SEO Trends 2018

Why is SEO Important?

Before we get into the SEO Trends, lets first briefly discuss why SEO is important.

Consumers prefer to purchase online as it is more convenient or search online for products and services before they go to their local stores.

Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or solutions to their problems. If you have a website, blog or online store, you can tap into this vast market with unlimited potential and growth.

Aside from the obvious advantage of gaining more visibility and traffic, SEO also helps in establishing your brand and credibility. Even if searchers don’t click through your site, there is a certain amount of value in simply appearing in search results for terms directly related to your business.

 

What are the key ranking factors?

If you want to get your site ranked, you need to adhere to Google’s guidelines and optimize the key ranking factors.

There have been many small and major updates and changes in the SEO industry, but over the years the main core ranking factors have stayed the same.

 

Main Core Ranking Factors:

Unique and Crawl-able content throughout the site

In the SEO industry, we have a saying that ‘Content is King’. Google loves and heavily value’s content. They have released one of the most important algorithm called ‘Panda’ to check if the content on web pages are sufficient and unique.

By content I am referring to TEXT CONTENT, images and videos are not included. And not just the text content of the body of the page but also on the title tag and meta description tag.

 

Content penalties to avoid:

  • Thin content penalty – sites with very few text content, for example, portfolio sites that are composed mostly of images are tagged by Google as pages with thin content.
  • Duplicate content penalty – pages with the same text content as other pages on the site or other sites. Ex. Products on e-commerce sites with different brands usually use the same text content describing the product, and this usually leads to a duplicate content penalty.

You can use copyscape.com to check for duplicate content.

The content of the site must be unique and not a duplicate of any page within the site and on other sites.

The body of the page must have at least 1-2 paragraphs to avoid thin content issues.

The title and meta description of each page must be different and clearly describes what the page is about. The title tag must be 60-75 characters, and the meta description tag must be between 100-160 characters.

 

Other Tips:

  • Google is not able to see the text inside images and has difficulty seeing the text inside tables, and JavaScript’s so it would be best to put text as an HTML text on the page.
  • Avoid using Pop-Ups, Overlays, Modals, Interstitials. This 2017 Google announced that they are giving lower value and authority to sites using these elements as they interfere with user experience and also will make it hard for Google to see the content of the page.

Read more about SEO friendly content: Content Optimization

Keywords on the key elements of the site

Another ranking factor that has been crucial since the beginning of SEO is ensuring that your target keywords are found on the key on-page elements:

  • URL
  • title tag
  • meta description tag
  • body text content
  • heading tag
  • alt text attribute of images
  • anchor text attribute of links on the page

Adding your target keywords on these key elements helps Google identify what the page is about and what keywords/search terms it is relevant to and thus will help you get ranked.

Though you need to add the keywords, you must ensure that the title, meta description, body text, etc. reads naturally as they are not only intended for Search Engines but equally for the human visitors as well.

Other tips:

  • Meta keyword tag used to be a ranking factor but is no longer used It does not provide any benefit and might even be used by competitors to spy on what keywords you are targeting, so it is better not to use/disable meta keyword tag.

Read our in-depth guide on On-page Optimization

Remove Blackhat techniques

Blackhat and whitehat are terms derived from Western movies wherein the good guy would wear a white hat and the bad guy’s wear the black hat.

The terms have been adapted to describe SEO techniques approved by the search and those that violate them. Here is the list of blackhat techniques to avoid:

Hidden text

  • Hiding text on a page so human visitors will not see them but will be visible to search engines through:
    • serving text content in your HTML document
    • serving an image or flash replacement, usually through CSS styling
    • the image is usually a background image and is not seen by search engines
  • This is used for keyword stuffing a page, targeting a competitor brand or targeting miss spelled keywords w/o affecting the user experience on the site.
  • No one would like to see 20-30 keywords spread-out or miss spelled keywords all over the page, so blackhat SEO’s hide them.

Invisible links

  • Hiding links to irrelevant pages or sites to help get rankings but is hidden so human visitors won’t go and visit the link.
  • For website owners who have multiple sites on different industries, sometimes they would interlink their sites but hide the links so human visitors won’t go to the other sites, but Google will see and crawl those links.

Cloaking

  • Showing different content to the search engines and different content to the users through redirecting or having two different pages. Ex. Serving a page of HTML text to search engines while showing a page of images or Flash to users.
  • The content on a page tricks search engines to rank them for their targeted keywords while in reality, the content users are seeing doesn’t reflect those targeted keywords.

