10 min read
Disappointed with your SERP’s in 2018?
If yes, you’re part of a majority that doesn’t quite get what exactly went wrong.
We feel you.
We have suffered at the hands of a constantly changing Google algorithm that is built to make every user experience an absolute success.
What works in the world of SEO is sometimes obvious and sometimes not so much.
But here’s an inspiring quote by Neil Patel to put it into perspective –
‘SEO is a race, not a sprint’
We can always learn by looking back at the last lap. Which is SEO techniques that worked in 2018.
Here’s a list of things that we know will help you rank better in the near future.
Semantic search means searching with meaning instead of literal matches to the keywords. It improves relevancy or accuracy of a search by understanding the searcher’s intent and contextual meaning rather than finding an exact match to the keywords.
For example, if a user wants to know the first song from the movie La La Land and types ‘first song in La La Land’, the search result looks something like this:
The keywords in the Title are not an exact match to the search query.
So why is it on top?
Because once you open the site, you will see that the website covers all possible information about not just the particular soundtrack but for all of the soundtracks in the movie.
What Google really likes is in-depth and comprehensive coverage of a topic and not just keywords being an exact match.
It knows that the users intent is to find information and the music clip. If a site has both, it wins.
So are keywords obsolete?
Not at all. It is still good practice to make sure that you are working with what people are searching for. But basing your whole content around the keyword is definitely not the best way to build content anymore.
You genuinely have to look at adding value to your reader.
Give your audience the most relevant and in-depth coverage of the topic you can, and in the process, you can rank for many long-tail keywords that you don’t even plan for.
Back in 2015, with it’s Hummingbird update, Google started using Semantic search and AI to deliver better results to its users.
This new AI brain was called the RankBrain.
It also announced that RankBrain is one of the top 3 ranking signals for Google.
If you haven’t already heard of RankBrain, here’s what it does։
Before RankBrain, 100% of Google’s algorithms were hand-coded by Google engineers.
They still do. But RankBrain is working on the side and learning how to do the job for the coders.
After it has understood a query it will observe how users behave with the results and measure the following։
Here are some quick hacks to how you can improve each of these for your site:
Additionally, find the answers to this question: Why do people leave your site? What drives them away?
The above questions and this blog: Top 3 SEO Metrics to Track in 2018, will help you better understand the concept of bounce rate.
Here’s a blog with a different take on the subject: Increase Your Bounce Rate in 2018- Really!
RankBrain was also developed because humans are creative and search differently every time.
For instance, of all the searches every day, which amounts to around 3 billion, 15% are absolutely new. This means that Google has no idea how to serve those queries and works with RankBrain for help. (Source)
Pleasing this brain has become even more crucial because AI learns on its own and has the capacity to process every single query!
It is now much smarter than it was back in 2015.
If before a google search for ‘best cafe’ threw up a list of best cafes in the world, now it will show you the best cafes nearest to you.
You don’t even have to add ‘near me’ or ‘your home city’ to find results that are geographically more relevant to you.
One of Google’s objectives with searches is to make it as relevant to each individual as possible. It takes into account your geography, your search history, interests and activities on other Google apps as well.
What this means for us marketers is that Local SEO is more important than ever before.
You could do it even if you don’t have an office location.
Suppose you are an online store that has attracted most online buyers from Nebraska which is also close to you, you could look at targeting more customers in that area by simply developing content around how Nebraska is one of the places where you can deliver the same day.
But if you have a brick and mortar company it makes absolute sense to develop content keeping in mind your geographical location.
Check out this article on how local SEO is changing the game for small businesses.
Let’s start with a stat – 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 (Source)
If a future estimate is not convincing enough, then this is what happened in 2018:
58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information within the last year. (Source)
People are now using voice searches from their mobiles to search more and more for local businesses. This is a massive hint for what to do as an SEO expert in 2019.
How do you do it?
At the cost of sounding annoyingly repetitive, going mobile first is imperative.
