What you need to know about SEO in 2018

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Those involved in the SEO world know how complex and ever-changing the industry can be. With over 200 ranking factors and the constant updates of the algorithm, keeping up with SEO trends is mandatory.

One thing never changes, though: providing the best possible experience for users. In 2018, quality content will certainly remain in focus, but there are other novelties in SEO practices that come with changes in user behavior and evolution in technology.  Take a look at a few of those things to look out for in the new year:

Google is switching to a mobile-first index

Today, we are witnessing a shift from desktop to mobile when it comes to the preferable way to surf the web. Nearly 60% of searches now come from mobile devices, and Google has finally decided to roll out the mobile-first index update. This means the algorithm will primarily use the content your site offers in the mobile view for ranking it in the SERP.

Mobile-first index was mentioned for the first time in 2016 on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, where the team shared recommended practices. Without any doubt, this will be a big historical change in the way websites are indexed.

Having a mobile responsive website is becoming an imperative, as well as having a structured markup for both desktop and mobile version. Webmasters do not need to make changes to their canonical links. Adding and verifying a mobile version of your site to the Search Console is also advisable.

Voice search will continue to rise

Virtual assistants such as Google Now, Cortana, and Siri have shortened the path between users and the answers they need. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced that voice searches make up to 20% of mobile queries, which puts new challenges in front of SEO experts. Forecasts say this type of search has a growth tendency, so optimizing for Google Voice Search is a good idea.

Marketers have to analyze user intent in order to optimize well for voice searches. Typically, users have four different queries: they seek knowledge (educational content and exact answers), places (“near me” queries and addresses of local businesses), activities (how to’s and other types of guides), and purchase opportunities (online shops of their favorite brands). In order to optimize content for voice searches, you should definitely include a well-structured FAQ on your website so that precise information will easily get indexed and put in front of users. Use relevant long tail keywords (voice searches are often lengthier opposed to text) and optimize your content for conversational language.

Link building is not going anywhere

study conducted by Stone Temple has proven once again that link building is not going anywhere and it’s not hard to understand why. A good quality backlink profile acts like a signal for Google that your website is a great resource that provides value to readers. But in addition to your standard link building efforts, you should also think about the concept of link earning. Although the difference between the two is subtle, the latter puts user experience in the center of attention.

Link earning is all about focusing on producing engaging content that actually answers the questions users are interested in, which inspires people to organically link to you. So, you are rewarded with a link naturally. If you want to hold a great ranking position, you should focus on building and earning links from reputable domains with high authority. Make sure none of the links pointing to your website come from shady and spammy sites. Disavow bad links.

High quality content + smart keywords will get you far

Smart SEO techniques always come down to creating great content with both users and search engines in mind. To truly stand out in the sea of average content across the web and earn better rankings, you need to create unique, original content that not only educates – but provides a concrete answer that satisfies user intent. That is the only way you will increase your organic visits. Of course, smart usage of keywords will help crawlers index your website easier. Use Google Keyword Planner to map out relevant words and phrases and optimize your content. Reoptimize your old content in accordance to new keyword trends.

When it comes to content, ensure your text posts are scannable and easily consumable. Add eye-catching visuals, make your website navigation logical, and always keep UX in mind. Dwell time matters: give your site visitors a reason to stick around.

Featured snippets matter more than ever

Marketing and SEO experts such as Bill Slawski, Eric Enge, and Marcus Miller believe the chase for a featured snippet will become the focal point in 2018. If a featured snippet appears on the SERP, it’s far more likely users will click on that link opposed to the listed results below. According to the Ahrefs study, a featured snippet will actually steal clicks from the #1 ranking result. Optimizing for rich snippets or “People Also Ask” boxes pays off, specifically because it instantly grabs the attention of users. This helps you generate more traffic, save money on PPC, and gain more visibility.

You should definitely keep these SEO trends in mind but also commit to white hat techniques only. Everything you do as a webmaster leaves a trace on how your domain is perceived by Google. I have already discussed domain ranking factors, and while agility remains one of the most important skills for an SEO expert, don’t get carried away and forget the crucial basics. Take the holistic approach and you will nail SEO in 2018.

This article first appeared in www.smartbrief.com

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