It’s that time of year again, whereby we take a look at how we expect the search industry to play out in 2018, and how not to get left behind….
Google SERPs and the continued increase in Page Features
SEO is going to be as tough as ever, given the fact that organic results are being pushed further down the SERPs due to the advent of more and more page features.
You will probably have noticed a change in the look and layout of Google results pages. We really need to be addressing our approach, as there are several contributing factors which are gently pushing organic results further down the page..
- Increased number, and subtlety, of ads at the top of SERPs
As seen on the image above, we can now regularly see up to four “ad” listings before the #1 organic result. You will also notice that it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between the ad results and the organic results, in terms of their look. Again looking at the above image, the only real differentiating factor is the small green “Ad” box which blends in nicely alongside the green text for the URL. Over the years this has evolved, several times, from shaded backgrounds for ads to bright yellow ad boxes and now this much less conspicuous appearance.
You can read an interesting Moz article on how this is creating a shift from organic to paid here.
- Increased prominence of page features such as, Featured Snippets and Related Question Boxes
Depending on the type of search performed you are becoming increasingly likely to see these kinds of results appearing above the top organic results on Google SERPs. So what can we do about this?
If we take Featured Snippets (often referred to as position #0 results) and Related Question Boxes, then we really have to consider tailoring our web pages and content to service these features. i.e. We need to provide rich and meaningful information that can answer these queries in order to stand a better chance of featuring within them. This is likely to take a lot of time and effort, and there are simply no shortcuts to be taken, but could ultimately prove highly fruitful.
You can recap on our recent blog post on Featured Snippets here.
- Local SEO focus and improvements
Depending on the nature of the search query, another type of feature are local business listings which take a very prominent position on SERPs (as per image below).
In order to feature within these types of listings you really should be setting up a “Google My Business” account at https://www.google.com/business/ and ensuring that all relevant information is up-to-date. In addition to this, listing your business on high equity, reputable, business directories and review sites is also recommended.
By spending a little time, periodically, ensuring that all your information is relevant and up-to-date, your business will fare well for this type of listing and should benefit from this.
If you would like to discuss Local SEO in more detail, please feel free to contact us or talk to us on 01690 760328
You may well have heard about RankBrain, and it’s increased importance as a ranking factor. (Commonly thought to be the third most important factor behind links and content).
This has seen a large breakthrough in the emergence in the use of AI, whereby RankBrain better understands user intent in queries.
In addition to the understanding, RankBrain uses a number of other signals to influence relevance and results. One of the most interesting areas is how it evaluates CTR and Bounce Rate in determining relevance to user queries. i.e. In very basic terms, if a user clicks on a result and then stays on the page, then it is deemed to have relevance to the query.
Once again, this brings us back to the fact that we must have relevant, high quality, compelling, content in order to aid user experience and keep them engaged on the website. In turn, Google will acknowledge this and it will be a contributing factor towards your ranking performance.
To read about this theory in more detail, this MOZ article from October 2016, still seems as relevant now as ever.
Mobile First Index
We featured Google’s Mobile First Index in our May SEO News article stating that rollout now looked likely to be in 2018. In fact, the rollout actually began on some sites towards the end of last year, as discussed at Search Engine Land, and looks to continue through 2018.
This basically means that Google will rank your website based on the performance of the mobile version ahead of the desktop version, no matter what device has been used to perform the search, thus consistent quality and content across both platforms is essential. A responsive design and good page speed across both formats will be more important than ever in 2018.
The “need for speed” means that AMP is also likely to gather pace, and prominence, as we progress through 2018. We are already starting to see more and more AMP results appearing prominently in SERPs, particularly for news-related websites, and expect this to continue.
If you are still heavily reliant on the desktop version of your website, and haven’t considered your mobile appearance, then you need to act now.
You can check your website at the “Mobile-Friendly Test” within the Google search console, by submitting your URL.
Another area that we have previously touched upon, and expect to continue to grow rapidly through 2018, is Voice Search. With the enormous market for personal assistants such as Alexa, Siri and similar, there is simply no getting away from the fact that more and more searches are being carried out orally and this will continue.
So what approach should we take to this? In theory, from a content perspective, our strategy should not be far removed from when we talked about optimizing for Page Features (above).
i.e. We should be thinking along the terms of more colloquial search, and tailoring our content towards this. Spending time conducting research on what kind of content is performing well for conversational search, will be worthwhile. For example, many voice searches will be performed in the format of a question. Therefore it may well be worthwhile integrating Q&A sections into your content, or certainly making sure that your site has an FAQ section.
There are still long established SEO tactics which will continue to be extremely important for your site’s ranking performance.
Although, search engines are giving more weight to unlinked brand mentions, backlinks will continue to carry a great deal of weight. Building good quality, industry relevant links into your website will continue to be an important tactic.
Similarly, as mentioned several times above, good quality, engaging content is a must. Remember that if you produce compelling information that people wish to share, this can only ever be a good thing for your online reputation.
If you would like to discuss, or address, any of the topics above, please feel free to contact us via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org on 01690 760328.