How to SEO your website for Google in 2018
Google refocuses its algorithm yearly, with new ranking factors becoming more and more important. In 2014, it was HTTPS. In 2015, mobile usability came to the front. In 2016, it was RankBrain, and 2017, another push toward HTTPS websites. Now, in 2018, mobile page speed looks to be the next big ranking signal.
What all these different ranking factors have in common is that they are all geared toward creating better user experience.
Ranking signals have been adapting over recent years to focus on the user. This means that if your SEO strategy revolves around user experience, then you’re on the right track.
Here’s seven of the top ranking factors we feel will really matter in 2018, and why.
1. Content is King
Quality content remains the most key element of any SEO strategy. Your website relies on it, your marketing relies on it, advertising relies on it, and SEO certainly relies on it (no surprises there).
Google’s algorithms favour pages with quality content. Panda and Fred both reward pages that contain rich, original content. RankBrain also benefits from quality-content as time on page improves, bounce rates reduce, and the user flow to conversion also benefits.
Blogging is key. Publishing useful content about your products and services, help documentation and case studies are what users want. Identifying a content marketing strategy should be top of your list for your business.
To create a content marketing strategy you need to have some idea of what is worth talking about. One way of doing this is anticipating your audiences search intent. What drives the organic traffic into the website? It’s possible to discover search intent by analysing the Google Analytics reports such as User Flow and Site Search, also the Google Search Console report for Search Analytics and Search Queries to give you insight into what your organic traffic are clicking on within the SERPs to get to your site.
Once you understand search intent, it’s possible to research semantically connected keywords and identify the important keywords that you’re going to use to support your content creation roadmap. The real gems are those that have average search volume, but high click-through rates for your audience, and who crucially show engagement with your website and deliver decent conversion rates. Our tip is to identify the primary keywords and bucket them into topics suited for your searchers.
Content is still king, and reigns top of our list both for user experience and for search engine optimisation.
2. Mobile Friendly
It’s essential to have a fully responsive website for ranking well in Google. End of.
3. Secure environment (HTTPS)
Whilst not being HTTPS won’t harm your website, there have been several indictors that Google favour HTTPS sites since they first announced it as a ranking signal back in 2014. Google’s Chrome browser already flags sites as “not secure” in the URL bar when not HTTPS and also displays a secure lock in a green font when HTTPS secure using an SSL. Here is what a secure site displays like:
Switching to an HTTPS and SSL can bring canonicalsing issues if not implemented correctly, so take special care to ensure that if you go secure, it’s done properly.
4. User experience (UX)
With RankBrain, user behaviour has never been more important and influential in SEO. UX now impacts SEO. If the website is unattractive or the layout difficult to navigate then you’re likely going to suffer, not just from poor behavioural performance metrics but also in organic search.
Search engines look at dwell time, user events triggered, bounce rate etc. as a signal, designing a user experience that pairs with SEO is vital if you want to succeed in SERPs.
Site architecture is the page structure and navigation of the site, and a key component in good UX is to have a site architecture that helps the user find what they are looking for but it can also help search engine crawlers find pages and better index them. It shouldn’t take more than 3-4 clicks for a user to get to where they want to be. In a nutshell, keep it simple.
5. Page speed
Page speed will be a Google ranking factor from July 2018. With Google’s mobile-first index slowly rolling out this year, mobile is Google’s preference and if your site loads slowly, then you’ll be losing out on visitors, sales and in organic search.
There are tools available to test your website and many fixes that are easy for a developer to make. Why not test your mobile speed at https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/intl/en-gb and see how optimised your website is?
Faster loading means better overall website experience, especially on mobile which typically uses a 4G or 3G connection, hence Google’s new direction in 2018.
6. On-Page Optimisation
Ever important, make sure your technical optimisation is on-point. These components of SEO have been around for years and remain an essential ingredient to a successful SEO strategy.
By optimising your website it can help search engines contextualise your content so you can get found faster. Ensure your H1 tags contain your primary keywords, clean up your meta data (title tags, page descriptions) and internal link structure (site architecture).
Using schema to markup your content, makes it easier for search engines to identify key information such as if your Local Business. It’s also possible to utilise rich snippets to contextually markup your content using schema for better visibility in Google search results. Rich snippets typically increase CTR and lower bounce rates as it gives users more info in search prior to arriving on your website, so they’ve been more effectively “primed” before arriving on the website.
Links will continue being a leading SEO ranking factor in 2018. While they may lose value over the next decade, backlinks are still an active and essential ranking signal.
Over to you
The above is not a holistic SEO strategy, but will certainly help you in 2018 should you follow these ranking signals to create a better user experience.
As the mobile-first index rolls out and page speed becomes more important, it will be interesting to see how this affects sites from July.