If you're even remotely familiar with the world of digital marketing, you've heard of search engine optimization or SEO. SEO is one of the most important digital marketing strategies today, and without the proper execution, businesses can falter and fall behind the competition.
SEO is an ever-evolving field with new strategies and techniques developed regularly. This marketing technique, however, has to keep up with regular changes in search engine algorithms. That's why marketers in 2018 need to keep an eye on the trends and stay ahead of the game.
This article explores seven SEO tips and tricks to help small business owners surge ahead and win the search engine game against their competition. If these strategies are properly implemented, they can help improve brand visibility, search engine rankings and overall website performance.
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1. Focus on voice.
In 2016, Google claimed that 20 percent of all search queries on its mobile search platform were voice-based. This number has only increased with the launch of devices like Google Home, Amazon's Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc. An increasing number of people ask questions through voice instead of typing out the search query in the search bar.
Marketers need to adapt their strategy to accommodate this change. Content must have more long-tail keywords and a conversational tone. It's also a good idea to include syntax used in everyday language, because voice search will become more sophisticated down the line.
2. Think mobile first.
Mobile search has already surpassed desktop search. Voice-based search will only catalyze this further in 2018. Most people use voice search from their smartphone devices and not from home assistants like Alexa and Google Home. Google and other search engines have noticed this trend and will make the switch to the mobile-first strategy.
This means Google will rank websites based on the quality and content of the mobile version rather than the main desktop version, as it has done in recent years. Accelerated mobile pages will help websites (and companies) stay ahead of the game and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Google will assess how the mobile version performs, how quickly it loads and how easy it is to use before ranking the pages.
3. Don't overlook traffic from featured snippets.
Featured snippets are condensed clips of information featured at the top of the SERP. They provide search engine users with a brief summary of the content, along with the link to the website. These snippets take at least 10 percent of the organic traffic from the top results mentioned on the SERPs (and that is only set to increase over time), which is why marketers need to shape the content accordingly.
These snippets are essentially short answers to long-tail queries, which has a positive impact on the user experience. Search engine users are more tempted to click on the link for the snippet than the result below it. You can take advantage of this by structuring your data and content, and keep the information precise and succinct.
4. The intent behind your keywords is important.
The intent behind the search query has become an important factor to consider due to the combination of smart assistants and artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and a more personalized search engine experience. Google will look at a user's historical searches and trends, present location, and the intention behind the question to deliver the most relevant and current information.
This means if search engines users intend to purchase something, Google will prioritize ecommerce websites over other pages and media outlets. If users want to research a subject, Google will prioritize credible media pages. Your content has to keep up with this shift in trend and should incorporate context or intent.
5. Value the user experience.
User experience is still the most important ranking factor and all search engines will focus on it. Your website should load quickly, perform smoothly on both mobile and desktop platforms, and all sections of it should be easy to access. Surveys and research conducted by Google have shown that 40 percent of visitors to a website will turn away if the site takes more than 3 seconds to load.
Many websites still take 15 to 20 seconds to load, which hampers the user experience by a considerable margin. It's vital to optimize your website and ensure it provides a good user experience. Slow websites don't rank high on SERPs and get low organic traffic.
6. Expand your horizons beyond Google and Bing.
Google and Bing have dominated the industry for a long time, and that's why most marketers have focused their efforts on these platforms over the years. The industry has started to change and will continue to change thanks to voice assistants and AI. While Google is still is the dominant force; other search engines are making their presence known.
Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Cortana, etc., are growing in popularity and don't draw content from Google. Marketers need to expand their reach and explore the waters beyond Google and Bing. They need to optimize their content and website to rank high on other platforms.
7. The quality of your content matters more than anything else.
The quality and relevance of your content are some of the most influential factors in SEO. There's an oversaturation of content, and people have become selective of what they read, watch, and explore. Poor-quality content that's not well researched and current will fall behind. Bad content will also negatively impact a website's reputation and ranking.
It's important to put out content in a timely fashion and maintain consistent quality. Marketers are likely to take factors like voice search, AI, hyperlocal focus, personalized search, etc., into account before creating content.
These tips and tricks can help you navigate the competitive waters of search engine optimization in 2018. The most important trick is to keep an eye on the trends and an ear to the ground for changes in search engine algorithms.