Search engine optimization is constantly evolving, and 2018 brings new trends that will affect ranking factors. Voice-search technology and digital assistants are changing the way users form queries. Link-building will continue to be important to ranking, necessitating a diversified link-building plan and comprehensive backlink profile.
Google’s focus is the user, so marketers must keep an eye on optimizing user experience through solid content, fast page loads, and mobile accessibility. In the new year, marketers need to stay ahead of the curve to keep pages at the top of search engines.
Voice Search Transforms How We Interact with the Internet
Scientists are gaining new insights into how language is processed, and what they are learning will be significant for how we interact with the internet going forward. The mind processes spoken language and written language in ways that are closely related, but not identical. This explains why you may have a good speaker who is a poor writer, and vice versa. These independent systems mean that how we phrase questions when typing on a keyboard, and how we phrase them when speaking, can be quite different.
Until now, this dichotomy hasn’t significantly affected SEO. According to Google, voice searches already make up 20 percent of all searches. As mobile continues to increase its dominance in internet searches this will continue to rise. Additionally, digital home assistants like Google Home, Amazon Echo and its associated line of products, and even smart TV systems allow users to ask questions and have them answered instantly anywhere in the home.
Whereas typed searches are generally short, keyword-laden snippets, voice searches are generally longer, more conversational. When vocalizing a search, people are less likely to search for “Thai Restaurants, New York”, and more likely to search for “What are the best restaurants in Queens for getting Thai food?”. Long-tail searches are practically a must when optimizing for spoken searches. Consumers are looking for more detailed answers ,specific to their query. No one can target everything, but the key is to find the common thread between keywords so content is positioned to meet users wherever they search.
Simply loading keywords into content won’t be enough to generate results from spoken searches. Marketers need to provide depth in order to answer nuanced questions, and must keep the follow-up in mind as well. Voice searches such as “Where is the closest dry cleaners?” are often followed up with “What time are they open until?” To stand out in voice searches, it is important to answer not just the initial question, but the most likely follow up questions as well in order to rank higher in a search result. This differs substantially from how a typed search typically works, and with the growth of voice searches, if the content you deliver doesn’t meet users’ needs, it is likely that overall search results will suffer.
Make User Experience Top Priority
It is all too easy to get tunnel vision when dealing with SEO, so optimization becomes the goal, rather than providing the optimum experience for the user. The ultimate goal of Google’s, or any search algorithm, is to return results that users actually want to see. Sites that fail to understand this fact end up trying to trick search engines into a higher ranking which generally fails today. Re-evaluate how your site caters to the user and do whatever it takes to re-engineer any area that isn’t explicitly designed to deliver the highest user experience.
Google may finally implement the mobile first index early in 2018. This would treat a site’s mobile page as the “real” page even if being searched from a desktop. With the majority of web searches coming from mobile devices, shouldn’t you already be treating your mobile page as the default for your site? Rather than having a mobile specific site, the best answer is to design a responsive site that adjusts according to the browser environment. This lets you define the user experience for all users and maximize the look of your website, whether users find you on desktop, mobile, tablets, their television, or anywhere else.
Speed continues to rank high on user satisfaction, and that is reflected in search results. The faster the page loads, the happier the user, and the more likely it is to rank higher, which leads to more users happy with the faster load times…it’s obvious how this works. Google’s free WebSite Auditor will not only provide information on how fast the site loads, but will highlight problem areas and suggest how to resolve the issue.
Solid content is as important as ever. It is harder to trick Google into believing a site’s content is meaningful when it is really just keyword laced fluff. RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that measures how users interact with search results and ranks them based on that data. A quality result sees users spend just over 3 minutes on a site after click-thru. Providing quality, engaging content on a site is the surest method of increasing a site’s ranking on the system.
Engineering for Search Engines Is Still Important
While everything mentioned so far has direct impact on the user experience for your site, there is still a place for optimizing in order to provide better interaction with the search engine itself. Search engine result page (SERP) features are an area where opportunities exist to make a site stand out to the search engine, and therefore, to the end user.
Structured data formats HTML in a way that specifies how to translate content to a search engine, which results in a structured method of displaying the content on SERPs. Structured data likely isn’t a ranking signal but the more appealing your search result in a SERP, the more likely you are to see the click-thru rate (CTR), improve. Rich snippets boost CTR by as much as 30 percent.
Getting a featured snippet for a query is the new holy grail for SERPs. Displayed above search results, the snippet provides a quick answer to a query and can grant a site credibility and higher search rankings. Nevertheless, it is important to analyze whether this is something your site should aim for. CTR typically drops for the featured snippet. Users already have the answer to their question and don’t feel more can be gained by clicking on that link and instead look lower or abandon the search altogether. Before blindly charging forward to get that coveted featured snippet, make sure this makes sense for your site.
Being at the top of the pack for search results is ultimately about providing users the content they want in an attractive package that will engage users’ attention. Quality sites will rank highly, as long as you pay attention to details, and understand where the user is searching now.
SEO is an aspect of modern day marketing that is constantly changing. If you need help bringing on a talented marketing professional to make sure SEO drives revenue for your business, feel free to contact us here or call (855) 848-8568.