Whether your small business has a website, blog or online store, investing time in improving your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a tried and true method of achieving organic growth online. Each month, Google receives over 100 billion searches and to win a spot among the top search results, you need to improve your SEO by playing by Google’s rules, being aware of their algorithms, and most importantly, staying on top of industry trends.
2018 SEO Trends
Each year, digital marketers obsess over what the big developments will be in Search Engine Optimization. In 2016, it was the movement toward mobile-friendly websites. Last year, the continued penetration of software such as Siri and Alexa saw voice search make big gains in marketer’s thoughts. 2018 is sure to bring plenty of exciting developments in this sphere, so we dusted off our crystal ball to make some predications about the 2018 SEO trends for small business.
Content Remains King
It’s estimated Google changes its search algorithm 500-600 times per year. Overly tweaking your SEO to appeal to the current algorithm is both a labour-intensive task, and likely to leave you out in the cold when Google makes their next update. According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, the two most important (and evergreen) factors in how your site ranks among search results are “content and links pointing to your site.”
Writing high quality, relevant content should be the central pillar of your small business SEO strategy. If you take the time to produce well-written and nicely structured content, chances are readers will stick around to read your post. This will result in a lower bounce rate and improvement in your search engine ranking. If your website runs off a platform like WordPress, installing an SEO plug-in like Yoast will help you instantly tidy up all your website content.
User experience (also known as UX) was previously the exclusive realm of designers, but it’s gaining in importance when it comes to SEO. Simply put, the speed of your website is a big deal. And, readers are less likely to stick around on a site that’s slow to respond. Since 2010, Google has actively used site speed as a factor in determining search ranking. People have a short attention span and want websites that load quickly and without any problems. Ensuring you minimize on URL redirects is a simple way to speed up your site. If you want to dig further into this topic, SEO specialists Moz have compiled 15 handy tips to speed up your website.
If content and backlinks are the two most important factors in SEO, RankBrain is fast becoming the third most important factor. RankBrain is an algorithm learning artificial intelligence system designed to process search results and provide more relevant results for users. It uses machine learning (the ability of machines to teach themselves from data inputs) to present users with what it thinks are the most relevant results. In 2015, just 15% of all Google searches used RankBrain. By 2016, that figure had risen to 100%. Google have stated RankBrain is something that cannot be optimized for. Instead, it shows a preference for well written content that users spend a long time reading. If all of this seems abstract, RankBrain learns from how regular users interact with your site and individual pages. Instead of trying to optimize for RankBrain, optimize your site for users and the ranking will follow.
The Rise of Visual Search
It’s estimated that 3.8 trillion photos were taken in all of human history until mid-2011, but 1 trillion photos were taken in 2015 alone. With the growth of more visually friendly social media platforms, it should be no surprise to hear nearly 60% of all digital impressions online are now driven by images. Accordingly, it’s likely we’re going to see rapid improvements in visual search in 2018, led by the creation of apps like Google Lens. This app, which is currently only available for Google’s range of Pixel smartphones, is a new type of visual browser that identifies the world around users and instantly delivers information and context. To give a real-world example, if you see see a restaurant you are interested in while out walking, you can point a Google Lens at it to pull up relevant search data about the restaurant without any manual input on your behalf.