The rules of the SEO game have changed significantly in the last year or two. Google is now focused on the searcher, our customer, which means SEO is now a key part of everything we do online.
Fear not, this is actually great news for how to rank on Google in 2018.
Because SEO is no longer a dark art practiced by the wizards of search, trying to game the system.
What does that mean in practice?
Let’s take a look…
Search engines are getting pretty darn smart.
A few years ago, you had to force-feed them keywords, like broccoli to a toddler. Now, “the machines” can understand natural language like never before.
Of course, that means that ranking on Google has become quite complex. There are so many factors at play.
However, there is a simple, topic-based approach you can use:
Remember, the reader should always come first.
To give you an idea of what can happen when you write on a topic: I wrote such a piece back in May that now ranks for over 300 keyword variations!
We always focus on the standard Google “result” and assume that all searches are the same. Newsflash: they aren’t!
Remember, Google is trying to be the answer to the world’s questions. And in doing that, they are finding lots of creative ways of displaying the information they have available to them. Even if it comes from your website, without anyone visiting it.
There are carousels, knowledge graphs, answer boxes, local search maps, and quite a few more.
You can no longer assume that all your content will be displayed in the “standard” Google result.
So, next time you plan a piece of content, and before you even start to write a single word, take a moment to check what page one of Google looks like for that particular keyword.
Is the first page crowded with images and maps? If so, your content will get pushed down the page and not get the attention it deserves!
How much of your traffic comes from mobile devices?
Depending on the industry, it can vary a lot. This is approximately what you can expect in your industry:
Image courtesy of ComScore
Don’t treat mobile as an afterthought.
If you are getting a large amount of traffic from mobile, it’s time to put mobile first.
Google has rolled out significant updates in the last year that can penalize your website in mobile search results. That might mean you are losing significant mobile traffic.
Understand where your website traffic is coming from by checking analytics. Then testing your website to see if it works well on mobile.
The best places to start is Google’s Mobile-ready test.
Mobile is a big thing (as you might have noticed as you bumped into that pedestrian playing Pokemon Go this morning) so it’s time to get your business and website “mobile ready”.
Google has grown up recently and they now understand that keeping website visitors happy is the key.
Why does this matter to your business?
Google is watching how users behave when they visit your website. And if Google don’t like what they see, they can and will react.
Imagine this scenario:
So, which restaurant would you finally end up at?
Google observes how users behave – through their access to such things as Chrome, Android, Search, Maps, Gmail and more.
As a result, Google knows what people like (and don’t like) and prioritizes the search results accordingly.
For them, that is good business. Because keeping you on search is how they make money.
So, keep your customers happy online and it will make Google happy too.
End result: your content will rank higher.
Google wants to make the web a more secure place. So, back in 2014 they announced that they would favour secure websites.
It may only be a small factor in search, but things just got more interesting:
Starting early in 2017 Google are going to highlight sites that are NOT secure within Chrome. Starting with sites collecting passwords or credit card data.
They will then extend this to other types of sites until we are all (hopefully) using HTTPS.
Imagine how this will look to your website visitors if your website shows up as “unsecure”!
How will they react? They might just go straight to your competition!
If you have been ignoring, or unaware of this change by Google, now is a good time to start taking HTTPS seriously.
I don’t think any business can afford to lose customers in such a competitive online environment.
SEO is now something that affects almost everything we do on our website, which makes our lives somewhat easier.
And in 2017 that means you should: write content based on topics, keep the user at the forefront of all that you do, think about mobile first and considering going secure (https) on your website.
With those four things in mind, you will soon be running at the head of the pack!
Ashley Faulkes is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings, a business helping small business get found on Google. Grab a free copy of his step-by-step WordPress SEO Checklist and get your content ranked even higher on Google!