It was Bob Dylan who said, “the times they are a-changin’” and such a sentiment couldn’t be truer in the SEO world.
The way companies gather, collate and store data is changing; search results are accurate, fast and more personalised to each individual than ever before. And if you asked ten industry experts on their opinion on current trends, there’s a good chance you’ll get ten different interpretations.
Google has very much become the trailblazer of the information age, and as such SEO has changed. The job of the SEO has changed.
It’s not just about keywords and backlinks. It’s far more than optimising meta titles and descriptions. And no longer is it just about content.
Google is on the lookout for a smooth user experience that delivers accurate, immediate personalised information to the right people at the right time.
2017 was a watershed year for SEO – there have been so many changes, big and small. But, the biggest aim of this blog post is not to dwell on what has come before, but rather to provide a bigger picture of where SEO is headed.
Speed = Winning
Speed is huge, we all know that, don’t we?
Not only is it a ranking factor, but it’s also a massive user experience factor. UX, in turn, has an impact on rankings. So, if you can’t get this right, the negative loop is difficult to stop.
But, how do you define speed? Google is happy if a page is able to load in under three seconds and here’s how you can achieve this.
Firstly, take Google’s page speed test. This test is incorporated into the free versions of products such as WebSite Auditor.
Once you’ve run your tests the software returns a selection of on-page factors that have been calculated based on the speed of the page, and how you can improve it.
There is no possible way to convey just how important mobile is for major tech companies, and Google is no exception. Users are more reliant on their phones than ever before and are able to experience an immersive internet experience wherever they are and whenever they want.
In days gone by, websites were made with a desktop-first mentality, with only a few eagle-eyed webmasters choosing to opt for a mobile view as well. Remember those days when surfing the web on a mobile was like picking up a brick with chopsticks – fiddly, frustrating and a near impossibility?
Neglecting mobile, now and further into the future and running a website that not even the best chopstick operator in the world can use, is like committing your website to a slow death. Google has attempted to turn sites mobile friendly within its Chrome browser, but what more can it do?
The smart money is on mobile-first designs becoming a big feature in web design in 2018. Creating a site that looks great on mobile and desktop is a balancing act, but everyone that owns a website has seen this shift coming for some time now.
It’s not just mobile you should be concerning yourself with, but also the expectations and demands of the ever-increasing search market.
As we already mentioned speed is a key factor nowadays and users are expecting instant solutions to their queries using whatever device happens to be on hand at the time. Research by Kissmetrics revealed that if a site takes longer than three seconds it could be losing up to 40% of its traffic – can you afford to lose nearly half of your traffic, particularly if you’re in a competitive marketplace?
Let’s say, by way of an example, that your site is performing well in the loading stakes. What happens then if the user is unable to figure out the best way to navigate where they want to go in just a few seconds? Or maybe they can’t quite figure out what your content is trying to achieve…what is likely to happen? They’ll bounce and go wandering off somewhere else.
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but we all do this on a daily basis when a website doesn’t show us what we want or need to see immediately – first impressions are vital.
This example just goes to show that user experience is far more than just speed. It’s about offering something that is both easy to use and able to inform and show the customer exactly what they wish to see in a matter of seconds; even a millisecond longer means losses in custom.
Video is getting bigger and bigger in digital marketing; we may now be approaching a juncture where it could be just as essential as having a website and a strong social presence. There are two ways in which this could impact your SEO strategies.
Firstly, video is much more interactive and helps keep your audience far more interested in your website for longer periods. And that’s a big thumbs up and a cheesy grin from Google, which translates to some organic ranking boosts. An added benefit with this one is that you’re giving your audience more of a chance to connect with your brand and the products you provide.
The second benefit is that by publishing your videos on YouTube, you have the world at your fingertips and potential traffic from the second most popular website in the world. As well as that you’re piggybacking on YouTube’s powerful domain, so you’ll also have the potential to rank within Google’s search results.
You can use the following ideas to incorporate video into your SEO:
- Creating videos that answer queries your potential customers might have about your products, services and the industry as a whole, whilst also explaining who you and why you do what you do.
- Optimising your videos on YouTube so they show in searches.
Embedding your YouTube videos onto your own website to keep visitors engaged and browsing the site for longer.
Here’s a fact that perhaps you didn’t know: 20% of all Google searches are voice queries, and whilst we know that Google Home and Alexa sales are rising sharply; 20% of all searches is a much higher figure than anticipated and simply cannot be ignored.
However, these voice searches are largely still coming from mobile devices after Google rolled out the Google Assistant on all android phones.
The accuracy of voice assistants findings is continuing to improve and this will see a further rise in people using voice search for fast, decisive queries. That’s why optimising your SEO strategy for voice search will take on an even greater significance.
To do this, more focus must be placed on long-tail keywords and syntax used every day, as well as creating content that is broken down into shorter sections, which answers more queries.
Structured data is a method of formatting HTML that uses a certain language, which in turn tells search engines how to construe information and how to display it in the search results.
Google has never implicitly stated that structured data is an important ranking signal, which probably leads to the question, ‘why bother?’
Well, structured data allows you to augment your search listings in several different ways – rich snippets and Knowledge Graph panels. The former of which can have an impact on your listings click-through rate by over 20%.
With search engines becoming more intelligent and results becoming more and more distinct, can you afford to miss out on the opportunity to stand out from the crowd?
This step-by-step guide to Schema markup is a great place to start.
Small Algorithms Changes Over Big Overhauls
Remember the days when we cowered for weeks under our desks in anticipation of a huge new Google algorithm update?
Websites that were found to be in breach of Google’s guidelines weren’t treated kindly and could see huge ranking hits which meant traffic would spiral into freefall as a result.
That’s not to say that Google has become any more forgiving, but it’s important to remember that the way Google rolls out its algorithms is changing.
Sure, we won’t be bombarded with huge changes that could potentially tank a website in one foul swoop, but, what we will see instead is small algorithm changes that will mean that we’ll be expected to make tweaks and subtle changes on a consistent basis to ensure that the site is conforming.
Google was created back in 1998 and was a kitten compared to the behemoth we see before us today. In the intervening twenty-years, it has become smart, sophisticated and very, very powerful.
Its reach is truly staggering and anything that has the ability to make or break a business in the way Google can is deserving of respect.
We are moving into a new technological plane and keeping ahead of the curve will be essential. If you need a helping hand to ensure that your SEO is up to scratch in 2018, then don’t hesitate to contact us here at POD Digital, we’d be more than happy to help.