Search Engine Optimization In 2018
Regardless of how things change over time, search engine optimization is still important if you want to add value to your audience, attract a more targeted audience, and get more traffic. SEO is not dead, and likely never will be dead. Marketers are always going to be figuring out ways to work within the rules that Google and other search engines set to accomplish their goal, which is to get their information and solutions to their targeted audience.
What’s Different about SEO Today Than in the Past?
While there are a lot of differences today compared to the last ten years or so when it comes to search engine optimization, the goals really haven’t changed. The goal was always for search engines to deliver to their audience the best information and search results according to the intent of the person searching.
But, it’s just taken a while for technology to catch up with the intent of the search engine. Because of that, marketers have taken advantage in the past of ways to trick search engines to send traffic their way. For a long time, more traffic was always considered better, even if that traffic wasn’t ideal. We all went after it. Let’s look at the ways things have changed.
Content Is King and Queen but Now It’s Quality over Quantity
Before we continue, let’s establish that you do still need a lot of content. But now your content needs to be quality content that really speaks to your audience in the way they want to be spoken to. That means you need to do a lot more research about your audience to get the kind of traffic you want now compared to the old days when you could throw up “spun” content and get all the traffic.
Link Farms Are Gone
In the old days, everyone submitted spun articles to content farms which were really link farms. It was a way to get links back to your site, known as backlinks. In the old days, we used to trade links with others too: “Link to me and I’ll like to you.” Today that isn’t done and could, in fact, ruin your search engine results ranking if you are being linked to nefarious sites or vice versa. Backlinks are still important but now it’s more important to forgo the backlink if it’s not a naturally earned backlink from an authoritative site.
Geographical Search Is In
Before, there just wasn’t a way to attract local search to your site the same as you can today. In fact, these days even national sites will focus on local areas that they want to target to show up in search results. For example, if you have a restaurant convenient to a highway, you want your site to show up to searchers on the road where they are.
Search Engine Page Results Are More Informative
Do a search for something that interests you and look at the results. Today, the results will give some background about the site and it might even show the about page, contact page and other information at a glance. In the old days, it just looked like a bunch of keywords showing up and was ugly. You had to click to find out if it was the right thing or not, and it wasn’t very informative like today. That means you now need to mind the metadata so that your audience will click through.
Mobile Is a Priority in Search Results
Because more people are buying more mobile devices today and accessing the internet via mobile, search engines prioritize mobile-friendly sites over old-fashioned sites that aren’t responsive. How your site looks on all devices is important to your search results. If your audience cannot use your site on their mobile device, Google might not even show it to them.
Video Returns Better Search Results
Another thing that has changed is the proliferation of video online. Video is very important to your SEO plan. Audiences are more likely to share and engage with video than they are text-only content. That makes it more valuable to search engines than your other content.
This doesn’t mean text content isn’t still important; it just means that you need to add video to your content marketing plan. Start with repurposing your most popular written content to video to test it out for yourself.
Keyword Stuffing Is Gone While Meaning Takes Precedence
Keywords are still a thing but understanding the intent of your audience so that you can assign meaning to your content will make a big difference in the quality of your traffic. In the old days, people used to create content that was basically nonsense content and spun articles with the keywords they wanted to be ranked for, sometimes even using keywords that weren’t even relevant just to get the traffic. Today, you want to use one keyword per page, and you want to avoid using it more than at a 2% density.
The important thing to remember is that even though the money was easy on Google AdSense in the old days, it wasn’t fair to the consumers or the advertisers. You want to offer value to your audience so that they come back for more and tell others about you. That’s the way to build a sustaining search engine optimization plan.
What Are Search Engines Looking for Now and What Works in 2018?
To build your audience and get more traffic, you do need to keep up-to-date on what search engines are looking for now so that you can make sure that you’re doing the right things to earn that traffic. But today, overall the focus is on the intent of your audience and how you can add value to them rather than how you can trick the system.
- High-Quality, High-Value Content – Focus on producing value in your content for your audience. It should be based on what they want to read, watch, and know. How can you impress your audience and deliver to them what they really want? It all starts with your audience and the more you can get to know them, the more easily you’ll be able to create the high quality, high-value content that they want to see.
- Promotion of Your Content on Social Media – If you won’t promote your content, who will? Google likes to see links back to your content being shared and engaged with on social media. You can start the process simply by cross-promoting all the content you produce as if it were the highest paid content or product you ever made.