Keyword stuffing

  • Stuffing keywords on the key elements of the page to help it get ranked for various keywords. This was an effective method a long time ago, but Google has caught up to this malpractice and is penalizing sites.

Doorway pages

  • Are one-page sites that are intended to rank for specific keywords like affiliate sites.
  • Google released an update specifically targeting doorway pages as these pages/sites are mainly intended to get rankings and not for human visitors.

Duplicate Content/Content Theft

  • Refers to stealing content from other websites. This is most commonly known as plagiarism.
  • Search engines prefer unique content to provide to the users, duplicate content is perceived as one of the worst black hat SEO techniques.

Clickbait

  • Is an eye-catching and deceptive headline written with the sole purpose of making you click on It says one thing in the headline and another thing on the site.

Shady Redirects

  • Is redirecting users to a non-relevant site.
  • When you click play to see a movie on an online movie site it redirects you to all kind of sites, most of them being unrelated.

These methods used to be effective before but as they say, no crime goes unpunished, and Google has caught up and improved their algorithm to find these malpractices. If you try to trick Google, you will eventually get caught and penalized.

 

Natural Linkbuilding

Firstly, let’s understand how important the backlinks are to your website. I am sure you have heard the term “backlinks”. It refers to links from other pages on the web pointing to a page on your site. Each backlink serves as a vote, similar to an election if you get a lot of votes that means a lot of people value and vouch for the content of the page and thus Google will see it as worth showing on Google Search Result Page (SERP).

How those votes will be attributed to a keyword is by the anchor text. It is the text where the link is placed. Using the election analogy, if they vote you for “best online store in the US” (the anchor text used was “best online store in the US”) then you will get ranked for the term “best online store in the US”.

Because of how important this ranking factor is and how susceptible to abuse, Google set some guidelines and created the algorithm called “Penguin” to filter and penalize sites that are violating their guidelines.

Ideally, you want to entice and provide good user experience to visitors that they voluntarily write content on their site/blog/social media accounts with a link back to your site. This is the natural way of getting links, and this is what Google wants to see. Therefore, on all of our linkbuilding efforts, we want to ensure that we make it look like “natural linkbuilding”.

So what are the standard guidelines for link building?:

  • Balanced Anchor text profile
  • When building links to your site, you must vary the anchor text used with branded terms (name of your business or domain name), generic terms (e., click here, visit us now, etc.) and keyword terms (your target keywords, i.e., best online store in the US). This is to leave a more natural footprint.
  • Using too many keywords will not be natural. Likewise, using too many generic and branded terms will not boost your site to get ranked for your target keywords. So you must find a perfect balance.
  • Diversity of link sources
  • You must also get links from different sites, back to the election analogy, you won’t get elected if you only get votes from the same person. It is the collection of votes that will get you ranked, and again it will not look natural if you only get links from a few websites.
  • Diversity of linked pages
  • When people link to a site they usually just mention or provide the domain or URL of the homepage that is why most links are usually towards the homepage, but you must also build links to the internal pages of your site to make it look more natural and more efficiently increase the overall authority of your site. Link to your other main pages like product, service, or pricing pages.
  • Quality of link sources
  • Where you get links from is also important. Getting links from authority and well-established sites like Forbes holds a lot more weight than getting a link from a tumbler page or a Pinterest post. Universities, government websites, and non-profit organizations represent examples of high authority domains.
  • Relevance of link sources
  • Getting links from a random site provides less value than getting a link from a site in the same industry as Google counts it as a vote from a peer.

But how do you get all of those links in the first place? After all, most people only want to link to sites that they know, and only a few will voluntarily link to your site especially if you have a brand-new website.

Here best ways to get links from:

  • Get featured on Local News Media
  • Articles in online magazine
  • Articles on Industry relate blog
  • Local directory Listings
  • Listing on curation sites
  • Social media mentions

To learn more read: Building links to get ranked in 2018

What are the latest developments and trends in SEO?

Google algorithm has evolved throughout the years based on the demands and trends from consumers. There have been several major changes in the past couple of years.

Local Presence

Google’s main goal is to provide what the users need and want so they try their best to provide personalized search results. For example, if you are in Sydney and searching for top sushi restaurants Google will show sushi restaurants around your area.

This is crucial, especially for local businesses.

Google has made it easy to look-up for local information that includes company business hours, address, phone number, online reviews and more. Google also introduced local ranking factors.

