No, this is not a post about SEO predictions for 2018. This is a guide based on strategies that are already working and that will work even better throughout this year.
If you’re a regular on SiteProNews and you’ve already read some of my articles, then you must know that the SEO game is changing pretty fast. Each year, there are more than 500 changes to the Google algorithm. Sure, some of them are minor. But their combined force is enough to make us rethink our strategy at least once a year.
OK, maybe “rethink” is a pretty harsh word. Let’s go for “bettering” instead. You see, with each new algorithm change, Google tries to make its search engine friendlier to users. In other words, deliver them better, more targeted content. Which is exactly what we, marketers should also be aiming for.
SEO in 2018 – what to do to boost your ranking
If I were to summarize everything below in a single phrase, it would be authority content. Just like in academia, “publish or perish” has become the new motto. However, it’s not just about publishing any kind of content. In 2018, there will be no game-changing SEO without game-changing copywriting.
But I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
Let’s look at the most important SEO factors to consider this year.
1. RankBrain is the game master
In 2017, Google announced that they will be letting artificial intelligence run the search. And the name of the AI algorithm in charge is RankBrain.
What does RankBrain do exactly?
Glad you asked!
First of all, it learns from human users. Then, it uses that knowledge to rank websites accordingly.
Here’s a search example to make things easier. Let’s say you’re looking for the perfect margarita recipe. The first results in Google look like this:
Now, you’re hosting a big party and you want nothing less than perfect margaritas for your guests. Instinctively, you click on the first link. But you realize that the recipe is poorly written, the indications aren’t clear and you’re not too crazy about the photos, either.
It would take you about 5 seconds to spot all that.
So you ”bounce” back to the results page and you click on the third link. That one offers you not one, but seven ways to make a margarita. You can surely find your perfect recipe there, right? Of course, you hang out on this website a little longer. You compare the recipes, you choose the best one and maybe you even jot down the shopping list for your perfect margarita.
Well, RankBrain will notice all that. If more people follow the same pattern, RankBrain will conclude that the first result isn’t so good, but the third one is amazing. So it will penalize the first website and boost the ranking of the third one.
The conclusion? Authority content always wins.
2. Think about organic ranking as just that – “organic”
When we use “organic” in this context we don’t think about living organisms.
But we should.
Just like the example above illustrates, nothing is set in stone when it comes to organic rankings. The SERPs are continuously evolving.
You may be ranking in the top 10 results right now, but all it takes to demote your article to the 50th position are a few competitors with copy that’s better than yours and a few users bouncing off your pages quickly.
While there’s nothing you can do about your competitors’ writing skills, you can definitely make sure that yours are up to par. And, most importantly, you can make sure that you publish regularly. Give Google bots a chance to find something new every time they crawl your website.
3. Get conversational
The rise of voice search increases the need for a conversational tone even in written content. Assistants like Siri and Alexa are here to stay and to make life easier for their users.
A voice search user is unlikely to use non-natural, short phrases like “frappuccino”. They are more likely to use something complex and precisely targeted. Something along these lines: “Siri, how do I make a frappuccino at home?” or “Alexa, what’s the best frappuccino close to me?”
What does this mean for you?
First of all, you need to adapt your content to a more conversational tone of voice.
Next, you have no reason to shy away from long-tail keywords. Quite the opposite. They may have a lower search volume now, but this won’t last. Plus, long-tail keywords bring in more targeted traffic. This means that people who click on your link will stay longer on your page (see the first point to understand why this matters so much).
4. Long form, in-depth content wins
In the old age (read: more than 5 years ago), Google bots would crawl your website to see how many times you used a keyword in your copy. The more, the merrier and the better your ranking.
But, as we all remember, this simple strategy lead to a polluted Internet. Zero-value, keyword-stuffed content reigned supreme.
The users hated it. And Google got smarter.
Today’s RankBrain is completely different. The keyword density still matters, but not as much as you might think. The bots look at other things primarily: image ALT tags, keyword in URL, H1 tags, meta descriptions and so on.
But, most importantly, they look at context.
They know which words and phrases are typically associated with a certain keyword. So they’re looking for those.
An example: if you write about “windows”, the bots will need to find out whether your article is about the operating system or replacement windows for your home. Let’s say you’re writing about the operating system. Your copy would have to include terms like:
- Windows 8, Windows 10 (or any reference to previous versions)
- Bill Gates
- Operating system
- Office suite
- Windows installation tips
This list could go on forever, but you get the point. Google needs context and you can give it through words like the ones above, which are called LSI keywords.[I wrote an in-depth article about LSI keywords, how they can help you and how to use them here.]
You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with long-from content.
It’s quite simple: the more context you give, the better you will rank. In order to get a chance to use as many LSI keywords as possible, you need to write more than your competitors. A 300-word article would never make the cut.
Ideally, you should try to keep your posts around or above 2,000 words. Aside from giving you plenty of room for context, a greater word count also gives you a chance to cover every aspect of a topic. In turn, this will keep users on your page and lower your bounce rate.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to ramble on and on just to hit your target word count. Once again, being natural matters. Cover your topic in-depth, but don’t go overboard just so you write more than Wikipedia itself on a given topic.
5. Don’t ignore mobile
60% of searches on Google are done via a mobile device. That number will increase every day.
This is why Google is switching to a mobile-first index.
In a nutshell, this means that your mobile page will be considered the reference point in your ranking by Google bots. While your non-mobile optimized pages might still appear in desktop searches, you will be completely invisible to mobile ones.
Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly, of course. Here’s how:
- Switch to a responsive version instead of a mobile one – this ensures a seamless experience across devices.
- Don’t hide any copy behind “Read more” buttons – Google won’t be able to see that.
- Make sure the website is easy to use across mobile devices (even responsive websites have glitches)
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” This adage couldn’t be any truer for SEO. Yes, we are faced with tons of changes, but they all point in the same direction: better content and user friendliness.
In other words, if your readers love your content, so will Google. It’s time to get human and write for real persons instead of bots.
Thus, it is imperative that when you hire SEO copywriters you steer clear of old-school ones. Forget about keyword density for a moment and focus on context and going in-depth. Just like a bad margarita recipe, your readers can easily tell when you’re faking it i.e. when you’re just writing for rankings. Give them something useful and they will flock to your website.