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SEO

Which SEO Strategies Still Matter in 2018?

September 12, 2018

The internet never was and never will be a place of stagnance. Trends and functions are constantly changing and if you want to keep up, you need to become fluid as well. To increase your site’s SEO, start by dropping the old idea that the keyword is everything because Google’s current algorithms focus on much, much more.

Let’s explore some of the complex strategies that will help improve your SEO in 2018 and in years to come. Remember, SEO is a long-term process and the steps you take to improve the quality of your site today will only help increase traffic tomorrow.

On-site Optimization

The best place to start in your SEO strategy is with your own product. If you can make sure that your own site is user-friendly and effective, your audience will appreciate your efforts and soon, Google will do the same.

Content Creation

Creating relevant and credible content has always been at the heart of SEO, but in 2018, we have fully shifted to quality over quantity. Keyword stuffing is now, not only frowned upon, but penalized by Google and short, shallow articles are dismissed.

To improve your SEO, create content that is high-quality and unique. Write longer articles—over 1000 words if you can—and include detailed, practical information. Remember that SEO is about the human audience, not the search engine and create content that your user will care about.

Additionally, make sure that your content is updated regularly and do more than a routine grammar check (though you should definitely be doing that too). Show the user that you are constantly analyzing and modifying what you post.

Metadata

Double-checking your meta descriptions is an old strategy, but still relevant in SEO. If you set a meta description that meets Google’s quality guidelines, it will appear on Google’s search results page next to your website link—a great way to optimize click-through rates. Not to mention, it’s a pretty quick fix. Use your 320 characters wisely and create natural sounding sentences that appeal to both Google and your user.

Your image descriptions and keywords should be carefully crafted as well. Visual and media files are more and more appealing to the modern internet user, but Google still cannot read these files, so it’s crucial that you take the time to include titles and keywords that make sense and are relevant to your page.

Along the same lines, keep your URLs short and informative. Your titles, meta descriptions and other snippet elements should draw the reader in, as well as tell them what they need to know.

Fast, Secure and Mobile-Friendly

One of the first things a website patron will notice is the speed and security of your webpage. If a page takes longer than a few seconds to load, they’re unlikely to stay and read your compelling content. To improve SEO, your site should load quickly and correctly on every device, at every speed, everytime.  Google Pagespeed Insights is a great tool to learn how Google views your page and where you can improve, on both desktop and mobile.

Another thing that your user will notice right away is the security of your site. They want to see a green padlock and HTTPS at the front of their address bar.  There’s really no alternative for Google’s security requirements.

Finally, all content must be optimized for mobile platforms. In order to reflect current usage trends, Google’s mobile-first index favors websites that are optimized for smartphones. Whenever you post a page update, double check its mobile functions as well.

Link-building

Improving SEO is not a single occurrence and link-building is one long-term strategy that’s not going anywhere. Link building increases traffic to your site and helps build the reach and authority of your reputation.

Blogs

Because Google values quality over quantity, it is important that you are consistently producing relevant content. The easiest way to do this is by hosting your own blog as part of your webpage.  Blogs highlight your most relevant content and engage your website’s users.

Blog as often as once a week if possible. Increase blog traffic by concentrating on long-tail keywords rather than overused short keywords. Encourage and monitor comments to your own blog as well as to guest posts.  This gives Google fresh content from your site and establishes you as an expert in your industry.

In addition, every blog post is a new web page, ranking your keywords and content. Focus on quality blog posts that give detailed, useful information to your target audience (not just short, over-optimized content).

Guest Posts

Writing and collecting guest posts is one current trend for boosting SEO. Not only does guest posting increase backlinks to your site, but it creates good faith among businesses. You should regularly write content for sites similar to your own (search: [your industry] + submit a guest post), and you should collect guest posts from others.

Social Media

To increase SEO, be present on all major social media sites. This shows your user that you are constantly evaluating and promoting your product. It also adds more pages and links to bump to the top of Google search results.

Make sure that each of your social media profiles are optimized, clean and current. And share social media icons in all of your content to help connect your various materials and pages.

Do Your Research

A great strategy for SEO improvement is to measure and analyze your data. Before you can target your audience, you need to know who they are and what they are looking for.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is still the best tool out there for tracking SEO and for small businesses, it’s free! You can also use Google Analytics to purchase and follow Google Ads (formerly Adwords). Staying up-to-date with traffic, demographics and keywords will help you understand your human audience and create better content suited to them.

Find the Right Keywords

You can spend a lot of time banging your head against the wall if you’re targeting keyword terms that are simply out of your reach. If you’re realistic about how Google sees your site and smart about your keyword research, you’ll find plenty of opportunities.

Your keywords should meet three requirements:

  • Good search volume
  • Low competition
  • Business relevance

If you find a keyword that meets those three, you should target it with your SEO.  As an example from our business, we’ve targeted the term “Quickbooks 2019” — it has (or soon will have) very high search volume, and because it’s year-specific, competition is new and weak.  Its business relevance, for us, is high — we’re a direct competitor to Quickbooks and looking to move people over.

Tools you can use to help determine search volume and competition levels include Moz, SEMrush, and Ahrefs. Ahrefs is our tool of choice — its keyword explorer feature gives very accurate estimates of volume, and it has a “keyword difficulty” metric that gives you a simple measure of how hard it will be to rank for a keyword, along with an estimate of the number of links you’ll need to rank on the first page.

We also use Google Trends to validate search volume estimates. Double-checking can really help so you don’t spend a lot of time working on something that won’t benefit you in the long run.

Technical Clarity

Technical SEO may sound intimidating but it’s actually pretty easy to manage the basics without hiring a web developer. Learn the basics of technical SEO (including your robots.txt file), don’t include outbound links to spammy sites, eliminate duplicate content and make sure you don’t have any bad links or errors on your page.

In other words, your site should be in pristine condition. Technical optimization will appeal to the search engine and will also improve the user experience.

The Best Strategy

If you want to align your website with Google’s search results, you should be prioritizing the same values: Focus on the user, empower website owners and maximize access to information.

The best SEO strategy you can employ is to offer the best information to your target user. If your site is high-quality and user-friendly, you will find optimization occurring organically.

Jaren Nichols

Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, online accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.


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