Google’s search algorithms are constantly evolving—yet the main function of the search algorithms remains the same. Google wants to provide its users with the best experience possible; it wants to facilitate the fast and easy retrieval of helpful and relevant information, period. All of its algorithmic updates are in service of this goal—and, for marketing professionals to ensure that their SEO efforts remain Google compliant, maintaining an ultimate focus on user experience is crucial.
As we head into 2018, there are a few particular concepts to add to your repertoire, if they’re not there already. These are very much trending in 2018, yet they’re also further proof that, at Google, user experience is always the guiding light.
You’re no doubt familiar with the importance of maintaining a mobile-friendly website. This is one of the most frequently repeated pointers in all of SEO. And you probably know the statistics, too—how more than 50 percent of all Web searches now come from mobile devices; how Google is actually penalizing sites that don’t have good, functional, responsive, and mobile-friendly designs.
What you may not know is that mobile-friendliness is insufficient. In 2018, you need to think in terms of mobile-first.
What does this term mean? Quite simply, that mobile is no longer a second-tier ranking factor. Actually, your website’s ranking signals now come directly from the mobile version of your site—not the desktop version. This is a significant change that Google announced mere months ago.
Going forward, mobile readiness can’t be seen as a way to augment your SEO. Instead, view it as one of the primary factors in your SEO. Some ways to do so:
- Repair broken links and incorrect redirects that you see on your mobile site.
- Make sure all images are compressed.
- Remove website content that isn’t playable on mobile devices.
- Get rid of pop-ups.
- Ensure a fast loading time and streamline mobile usability.
Check your site on different browsers and different devices to make sure the mobile experience is as smooth as can be.
Featured snippets have been around for a few years now and provide users with “rich answers”—answers they can obtain from the SERP itself, without needing to click on a link to view a specific website. Generally, these are short and factual answers to fairly simple, succinct queries.
For example, if you conduct a Google search for “who was the 14th president,” you will find the answer presented to you in the form of a featured snippet, without actually having to go any further than the search results page itself.
Featured snippets occupy “position zero”—meaning they actually come before the top search engine listing. This is, of course, invaluable online real estate. Anything you can do to compete for featured snippet space is worthwhile. Some tips:
- Using your keyword research, hone in on some common queries that can be answered with simple facts—who, what, when, and how many inquiries that relate to your niche.
- Find other featured snippets that rank well within your niche and brainstorm ways to develop similar resources.
- Develop fact-based and informative content—guides, how-tos, etc. Focus on creating robust resources for your users.
As we head into 2018, arguably the biggest search trend is the rise of voice search. Indeed, it is predicted that, by 2020, a majority of online searches will be done through voice. A lot of this stems from the increased popularity of voice-based assistants, like Siri and Alexa.
Optimizing for voice search is key, and it starts with a basic understanding of how voice search is used. A high percentage of voice searches are requests for local content or information—which means local companies with brick-and-mortar locations stand to benefit greatly from this technology.
Here’s how to optimize for it:
- Make sure you have a Google My Business listing, and that you keep it up to date.
- Focus on long-tail keywords that match the conversational style of most voice queries.
- Develop a robust and informative FAQ page.
- Use structured data markup to provide Siri and Alexa with additional information about your site and its content.
A final concept to understand as we enter 2018 is semantic search. In some ways, this is not unlike voice search. It’s fundamentally a matter of understanding how people search; and, what their search intentions are.
Semantic search has been a hot button ever since Google’s Hummingbird update, back in 2013. Its goal is to better understand the natural language used in search queries, and what it says about the search user’s intent.
There’s much that could be said about semantic search, but what it boils down to is this: It’s smart to have content that’s devoted to one specific topic, going in-depth and providing comprehensive information. This is generally a better strategy than developing a dozen smaller, shallower pages about that same topic.
A crash course:
- Choose topics that are relevant to your business, but also that are fairly broad and give you a lot to discuss.
- Ask yourself questions about the topic, and try to empathize with search engine users: Why might they be interested in this topic? What might their search intent be?
- Make your content as rich and detailed as possible without lapsing into repetition or fluff.
- Aim to develop “complete guides” for each of your broad topics.
Expanding Your SEO Toolset
These four concepts represent major trends in SEO—and significant opportunities for you to expand your own skillsets as we enter a new year.
We’d love to help you take advantage of these opportunities, and to present you with some options for improving the efficacy of your SEO as well as your website itself. It all starts with a friendly conversation. To start that dialogue, reach out to the enCOMPASS team today.
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