real SERPS
Don’t just rely on keyword tools! Resources like Keyword Explorer, Keyword Magic, and others are invaluable resources for SEO. However, in order to generate top rankings and CTRs, you’ll need to buckle down and do real research.
Searchers are using keywords and phrases to find the solutions and answers to real problems and questions. Your site, your company is working to provide those solutions and answers. How you optimize your content is a major determining factor in whether or not searchers access what you’re offering.
Pro Tip - the keywords (and ideally secondary keywords) that you target should be in line with the searcher’s intent, not just your own. Think about that!
Authoritative Content Creators
Content is key, but it depends on who it comes from. As we talked about a moment ago, searchers want real solutions to real problems. For your part, you want to do your best to make searchers feel confident in the solutions you’re providing. Calling on an authority is a great way to do that.
The benefits don’t stop at user experience. Bringing in a voice worthy of amplification reaches across platforms to increase social sharing and backlinking. As you already know by now, Google looks fondly on both of those things.
Returning to the first part of this section; authoritative voices are likelier to lead to satisfied users. Over time, Google will notice that people are spending more time with your page, returning to it, and sharing it.
Pro tip - this is where the influencer outreach component of content marketing can be particularly useful, especially at the outset. Get writers who have demonstrated authority online to vouch for you, write for you, and share your content.
Meta Tags Matter
Meta tags are becoming more and more important; more real people are reading them. As time goes on real people are becoming more and more literate in what once seemed like mostly online background language.
Pro Tip - The meta tag that is displayed on SERPs is sort of your first impression moment with searchers. Even that tiny snippet can be optimized for keywords and general click attraction.
Use Rich Snippets and Schema Tags
Snippets are the little descriptions that appear beneath titles and URLs on SERPs. Rich snippets include additional information that pertains to that page: an image; a user rating; calorie content for recipes; cost of a flight; etc., etc..
Rich snippets can make links more clickable by providing a touch more information.
Think of schema tags as the next level of rich snippets. Rather than just telling Google what your content says, schema tags tell Google what your content means. That helps the way your snippet is organized and can improve searchability and user experience.
Pro Tip - If you’re new to optimization and feel overwhelmed by this deeper niche, this article from Kissmetrics and Schema.org, a community founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex to promote structured online data, are great places to start.
Don’t Forget Site Speed
If your page takes too long to load, no one will ever see what’s on it. Optimized content can only take you so far. The first step in creating a positive user experience is site speed.
Pro tip - Research has shown that people won’t wait more than a few seconds for a site to load. Any more than that and you’re out of the game.
SEO in 2018 is bringing lots of exciting developments. It seems like the competition heats up more and more each passing year. If you’re interested in cleaning up your SEO game to make sure you’re up to speed, contact Bonsai Media Group today.