- Use of Multi-Media Content – People learn via different mediums and SEO acknowledges that. Search engines want to see more forms of content. The best way to get started is to take your most popular blog posts and turn them into video and vice versa. You can also take data-centric content and turn it into infographics, memes and so forth.
- Repurposing and Updating Old Content – Kind of touched on above, but you should repurpose every piece of valuable content you make. Now that the content is super-targeted and valuable to your users, you want to provide it to them on different platforms and in different mediums.
- Good SEO-Rich Titles – Using keywords in titles, subheadings, headers, and subject lines of emails is still important. This tells the search engines what’s important about the content you’re sharing with your audience so that they can then point your audience to the content.
- Building Valuable Relationships – Today, relationships are more important than ever. When you build relationships with authoritative sites, people, and industry leaders, your content will start appearing higher in search engine results.
- Focusing on Engagement – Another thing that’s super-important for boosting search engine results that search engines like, is that your audience engages with you. This can happen via comments on your blog, via sharing of your content, and on discussion boards and groups on social media.
- Longer and More Authoritative Content – Search engines also like and rank higher content that is longer and more authoritative. That’s why the sites that look like everything is on one page and broken up into sections are super-popular today.
- Fast-Loading Sites – If your site doesn’t load fast, you’ll get a lot of visitors that bounce off your site which will lower your ranking. Search robots will bounce off too, so they won’t ever search your site if they can’t do it fast.
- Easy-to-Navigate Menus – Don’t make the menus on your site complicated. The easier it is to find the information that you have, the better. Use words that your audience would use to find the information that’s in that section or page of your site.
- Ideas over Keywords – While keywords are still important, just using a keyword because you found it doesn’t make sense now. Instead, you want to focus on ideas and intent of your audience, and the keywords they would use to see their intent come to fruition. This requires a lot of audience research.
- Naturally-Built Backlinks – Backlinks are still a great way to move up in the search engine rankings, but you don’t want to get them easily by signing up for something that isn’t targeted to your audience. Having a link to the Chamber of Commerce site is great but having a link on a link farm site is not great.
- Internal Linking – The other thing that search engines look for is your internal linking practices. If you link to similar articles that may interest your audience under each blog post, they may click them – which keeps them on your site longer. But, it also brings the search bots through your site to rank more pages on your site.
- Local SEO – Search engines will rank local sites higher for the people who are in the local place. As mentioned earlier, you can target different locations even if you’re nationwide, which will boost your search results for people who want to deal with people who are closer to them.
- Getting Your Content Everywhere – The more places you publish your content, the better. This builds backlinks and establishes you as an authority. Focus on guest posting, publishing articles on social media such as LinkedIn, and authority sites or magazines.
These ideas still work in 2018 and should be incorporated into your content marketing plan. But, always check with the search engines you want to rank on. Each has Webmaster tools and information that can make a big difference for your ranking.
Tools to Help You Find Topic Ideas and Keywords
Thankfully, there are many tools that you can use to help you come up with topic ideas and keywords that your audience will be interested in and may use to find you. Whatever tool you use, remember that it all starts with your audience.
- AnswerThePublic.com – Just go to this site and type in your search term and be shocked at what it gives you back. You can get a visual search result that will truly put into perspective the reach of this search term. You can also choose data search results for each type of result. Try it; you’ll love it.
- Quora.com – This is a great place to do a search on a topic to find out what people are talking about. You can also ask questions and get answers. Or answer questions to get more traffic to your site if you give good answers.
- YouTube – Some people don’t realize it, but YouTube has become its own search engine. When you type in a search term or a specific audience, you can get a lot of great content ideas. For example, if you type “Vegan” or “Paleo” in the search bar you’ll get a plethora of topic ideas. Look at the questions people ask on the videos too for ideas.
- Facebook Groups – Joining Facebook groups that consist of your audience is a great way to find out more about your audience. This can help you find good topics to create content around, which will also lead to discovering keywords.
- iSpionage.com – This is an interesting way to discover more keywords and topic ideas. Essentially, you can use this to spy on your competition. Go to the site and type in your competitor’s domain name, and then you can see the keywords they use.
- SEOprofiler.com – This website offers many different tools to check ranking, keywords, mobile SEO, local SEO, and more. Everything this does is amazing. You’ll learn the best way to optimize your webpage for the best SEO possible.
- Google Search Auto-Suggest – When you type something in the search engine, predictive or auto-suggest will show up. The auto-suggestions will help you come up with new topic ideas and keywords.