Here’s what Google announced in March 2018-
Today we’re announcing that after a year and a half of careful experimentation and testing, we’ve started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.
Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for. (Source)
What this means is that your domain, every single page, form, pictures etc should be optimized for mobile.
Consider trying this open source platform by Google called AMP aka Accelerated Mobile Pages for turning your pages into lightning-fast mobile pages.
In Q1 of 2019, Google announced many improvements. One of which includes being able to watch a video while reading notes about the video on the same phone screen. Here’s a screenshot of what it will look like to a reader.
If you don’t know this already, Google adores pages that load faster than others and will rank you higher than slower loading pages for mobile. Here’s Google’s update about using page speed in mobile search ranking.
If you remember, at the beginning of this post we mentioned in-depth coverage of a topic.
This section will tell you what to do when you are republishing old content.
This tip works especially well with blogs that rank on page 2 or 3.
A lot of us last year thought that people were not going to spend more than 3 mins reading our post and developed it to that reading time.
This year we can all go back to those mini-articles that are not doing so well and turn them into user guides or ‘How to’ guides.
We cannot say it enough; in-depth coverage of a topic will help not just your reader but also your rankings with Google in 2019.
Here’s what you can do with your old blog post.
If you are a blogger and your users have written to you regarding how useful your advice has been to them, share it.
I have in the past started conversations with happy customers and found out what exactly they did and how it helped them achieve a certain goal (concrete numbers work so well here).
Here’s an example of an old piece of content that we refurbished and increased traffic to it by simply using a different promotion line.
We have been writing about call tracking for years. Some of our old blogs were not not more than 100 words but contained valuable content. Obviously, these blogs had stopped ranking and attracted no traffic at all. We compiled these blogs, tweaked them a little and created ‘Questions? Here Are the Most Popular Call Tracking FAQs’
This blog now attracts around 50 pageviews every week.
This is absolutely one of my favorite things to do with old blog posts.
If in the past you wrote a piece simply because you thought it was interesting and didn’t really have a keyword target in mind, revisit it.
Google Search Console will show you what keywords it is associating with that article allowing you to better optimize your article for those very keywords.
For example, your blog could be about ‘fishing’ in general but the keyword that Google Console is associating with the article is ‘fishing spots’.
This means that you can now rewrite that article to better serve the keyword that Google is associating with it.
And just like that, you get new content and hopefully more traffic.
This is an absolute to do for me.
When I’m publishing articles regularly, I hunt for topics that I could share a link to without being out of context.
Wanting a reader to stay on your site means intelligent use of content.
For instance, a user reading about how to build a website would be more interested in a post about optimizing website content for SEO over how to use Facebook advertising.
Internal link building is not just for the reader, Google loves it too.
It makes crawling and indexing so much easier for the crawlers and helps pass link equity or ‘link juice’ to the page receiving the link.
We said at the beginning of this article that RankBrain is one of the top 3 ranking factors.
The other two are links and content
Using outbound links to authority websites is a known on-page SEO tip. But most of us prefer to keep a user on our site, afraid to lose them to another article.
It is not an irrational fear but the question is – are you doing it at the cost of good user experience?
When we are writing an article, it is impossible to cover a topic and topics that support it without turning it into a never-ending post.
That’s when it is good to use other bloggers content to make sure your audience gets a comprehensive view.
For example, in this post, I cannot possibly cover all on-page SEO techniques for you because the topic is different but I know some of my readers would be interested in knowing more.
Here I would happily use a link to a short video of Brain Dean from BackLinko (who is definitely an authority on the subject) to tell you all you need to know about the topic.
Try to use at least three links to an unrelated website in your blog post.
This can make you look like an information hub and Google wants to see just that.
Hopefully, this article has given you enough actionable items for your business. If you find that any of these tips worked great for you, let us know in the comments section and help others in the process.
Stay tuned because the next blog post is going to be about reducing your page load time.