The first digital marketing resolution we’ll talk about for 2018 is a big one: search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful marketing strategies ever created. That’s because search is so incredibly important – in fact, according to Search Engine Watch, in 2011, 92% of all adult Internet users used search to find information, products, businesses, and everything else. (And that number is seven years old; the percentage could be higher now.)
Search is even more important in 2018 because the days where you could get by with basic SEO because most of your competitors weren’t doing even that are long gone. Now, competition is higher than it has ever been – which means fighting for those top spots is even more intense.
Fortunately, in 2018 there are some cool and powerful things you can do with SEO that can give you an edge. The proven principles are still the same, but there are new SEO tricks in 2018 to hopefully take you over the top.
We’ll cover what role SEO should play in your digital marketing strategy this year and go over a few things to consider as you plan out your optimization approach in 2018.
Why SEO This Year?
SEO is important every year, of course, but this year, due to higher competition, it’s even more important.
But one additional reason why a solid SEO plan is important this year is due to the ever-changing nature of the industry. Search results aren’t like they were a decade ago, when you just saw a page of plain blue links and some text. Now, you have a dozen ways to rank on the first page, and need to put in the work to take advantage of them.
Also, the anti-advertising backlash that started a few years ago with the rise of ad-blocking technology is only getting stronger. Advertising is still effective, but now there’s a higher percentage of users who can only be accessed through organic results. According to a 2017 survey, 40% of all users reported that they used an ad blocker in the past month on desktops and laptops, and 22% on mobile. Those figures were up by 30% from the previous year.
As you can see, ranking organically is crucial this year more than ever.
How Search Is Changing in 2018
Search in 2018 is similar to 2017 in that the proven principles – solid on-page content, good keyword research, strong back-end optimization, and plenty of good links – still apply.
It’s different because there are some new trends that will become more prominent in 2018. Let’s go through a few trends one by one.
SERP stands for search engine results page. It’s what you see when you type in a search and hit enter.
Years ago, all you got when you went to Google and hit enter was a list of blue links with descriptions beneath them. That was the simplest version of a SERP. Now, SERPs look something like this:
As you can see, there are several different types of information displayed here, all of which can be optimized. These are called “SERP features” and they all offer different ways to communicate information to a searcher.
If you don’t take advantage of these features and optimize for them, they’ll actually steal traffic from you. You want your brand to show up in these spaces, and there are things you can do to make that happen.
Every business can take advantage of each least one feature type. If you’re a local business, you can get on the map, which we call the local pack. The local pack looks like this:
You can have your knowledge showcased in a featured snippet, which looks like this:
You can even have your social media posts show up in search as well.
A good SEO plan in 2018 will take advantage of SERP features whenever possible and add them to your SEO mix.
Semantic and Voice Search
Back in 2010, Google began experimenting with something called latent semantic indexing. It’s a fancy term to describe the relationship between words, ideas, and user intent. Now, eight years later, LSI has come a long way and has morphed into semantic search.
Semantic search attempts to replicate how humans naturally process and communicate information. When we ask for something, we don’t use weirdly-arranged terms like search phrases (for example, we don’t say “Digital marketing Birmingham” in real life; we ask, “Who is the best digital marketing agency in Birmingham?”).
To do this, smart algorithms scan billions of words and phrases and make logical connections between them. The goal is for Google to be able to tell what a page is about by the words on it and connect it with a user’s search based on how humans naturally speak.
So, semantic search looks for clues, or phrases that have something to do with the primary keyword. You can type in “Who is the best digital marketing agency in Birmingham?” and find results that feature words and phrases associated with that query, which might include the words “agency,” “SEO,” “social media,” “reviews,” “advertising,” etc.
The results page will have pages that have those terms and other synonyms and related phrases on them. Google is smart enough to reward brands that have skillfully included these keywords and phrases into their content in a natural, seamless way.
Enter voice search.
Voice search is becoming more popular. According to HigherVisibility.com, nearly half of all Internet users use voice search at least once a week. An additional 23% use it once a month. Why does this matter?
Google thinks voice search will become even more widespread. It also has obvious connections to semantic search, since people are using real, natural phrases instead of keyword lingo. Google wants to find pages that match what people are speaking into their phones, so it’ll reward pages with content written as such.
The takeaway is to focus on how people are actually looking for information and how they phrase their queries and then adapting your page to reflect that. This is good news, because you no longer have to make “digital marketing birmingham” fit somewhere on your page. Now, you can write more natural, seamless content that flows like humans speak and come out on top.
Links are the currency of SEO. We’ve written previously on what backlinks are and why they’re important. The more links you have coming back to your website from reputable websites, the better your website will rank.
But in 2018, we’ll see the rise of “unlinked mentions,” or places where your brand appears that don’t involve a link back to your site. Search engines can find mentions of your brand and connect them to your website, even if the place that mentions your brand isn’t actually linking. Bing has already admitted to using unlinked mentions, and it’s highly likely that Google is as well.
How do you optimize for this? You start by doing a good job of getting your name and content out there, which is why content marketing is hugely important (as is social media, since social mentions could be a part of the signal, too). This shows just how other digital marketing strategies work hand in hand with SEO to deliver high rankings and good results.
How to Do a Great Job with SEO in 2018
The biggest step you can take in order to get your pages to rank well in 2018 is to have a search engine optimization strategy.
You need an overarching goal of what you want to accomplish through search, and then a multi-pronged approach to make it happen that incorporates on-page and off-page SEO, local optimization, content marketing, social media, and analytics.
As a part of your strategy, you should know:
- Who is searching
- What they’re looking for
- What terms they’re using to search
- Where they’re going
- How they speak
- What matters the most to them
Your strategy should also contain ways to make sure your website is fully optimized, which means being mobile-friendly and responsive.
How will you take advantage of these new features? How can you incorporate them into your existing approach? And what are your competitors doing that you’re not that you can begin implementing?
Creating and executing a strategy is a lot of work, to be honest, and it takes a team of experts to get it done. That’s why we offer search engine optimization as a service, which takes advantage of all the best practices out there currently to get your site ranking as highly as possible. We help our clients create strategies and then carry them out, all built on cutting-edge technology, an in-depth knowledge of what search engines are looking for, and a focus on a comprehensive digital marketing approach.
Contact Uptick Marketing if you want to know more about how our team can help your team hit your search goals in 2018.