Good search engine optimisation practices never stay the same from one year to the next. If you haven’t updated your SEO practices this year, chances are there are a few things you might be able to improve on. In 2018, content is still important, but there are other factors to consider too. How can you rank well in Google in 2018?
Content: Still King after all these Years
The saying “content is king” has been around for a while now: over 20 years, in fact, since the first mention by Bill Gates in 1996. Back when it was first coined, however, the most common kind of advertising content on the internet was stuffed with key words to the point of being all but incomprehensible. Good content is still vital even now; in fact, along with links, it’s one of the top 2 most important ranking factors. But what constitutes good content in 2018?
Content might still be on top, but context comes in a very close second. It’s not just about the key words you use, it’s how you use them, and what they mean within the context of the content. This is one reason why long-form content has been increasingly important in recent years, and why in 2018 the best-ranking content provides an in-depth, in-context look at a subject, rather than lightly skimming over a few key points.
In terms of taking action, therefore, if you can write 2,000 words on a subject, and have that 2,000 words be tightly-packed with great information, do it—don’t condense it to 500. Write articles that provide all the information a reader needs, and they won’t be forced to jump off to another site.
Review Your SERP Structured Data Features
Remember when the search engine ranking page was a list of 10 identical results without any extra features? Compare that to a standard SERP today, and you get something completely different. The first page of Google now contains a variety of new features depending on the searches made, from rich snippets to knowledge panels and local packs. If you make the front page of any search, you have the opportunity to have your listing featured more prominently if you’re optimised for these features. Some of these features, including rich snippets for instance, help Google better understand the content and context on your pages, so they’re useful even when they’re not being displayed.
Note, however, that Google has never confirmed that structured data is a ranking factor. And it’s probably that structured data doesn’t directly affect search engine rankings. However, SERP features are still important, because even if they don’t affect your ranking, they do have the ability to affect your click-through rates. To put it another way, once you’re on the front page, structured data enhances your listings and makes it more likely you’ll get clicks.
Optimise SEO for Voice Searching
According to Google, 55% of teens and 40% of adults use Google voice search every day, and that was in 2014: the numbers are likely to be even higher now. Why is this important? Simply because when people voice search, they do it using different language than they do when performing a text search. With voice searches, people tend to use conversational sentences, rather than typing in a few key words.
Voice search is unlikely to eclipse the traditional text-based search entirely, but it’s still important, and is becoming more so. It’s definitely worthwhile making the effort to optimise content for voice search. The simplest way to do this is to make sure your content includes both a question and its corresponding answer, in two short simple snippets. As an added bonus, this question-and-answer format is the kind of content Google likes to display in knowledge panels.
Note, however, that voice searching is only important if you’re already on the front page of Google’s search engine results. So, this only applies once the most important aspects of SEO, such as content and key words, are in order.
Get Ready for Mobile-First
One of the key changes that Google is making in 2018 is the switch to a mobile-first index. What this means is that for any given website, Google will consider the mobile version of that site to be the “real” version, instead of the desktop version. This will be the case for all searches, even those made from a desktop computer. The roll-out is happening gradually—the internet is a big place, after all. But for all site owners, it’s best to assume it’s happening in 2018. If your site isn’t mobile ready, get it there ASAP.
Speed Becomes a More Significant Ranking Factor in SEO
Another significant announcement from Google in 2018 came early in the year, when the company announced that page speed would become a ranking factor in July. Google estimates that the Speed Update will affect only a small fraction of the slowest-loading pages, noting that pages with great content will continue to rank well even if they’re slower than the average. And Google encourages site owners to “think broadly” about how performance affects the user experience.
Overall, it’s the user experience that Google continues to be primarily concerned with. When you’re adjusting SEO in 2018, always ask yourself, how does this affect the user experience? Stick to changes that make the experience better, and you’ll be on the right track.