With the close of 2017 quickly approaching it looks like everyone is getting their crystal ball out and making their position known regarding which way Google and specifically organic SEO is heading in the coming months.
What Google determines quality ranking factors are vague at best, and constantly changing, as they have every year. In terms of overall strategy most of the SEO community focuses on available data, changes in the actual search results, and collaborating data with other SEO professionals to find commonalities.
In the spirit of collaborating and sharing,I’ve invited a few of my colleagues to share something actionable and concise you should focus on in the coming months if you want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to not only getting new traffic but retaining and converting better on existing traffic in a 2018 search ecosystem.
“Content Pruning, Mobile, Speed & Security should be prioritized in 2018”
Brock Murray, CEO seoplus
Here are my priority recommendations for 2018:
Mobile-first indexing finally began to roll out in mid-2017. With a full roll-out on the docket for 2018, you need to ensure the mobile version of your site is not an afterthought but a priority. Ideally, your site should be responsive so you have the same content on both your mobile and desktop sites. To start, analyze the Google Analytics Mobile Overview Report to compare your traffic trends on desktop, mobile, and tablet. Analyzing your site’s mobile metrics such as bounce rate and session duration will give you a good sense of whether your site is addressing user needs when they’re on the go. Aim to improve these metrics, and you’ll see it reflected in better organic rankings as the switch to mobile-first indexing rolls out.
Website Speed & Security
Think about what users want from a site: they want it to be fast, and they want it to be safe. For this reason, speed and security should be main priorities. Speed ties in heavily with mobile usability and is an influencing factor in conversion rate optimization (CRO). If your page takes longer than three seconds to load, you’re alienating your audience already. Look for services like CloudFlare for firewall protection, DDoS management, as well as speed and caching features. As a bonus, CloudFlare also offers a free shared SSL certificate, which means your site can load over an HTTPS connection. This is another ranking factor that will grow in importance in 2018, so you’re wise to get ahead of the trend.
This feature is linked to your Google My Business (GMB) listing. Posts will show up on the Google search results page and can be used to promote an offer, event, or just drive attention to a particular service offering. Posting is completely free and your post expires after 7 days. What I love about this feature is it allows you to control a good portion of the page’s real estate on searches that display your GMB listing. Between organic page results, map listings, featured snippets, and now Google posts, that’s a lot of potential visibility without even dipping your toes into paid ads.
Video Integration and Video SEO
Your content should go way beyond boilerplate blog posts. If you’re not into infographics, podcasts, slideshows, and other forms of interactive content, you need to start. This goes double for video integration and video SEO. If you haven’t yet, launch a YouTube channel and optimize your YouTube videos by choosing a relevant file name, adding a description, filling out categories, adding annotations, and so on. As the second-most trafficked website on the internet, YouTube essentially has more important search engine than Bing or Yahoo, and you’ll also rank in video searches on Google. Next, embed your video on as many relevant websites as possible, in particular any service pages or blog posts.
Content Improvement & Pruning
We’re also so obsessed about building content, but have you taken the time to audit and improve content from the early years on your site? Thin, poorly written, or just plain bad content can drive away users and negatively affect your SEO. Audit your entire site to review old blog posts and thin pages. Try to improve pages that have little to no traffic or backlinks and conduct an outreach campaign to drive views and links. If you can’t improve the page or it’s not worth keeping, simply 404 the page. This can reduce the amount of useless or outdated content on your site and help your new and existing pages rank better.
Take action on these five on-page and off-page measures, and watch your SEO start trending in the right direction in 2018 and beyond.
“More content, more relevancy – and more conversions.”
David Morneau, CEO VisionMG.ca
There are so many sites vying for the same top ten search results, that it’s easy for me to see how Google needs to be picky with who they decide to let rank and how they determine what’s an authoritative source.
For local businesses making sure you have all third party directories, listings, and data sources consistent is a given for establishing local relevancy, but an easy way to stand out is to bolster your on-site content to specifically outperform your competitors. The trick is to make sure this works for Google, but also doesn’t hurt your on-site performance and goal conversions.
So ideally we want more actual content for Google to consume on the page, but we don’t want that dragging down the user experience or making it difficult for prospects to engage with your brand or goal content.
My solution to this has been to not only build robust inner service pages, but hide even more content within tabs as seen at the bottom of this site our firm recently built out for a local Montreal lawyer. SEMRush, one of the top search intelligence tools out there has noted that there is generally a positive correlation between longer content and good rankings.
Adding content is one of the fastest things to implement on straggling pages and can have a great outcome.
Combined with a strategic outreach plan, we’re pulling in 20-25 criminal lawyer leads a month that can be attributed to this property.
“Featured snippets, visual and voice search trends keep coming in 2018”
Tommy Thanasi from OracleNova
As we close out 2017 and head into the new year, here’s a few things that should be on your watch list for how search will shape your organic and paid traffic strategies.
Featured Snippets with Interactive Answers
Throughout 2017, I’ve seen the rise of the interactive accordion. In addition to the search results and depending on the search query, users are now faced with a never-ending loop of answers and recommendations. Google’s goal: to give searchers what they want, and feed their machine learning.
Takeaway: Part of your content strategy should focus on resourceful Q&A style articles. Be as resourceful to the user as possibly as humanly possible, and you’ll get rewarded.
Visual Search Peeking Through
Humans are visual beings. Pinterest capitalizes on this perfectly, and as such, has seized an $11 billion value according the Wall Street Journal.
While we may not see a jarring leap in 2018, we will see results and related products/services be less contextual, and more visual.
If Bing’s already doing it, you know Google isn’t going to let them take too far of a lead.
Takeaway: Unless you’re creating your own visual search engine, use tons of images, videos, and when it makes sense, hire someone to create tools that guide users through a journey, not just a form.
An Increase in Mobile Voice (Spy) Search
Anything you say, can and will be sold…to track you. With the help of Siri, Cortana, and legislation, the overlap between laziness, convenience and law has been a perfect opportunity for advertisers to slip in unnoticed. More and more things are being tracked (ex. live times at Wal-Mart)……so why wouldn’t advertisers use this to their advantage? Smartphone use has increased 26% in under 7 years and is only going one direction. While I’ve been preaching this, and taking fire from all directions for over 4 years, it’s now starting to become of a topic of serious discussion.
Try it out.
Turn on your ‘virtual assistants’ and talk near your phone or computer about something random…like designing a family crest. Then check the ads your being served that day.
Takeaway: For mobile advertisers, this is great. For privacy buffs, not so much. Long story short, it’s time to put your tin foil hat back on if you’re not on the money-making side of this.