The field of search engine optimization never stands still. Google, the most popular search engine in the entire world, continues to make adjustments in order to ensure a consistent, positive, and successful user experience for anyone using it to find the information they need.
That is a simple truth, but also one that comes with powerful implications. Some of the basics you learned about SEO a few years ago may still hold true, but many of them no longer apply. In fact, as Google evolves its algorithms and adjusts to audience trends, they will or have already become completely irrelevant to brands looking to increase their organic search presence.
That might sound dire, but is no reason to despair. Instead, it simply means that you have to consistently adapt your Google strategy in order to stay ahead of the changes, and offer the type of content the search engines looks to serve its audience.
When you do that, you don't just hold pace with the changes, but actually have the chance to elevate your brand presence above competition that is not as quick to adjust. In other words, staying on top of current trends can actually become a crucial competitive advantage. With that in mind, here are 5 tips to adjust your SEO strategy for 2018 and beyond.
1) Account for the Rise of Voice-Based Search
Getting an answer from your favorite search engine is easier than ever before. You no longer have to type; instead, you can simply ask your phone or home assistant a question that they'll answer through a Google search. Even laptops and desktop computers are starting to offer similar features.
This availability is significantly affecting search behaviors. ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice-based. That, in turn, means you have to adjust your current SEO strategy to account for this rising trend.
One step is to adjust your long-tail keywords for more natural language searches. A user will become more likely to search for "women's fashion outlets near me" than "fashion outlets women Anytown NY." Targeting full sentences and questions will become more important than ever before. Other actions include aiming for the featured snippet on the search engine results page (SERP), and optimizing your search results for actions to be taken after the answer is shown or read.
2) Prepare for the Mobile-First Index
At this point, it should come as no surprise to you that mobile searches are beginning to dominate internet behavior. In fact, the majority of internet users now use their smartphone or tablet to browse the web and get their questions answered.
We've already seen search engines try to account for that fact. In 2018, that effort will accelerate. We don't yet know exactly when Google will officially release its Mobile-First Index. But when it does, the algorithm update has the potential to upend SEO as we know it.
That might sound dramatic, but is true. In the context of the mobile-first index, all websites (even those viewed from desktop computers) will be ranked by their mobile-friendliness. Responsive design, mobile-based navigation, fast loading times, and more visual content will no longer be an option. They will all become absolutely crucial to remain successful in getting found via search engines.
3) Lengthen Your Content for Increased Value
At first sight, it might seem counter-intuitive to the above point about mobile dominance. Do smartphone users really want to read longer content? In fact, they do. As mobile internet usage has increased, so has the ideal length required for content to rank highly on Google and other search engines.
To clarify: technically, there is no minimum length required to rank your content on results pages. Even a 300 word page will be successful if it garners enough engagement and backlinks, and sits within an SEO-optimized site structure. Increasing the word count on your content is not a magic bullet to improve its SEO rankings.
That said, some clear trends have emerged over the past few years. Longer content tends to add value for readers, which translates into a higher likelihood to take action, more time on site, and increased potential for backlinks to your website. A minimum of 1,000 words is ideal; some studies even suggest that 3,000 words and more receive the highest amount of engagement.
4) Build Your SEO for SERP Features
Remember when every search engine results page was a simple list of relevant links? Those times are long over. As Search Engine Land points out, 2017 was the year in which features such as quick answers and expanded snippets took over the SERP.
Land a spot in one of these highly-valued features, and your potential to be seen and engaged with increase dramatically. That is especially the case in connection to the above-mentioned voice-based search, which only pulls in a top result instead of a list of potential answers.
Using a variety of analytics tools, you can determine which of your keywords and pages fulfill the initial criteria to rank in one of the snippets. Then, optimize your content specifically to rank in one of them for maximum SEO success.
5) Drive Interactions After the Click
Google is getting intelligent. That's not a cliche; in the recent past, the platform's machine learning software RankBrain has begun to influence the ways in which websites are ranked on individual keyword queries and results pages.
RankBrain's rise is significant because it no longer relies on the traditional SEO success factors. Backlinks, page load time, and natural use of keywords still matter, but they're not the only variables to be considered. The algorithm can also measure what happens after your users click on your content.
The longer they stay, the more they interact with your page, and the further they go into your website, the more value RankBrain assigns your website. Consistency between the SERP link text and the content itself also counts. That means SEO is becoming more comprehensive than ever before. To succeed, you need to not just optimize your content to be found, but also to be successful in encouraging your users to read and interact with it.
Preparing Your SEO Strategy for the Present and Future
Read through the above tips again. You might notice an overarching trend for each of them: search engine optimization is becoming more natural. In fact, it's so far removed from its early days of keyword stuffing and quantitative link building that it's barely recognizable anymore. To succeed, you need to account not just for its technical aspects, but for user behaviors and trends that have caused Google and other search engines to make these significant updates.
That's not a cause for concern. Address these issues now, and you will be well-positioned for this new era of SEO. By staying ahead of the trends and your competition, you can enjoy sustainable success in reaching an audience willing and eager to learn about your brand. Work with us if you need a partner in building an SEO strategy designed for the present and future.
To learn more about how to improve your marketing strategies, give us a call at 661-702-1310!