It’s that time of year! The holidays, cold weather (for most of us,) and a lot of folks in the industry making their predictions for 2018. Since the web is already saturated with so much of this information, we thought it would be better to give a bit of insight on how we’re approaching 2018.
As any SEO knows, our industry is always changing. Certain ranking factors become more or less important, new opportunities arise, and practices that used to be effective, may lose their luster or even incur a penalty. Whether it’s the end of the year or the middle of summer, we need to always look ahead and consider the bigger picture.
When we think long-term we look at what has been successful in the past and what continues to be successful as a foundation. With a solid foundation, regular content and social activity, and adapting to Google’s changes along with searcher tendencies, the opportunity for success is there.
Best Practices that will always be good for SEO
We know that backlinks from the right places have the potential to build domain authority, exposure, and credibility in the eyes of search engines. There are basic strategies out there that a good SEO should be taking care of, but once those strategies are done; there is a wall we must climb over. That wall is outreach, communication, and truly working to acquire a link that benefits both parties.
An example of a basic strategy would be searching for your business’ name, and ensuring all links are accurate or present.
An example of a more sophisticated tactic would be finding an influencer in your industry that is in need of data or something for a presentation. If you create content based on the need for that and share it with that person, they will definitely appreciate your efforts and assistance, and likely reference you in their article/presentation/website. The result is a strong, relevant link that will set you apart from the basic set of links you and your competitors may share.
We all know content is important, but are we satisfying intent? Are we going above and beyond what the searcher needs to find, providing them with information that is helpful, that they didn’t even know they needed? If the answer is no, content needs to be reworked.
The basic premise of search engines is to help users find what they’re looking for, and provide them with relevant information to their search. Anyone can go online and sell hiking boots on their website. Not everyone is going to put hiking boots on their website along with various articles about what hiking boots are best for certain hikes, conditions, and great detail about each pair with product reviews and a Q & A section. There is a lot of competition out there, if you want to be on page 1, you need to go above and beyond.
Crawlability/Ease of Indexing
On a basic level, things like setting up a proper robots.txt file, creating and submitting a sitemap, and submission to search console/webmaster tools are helpful to search engine bots. Similar to our note about content above, these are easy to take care of and will not differentiate your website from another.
Making websites faster, ensuring JS can be crawled and index with ease, clean code, performance (which we’ll touch on as an opportunity shortly) and other more technical items will. It’s clear that the importance of technical SEO is growing, and it has the potential to make a big difference to your websites search presence in 2018.
Newer Practices that present opportunities in 2018
Expanded meta descriptions
Recently, it was announced that meta descriptions were expanded. There wasn’t a clear character limit, but it was said that they should be no longer than 320 characters. To me, this is really intriguing. Sometimes less is more for certain businesses, but for others this will allow a greater opportunity to converse with searchers and draw them in. Not to mention, it can help you occupy more real estate in the SERP’s. We’ve already implemented this for a few clients, and look forward to seeing the influence it has on engagement metrics. Time will tell!
Performance (Speed/Load Time)
This is not necessarily a new practice, but websites in 2018 need to be lightning fast. Staying ahead of the curve and getting more technical is going to be huge. With rapid innovation to technology, everything is getting faster, and searchers patience is dwindling. A site that loads in over 3 or 4 seconds is now considered slow! We’ve briefly discussed how to improve page speed before, but some of the methods that were previously effective are not anymore (that post will be updated shortly : D.) Bottom line, there new methods to improve speed and plenty of resources to check what is bottlenecking your sites load time. Make sure your website is speedy.
Canonicalizing, Updating and Improving Content
This is a higher level practice, and the impact of it has become more well-known with recent studies (Britney Muller removal of thousands of low-quality pages.) There are a lot of blog posts, pages, etc. on the internet! The recent studies have shown that eliminating thin, low-value pages can influence rankings. Also, keeping content fresh by updating it can keep everything accurate on your site, and ensure that old pages aren’t diluting the value of a primary page, or your site as a whole. The essential concept here is that we only want things in the search results that are valuable to searchers to appear, and stagnant, outdated or thin content likely has inaccuracies or little value to searchers.
Here’s to a successful 2018 for you and your clients!
By sticking to proven SEO best practices and adapting to ranking factors that have more influence, you and your clients should experience sustainable growth in search presence. In due time, you’ll earn your spot at the top of the first page.
When reviewing search results (local ones especially) it can be really frustrating to see keyword-stuffers and exact-keyword domains occupying some of the top spots, but don’t let those black-hat methods distract you from the bigger picture! In time, those folks will vanish, and you’ll climb another notch up the ladder.
Last but not least, SEO is a process. Depending on competition, strategies, and other external factors, reaching that first page can take a good amount of time. To keep your clients happy and ensure that you can maintain course, make sure you communicate! The rest will fall in place.
Thank you for reading! We’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on SEO in 2018 in the comments. Happy New Year!
Also published on Medium.