- Google AdWords – If you have a Google AdWords account (which you can get free) and you spend money on ads, more keyword options will open to you after you spend a certain amount on placing ads.
- Google Webmaster Tools – Naturally, you want to study what Webmaster Tools says that you should do, especially for Google which is still the most popular search engine that exists.
- Google Trends – This is a site where you can check what’s trending today if you want to try to tie your content into trending news.
- Bing Webmaster – Bing is a good search engine too and you might want to consider what they have to say about making your website more attractive to your audience.
- Keyword Finder – This site helps you find and discover long-tail keywords. These are keywords that are often hard to think of or find. It’ll give you a lot more topic ideas too.
- Industry Publications – Whatever your niche, read the publications put out by your industry. That will help tremendously with keeping up with trends and your knowledge so that you can come up with information to share with your audience.
These tools can help you make the most of the content you put on your website, on social media, and how you plan your content marketing strategy.
There are also some SEO best practices you should be aware of going forward. Let’s look at these next.
SEO Best Practices
There are some best practices for good search engine optimization that you want to use today. Let’s go over them and explore how these best practices for SEO affect you and your content strategy.
- Choose Your Domain Name Wisely – It all starts with your domain name, but don’t get too crazy. You don’t want to pick a bunch of keywords just because. Look at Google or Amazon; they didn’t worry about a keyword when they created their website. They worried about what they will do for their audience, and how.
- Understand the Impact of Duplicate Content – This is where it’s important to understand the term “canonicalize” – as in, “you want to canonicalize similar or duplicate content.” Basically, if you do have a lot of the same content on your site, the search engines can get mixed up and your audience may miss the truly unique and valuable content on your site. When you use canonicalization, you tell the search engines which pages are duplicate, and which are cornerstone or master content on your site.
- Focus on the Intent of Your Ideal Audience – While keywords are important, to find keywords that really work you need to focus on your audience and their intent when they’re searching for something.
- Optimize the Metadata – It’s important to know how to optimize the metadata on your site. You can do this with various plugins if you use WordPress. For example, Yoast! SEO is a good plugin to get that helps you get the meta descriptions optimized for search.
- Optimize the ALT Text – Don’t miss the opportunity to boost your SEO by including effective ALT tag information. This is the information on images that can include keywords and a description of the image, which will improve results.
- Focus on Internal Linking – Develop a system for linking to other content that’s relevant internally in your website and within your online real-estate such as social media platforms.
- Improve Visuals – You want your website and your social media profiles to be easy to read and nice to look at. Create navigation that makes sense but has plenty of white space, and make it look great to your audience and to search engines. But remember, your audience always comes first.
The best practice for good search engine optimization is to stay on top of what the search engines want you to do, and on what your audience needs. But put adding value to your audience before anything else and you will be successful.
Things to Consider about SEO and Getting Started
Search engine optimization should be more about your audience than you think. Many people get so tied up in what the search engines want they forget to concern themselves with what their audience wants.
To ensure that your SEO works for both, consider the following:
- Define Your Target Audience – When you start with your audience, it will define your entire content strategy and help you discover keywords for which to develop your content and add value to your audience’s life.
- Research Keywords – Use the tools available to you to study keywords and learn about new keywords and terms that your audience uses to find the information that you are offering. The real key to keywords is discovering how to bring your specific audience to you.
- Learn Your Topic – Study your topic by reading books, industry publications, other authority blogs and websites, and participate in groups that consist of your audience so that you can get to know them better.
- Read Search Engine Suggestions – Each search engine you want to rank with has its own webmaster tools and most of the advice is going to be very similar and follow Google’s advice. Read that advice and follow it. They tell you exactly what to do.
- Focus on Your Audience – Place all the focus on your audience and how you can add value to them. What do they want? What keeps them up at night? What problems do they have that you can solve?
- Add In Content Links – One great way to boost your SEO and please your audience is to upgrade the content you have on your blog by adding in content links to more content, such as eBooks or reports that have even more information.
- Take the Time to Develop a Strategy – Don’t just leave all this to chance. Sit down and take the time to build an SEO strategy so that you know what types of content you need to create.
Good SEO honestly comes down to adding value to your audience, considering your audience’s intentions, and building the website and information you provide with that in mind. Then, do the technical stuff behind the scenes to get the search engines to take notice. To get started, establish where you are now, improve what you have now, and then start adding to it.