SEO in 2018: Where We’re at Today

By Rhonda Bradley / 21 November 2018

Find out what role search engine optimization plays in Google's search traffic in 2018.

Prior to 2017, most marketers thought that the terms “keyword” and “search engine optimization” were synonymous with successful search engine page results.

SEO dynamics evolved dramatically over the past 2-3 years, though, especially in 2018. Writers and marketers should re-examine their approach to and knowledge of current “SEO” by the end of the year.

To succeed with SEO in 2018 and beyond, content marketers should focus on content quality and prioritize topics over keywords.

In this article, we take a look at some of the current top ranking factors for Google. We’ll also show you how to improve your content and website to better compete for a spot on the first page of the search engine results pages.

Create High Quality According to Google Best Practices

Factors such as how long readers stay on the page and whether they click any links within the text help Google determine the value of your content. Yet, readers will likely only stay on your content and click through if it’s high in quality.

Following Google’s webmaster guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your website. 

Google webmaster guidelines screenshot

The most important aspects of Google’s quality guidelines are:

  • Don’t attempt to trick or deceive readers
  • Avoid the temptation to hack search engine algorithms
  • Give your users and Google a good experience

Don’t Attempt to Trick or Deceive Readers

Publishing articles that don’t deliver on what the headline promises is one way that websites attempt to trick the reader. Too often, headlines make big promises in order to entice potential readers to click. 

Instead of creating content for search engines, create content for your readers.

Businesses should focus on effective techniques, such as authentic content marketing, that strive to be of service to its readers without trying to manipulate the audience.

Avoid the Temptation to Hack Search Engine Algorithms

According to Google, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a Google employee.

Also, double-check your SEO strategies with the questions “Does this help my users?” and “Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Direct your efforts toward creating content that makes your website unique and engaging. Is your content valuable to its audience? 

Content managers and webmasters should make themselves familiar with Google’s specific guidelines for techniques such as automatically-generated content and link schemes. These should be avoided.

Give Your Users and Google a Good Experience

Part of a positive user experience (UI) includes maintaining the technical aspects of your site. Your webmaster should plan a clear structure for each piece of content and an SEO-friendly site architecture for your website. 

Screenshot of SEO-friendly architecture
Source

Good structure and architecture help you accomplish two things:

  • Give readers a positive experience on your website
  • Help Google bots find their way around your site

Here are some tips to help improve your website’s user experience. These will help your readers better enjoy your content and will also help Google bots to better understand it.

  1. According to Google, web pages should always use text “to display important names, content, or links.” 
  2. Fill in alt tag descriptions for all your photos.
  3. Write excellent rich snippet descriptions for your articles.
  4. Check your links and use a link-checking tool to ensure that all the links on your site are working and go to live web pages. 
  5. Use valid HTML.
  6. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights to ensure that your pages are loading quickly.
  7. Design for both mobile and desktop devices, and check your sites by using a mobile-friendly testing tool. You should also test your websites in different browsers.
  8. Be sure your site begins with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP” to ensure the safety of your visitors. HTTPS indicates that your website is secure.
  9. Make yourself familiar with how you can help Google find and understand the content on your site.

A strong user experience can greatly improve upon your site’s ability to show up in Google’s search engine results pages.

Employ Linking Structures that Validate Your Authority

Your linking structures help Google understand how popular your site is and whether you’re an authority on any specific topics. There are 3 types of linking you should include in all your blog content:

External links: Always link out to at least 2-3 external websites of authority within your articles. Be sure your external links are coded to open in a new window or tab so you’re not sending visitors away from your website.

Backlinks: Backlinks are links that go from someone else’s website to yours. 

Backlink screenshot
Source

Make it a priority to earn respected backlinks from authoritative websites by building relationships with other bloggers, guest posting on other websites, and offering resources that writers love to refer to, such as reports, surveys, and ebooks.

Internal linking structures: Internal linking structures are a simple way to establish your website as an authority on your area of expertise. 

By planning an architecture for your internal links, all your pieces of content can work to support each other. One internal linking structure, “topic clusters,” can give you a boost in the SERPs while dramatically improving user experience and conversions.

Update Your SEO to Get Ready for the New Year

Your approach to getting listed in the first page of the SERPs should make a defined change from the techniques you probably used 2-3 years ago. If you haven’t already begun executing a new strategy, this is a great time to start. 

As 2018 comes to an end and we prepare for the new year, get a jump on your competition by refreshing your knowledge of the latest trends in organic search optimization. 

One of the greatest benefits of the new Google search dynamic is that it supports and guides you in offering high-quality content that readers enjoy consuming.

owner