Despite periodic claims that search engine optimization is a dead art, SEO provides the foundations that underpin website rankings. The ever-changing nature of this digital marketing strand has left industry beginners and SEO gurus alike struggling to keep pace with changes made by Google and Bing. Their web-crawling algorithms are believed to measure hundreds of individual factors before calculating individual ranking positions.
As we approach the mid-point of 2018, it’s becoming clear how SEO has evolved since the turn of the year. These are the trends and changes to be aware of if your site hasn’t been revised or redesigned since January:
#1. Results page changes
Running a Google search nowadays brings up a mosaic page filled with meta description summaries, brand identifiers, news stories and the occasional blue hyperlink still hanging on in there. Being able to engineer a featured snippet (such as a chart, image or list) is increasingly beneficial for SEO purposes.
Schemas are pieces of structured web data used to summarize information on behalf of a time-poor audience. Examples of schemas include local business summaries, events, reviews and offers. These rich snippets can appear separately alongside web page results, boosting SEO performance.
#3. Voice queries
These require a different method of interpretation by search engines. They’re usually longer, containing both conversational terms and stop words. Voice queries tend to be questioned, and it’s important to consider which queries people might be searching for. Answer The Public is a great resource, breaking terms into categories like “when”, “how” and “will”, before suggesting long-tail searches that people will commonly ask a virtual assistant.
#4. Page loading times
Google now expects web pages to load within three seconds to provide an efficient and optimum experience for mobile audiences. Sites taking longer to load will be penalized, so it’s crucial to eliminate any bloating in the page code. This could include obsolete CSS, uncompressed images or autoplaying video files.
#5. Linkless backlinks
The growing sophistication of search engine algorithms is enabling them to recognize a company’s name and treat it almost as a backlink. Bing has stolen a march here, confirming it uses unlinked mentions for ranking purposes. Web monitoring tools can identify the sites your brand or products are mentioned on, allowing you to request removal or deletion from low-quality sites and directories.
While the above points represent relatively minor adjustments to the overall search engine rankings, many formerly acceptable processes are now likely to get a website severely downgraded in ranking results. Some may even cause the site to be blacklisted altogether, meaning it won’t show up in future searches. Being blacklisted is extremely frustrating if your business is your livelihood, which is why any SEO guru will advise you to walk away from concepts like the following:
#1. Anchor text.
Hyperlinked words and phrases used to indicate a site was an authority on that subject. Rampant overuse has seen this curtailed, and it now incurs penalties.
#2. Link farms.
Having dozens of inbound links used to matter, even from otherwise empty web pages. However, low-grade link directories have now become anathema for SEO.
#3. Keyword stuffing.
Cramming keywords and long-tail phrases into web copy makes it stilted and awkward to read, and search engines can now identify keyword overuse.
#4. Non-descriptive page titles.
Page titles and descriptions are a great way to boost SEO. Non-specific page titles like “page1.htm” or “domain.com/qsijf9if” are hugely wasteful.
#5. Tag clouds.
Like the other entries above, clouds were embraced as an SEO shortcut. Today, they’re recognized as such and can be interpreted as keyword stuffing.
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