What you should do:

  • The first step is you must include the Name, Address and Phone number (NAP) of your company throughout the pages of your site. Ideally in the footer or header section. To ensure that your visitors find you and the NAP is part of Google’s Local ranking factors.
  • Then claim and optimize your Google My Business Account. This helps you to appear in local search results for queries specific to your products or services.
  • Get citations on local directories – Google takes data from local directories to help them with showing local results.
  • Get links from local media, news outlets, blogs, etc. I have previously discussed that links count as votes, Google will give more value to links from local websites (sites of businesses around your area or on your city, country, ) as they are votes from people and businesses around you. Local links/votes are more relevant to your local rankings.

 

Google Quick Answer Box

When you search for information on Google, you might have noticed a list of search results along with an informational box at the top of the page that offers an immediate answer to your search terms. This area is known as Google Quick Answers Box.

After the Hummingbird update in 2015, Google brought a change in the search algorithm to improve results for “conversational search.” And, with the release of Rank Brain, the search engine is smarter at answering user specific questions, rather than considering only specific keywords.

Tips to help your site appear on Google Quick Answer Box:

  • Create content with phrases like “how” “why” and “where”
  • Create content that will answer common questions that your target market will be searching for.
  • Most Quick Answer Box shows lists and tables so you should have content answering common questions by target market on paragraph, lists and tables.
  • Eliminate questions that are already showing up in Google Quick Answer box.
  • Use Google Keyword Planner to identify relevant queries to your industry.
  • Look-up for Google Related Searches that matches your specific keyword..
  • You can also refer to queries from “Google People also ask” box.

 

Mobile Optimization

We are probably only months away from Google’s roll-out of the mobile-first index. This means that Google will rank pages based on the mobile version of the page.

Google still considers the desktop version for rankings, however, the addition of mobile site along with other important factors that include speed and user experience will be the key to your site’s search engine visibility.

How to prepare for mobile-first index:

  • Use responsive design – one that displays content based on the screen size of the visitor. This option allows you to make a mobile site that functions well, works for users and is good for Google.
  • Ensure your site loads fast on both desktop and mobile.
  • Remove pop-ups as it does not work well on mobile and interfere with mobile user experience.
  • Make sure to run a mobile-friendly test on all pages of your site to check if your website is optimized for mobile use.
  • Make sure your primary content is on or seen on your mobile site.

 

Read our in-depth guide on Importance of mobile-friendliness in SEO

Secure HTTPS/SSL Sites

HTTPS is simply the protocol that ensures your website is being viewed over a safe connection. To be able to add an S to an HTTP web address, one needs to acquire a so-called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This will make it possible for a site’s visitor data to be encrypted and secured.

To implement an advanced secure connection for users, in 2014 the search engine giant announced HTTPS as a ranking signal. Google announced that they would be giving a small ranking benefit to websites using SSL certificate (websites on HTTPS).

You need to take the proper steps to ensure your traffic doesn’t suffer. That means makes sure to communicate to Google that you moved your site from HTTP to HTTPS.

Google identifies several reasons to switch to HTTPS in their website migration guide:

  • Added advantage in rankings
  • Data sent using HTTPS is secured via Transport Layer Security protocol (TLS), which provides three key layers of protection:
    • Encrypting the exchanged data to keep it secure from eavesdroppers. That means that while the user is browsing a website, nobody can “listen” to their conversations, track their activities across multiple pages or steal their information.
    • Data integrity. Data cannot be modified or corrupted during transfer, intentionally or otherwise, without being detected.
    • Proves that your users communicate with the intended website. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and builds user trust, which translates into other business benefits.

Making the switch from HTTP to HTTPS:

  • Implement first on a test server to ensure that you get everything right.
  • Read any documentation regarding your server or CDN for HTTPS.
  • Get a security certificate and install on the server. This will vary depending on your hosting, but the process is usually well-documented.
  • Update all HTTP references on your site to HTTPS, like internal links, templates, scripts, images, paths and CMS-specific settings.
  • Crawl the site to make sure you didn’t miss any links, and nothing is broken. You can export any insecure content in one of the Screaming Frog reports if this is the crawler you are using.
  • Make sure any external scripts that are called support HTTPS.
  • Update sitemaps to use HTTPS versions of the URLs.
  • Update your robots.txt file to include your new sitemap.
  • Add the HTTPS version of your site to Google Search Console.
  • Track your HTTP to HTTPS migration carefully in your analytics software and within Google Search Console.

This is usually something best left to IT professionals as they can get done quickly and correctly. It can sometimes be overwhelming for someone who may not have an IT background.

 

HotDot Web Services SEO (Bjorn Christian)

About HotDot Web Services SEO (Bjorn Christian)

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