SEO made simple for 2018 – Easy tips to improve.
Easy to understand guide of what you should focus on when it comes to SEO in 2018.
SEO in 2018 is a term thrown around by alot and I mean ALOT of SEO companies in South Africa. But, what does it actually mean and how can you harness it’s power to gain valuable market share? We’ve put together this simple guide to help your website achieve better rankings on Google using methods that are proven to work already and will continue to work in 2018.
Let’s get started…
What factors influence ranking?
The way in which Google’s rank algorithm works is not 100% clear. Google unfortunately does not come out and tell us exactly what factors influence search and the order in which those factors are ranked. Even though, Google do not provide this information directly, there are alot of certainties that have been tried and tested.
So what do we know?
We know that Google has 3 factors considered to be the most important factors of SEO. Namely: Links, Content and RankBrain.
In 2015, Google announced that RankBrain, a machine learning system that sorts live search results. RankBrain, simply takes how users search and their interactions with the results presented and begins to rank them according to certain criteria. What are these criteria? Well, lets say for example, you visit Google and begin to search for articles on “best places to stay in Durban”. This search returns a bunch of results and of these results, you click on the Trip Advisor article on the 10 Best Hotels in Durban of 2018. When you click on this result, RankBrain records that you entered a keyphrase and chose the 6th result on the page. If multiple users searching for the same or similar keywords click on the same article. RankBrain will begin to rank that article higher than others. Conversely, if you visit the page and then leave the website quickly and return to Google to search for the same or similar keywords, RankBrain will record that the article or page may not be relevant and begin to reduce the rank of that page.
Google is in the business of presenting the most relevant and highest quality information to users. This means that Google is constantly improving how results are ranked. With RankBrain, by measuring how users interact with results on a massive scale, the quality of your website and information you are providing needs to be excellent. If you are currently experiencing how bounce rates and low “Dwell Time” on your site, it it more than likely negatively impacting your ranking.
What is Dwell Time?
Dwell Time is the time spent by a user on your website page after searching Google for information or services. If a user clicks on your website result and then 10 seconds later returns to Google to search for another provider, this tells Google your website doesn’t answer that question. In turn, Google then drops your rank for that search term.
Think about it logically, if you want information and you visit a website and stay for a few minutes reading content, this is generally indicative that the content is good and informative.
So ranking websites according to Dwell Time makes complete sense. right?
But what if a competitor visits your website and then leaves to try sabotage you? Don’t worry, Google basis the change on volume. A single user is not going to destroy your website and maybe, just maybe you can convince your competitor to stay a while too?
So how do we improve Dwell Time?
A user is looking for something specific, your website shows up and provides them nothing of value. What do you think will happen?
SEO seems complicated but if you ask yourself logical questions, it actually is pretty simple. If you want to rank highly and make sure that users stay on your webpage for that search. Then provide them with the content they are looking for. Don’t go out and write a million articles that touch on a subject. Rather spend the time understanding what you are targeting and provide a solution to the question.
There are a few factors to check other than content that could be influencing your Dwell Time. These are:
- Page load times – Slow webpages = high bounce rates
- Quality visuals / images
- Mobile friendly – it’s 2018! If your site is not responsive, then start there before worrying about SEO.
Obviously there are many other factors to consider, but if you concentrate on your content, performance of your website, quality of graphics and make sure your website is mobile friendly you will see a massive improvement.
Ok, now that Dwell Time has been touched on, what about CTR?
What is CTR?
Click-Through Rate or CTR is the percentage of users searching for information that actually click through to your website.
As we mentioned before, RankBrain is constantly learning how users search and their interactions with results. If your result is boring or doesn’t effectively convey a reason to click your result, then RankBrain will learn that your website is not relevant. Even though it probably is!
Help! What do we do!?
Ok, let’s calm down to a mild panic.
Let’s take a look at the image on the left. If you search for “places to eat out in Johannesburg” you will see a whole bunch of Google AdWords and Google Business location results. Below those, are the organic search results. Looking at the result in the green block versus the red block. Which one would you click on?
We checked with all of our colleagues and the vast majority said they would click the red block result as it it was more relevant and appealing. Now, luckily for Eatout.co.za both these results are for their website, but if it was a competitor they may begin ranking lower and lower.
This shows how important it is to have appealing titles and descriptions for each page so that you show users what your page is about and give them a reason to choose your website over competitors.
Simply edit your website’s meta title and description to tailor it based on the question you are answering for users.
Now that we have covered RankBrain, lets dive in the remaining two major factors influencing SEO ranking.
Links, why are they important to Google?
When Google measures the quality of a website or specific webpage links provide an indication as to how relevant content is to a specific keyword.
If you think about it logically, it makes sense that the more websites talking about a particular topic and linking to another website the more relevant the website probably is. Picture it the same as calling up multiple friends and asking them where the best prices on beers can be found. If they all came back with the same shop or supplier, you more than likely would head out to that particular shop, right? That’s the same idea here. The more relevant and trusted websites that link back to your website, the better ranking your website will have.
The Difference between internal and external links
External links are links that point from one domain to another. These types of links help Google to find new websites, understand which websites are more relevant to certain types of keywords or content and create brand awareness.
Internal links are links within your website to other pages and content. These types of links help Google to prioritise which pages are most relevant for specific terms used. For example, if you had a page that you wanted to rank for the best place to get sushi in Johannesburg. You could create articles on your blog that had links on specific keyphrases to your main article. Keyphrases such as “Fresh sushi only in Johannesburg” or “Delicious sushi from this gem restaurant in Johannesburg”.
Internal links play an important role in defining the Cornerstone content on your website. If you are using WordPress, you could make your life a bit easier by using Yoast’s Premium SEO plugin that will recommend where to add these types of links.
I bet you are thinking, hmmm, I’m going to go and get as many links as possible to my website so I can get a better ranking. The short answer is Don’t!
Not all domains are going to have a positive impact on your Search Engine Optimisation strategy. Some websites are flagged as Toxic by Google and adding your website to these domains is going to be a bad idea! If you want to identify great websites that will help you to improve your ranking then you can try out these different tools:
- SEMRush.com – we love this tool, it has all you need to get an SEO edge over competitors.
- Ahrefs.com – this tool is great to research your competitors and gain insight into where backlink gaps can be found.
- Spyfu.com – Another fantastic tool to help with your overall SEO strategy.
There is loads more information to understand about links which we cover in other articles so make sure to subscribe to our blog to get updates!
Enough on links, lets talk about Content!
When it comes to ranking, content is king.
Many years ago, SEOs focused on loading as many keywords into a page of content so that Google and other search engines saw value in the page. This strategy has become outdated. Although some facets of keyword density remain true, the old school SEO strategy of keyword stuffing is long gone and will in fact damage your site’s reputation.
So what exactly does this all mean?
Google is focused on delivering the best content to users, which I am sure you as a user can appreciate. A page that is stuffed with keywords, probably isn’t the best option for human consumption and should’t be presented as the most relevant page.
So instead of keyword density defining relevancy, Google has become user focused and regards good, informative content as optimal for ranking.
Meaning, you need to write in-depth content in order to rank highly on Google and to keep your user interested in the topic for higher Dwell Times. Which is the way it should it. What now? Well, its time to figure out how to create in-depth, quality content.
- Research your topic
- Is there a need for your topic?
- How many searches are popping up for this topic?
- What exactly are users looking for?
- Plan content
- Writing off the cuff is sometimes good enough but the majority of time you need to plan your content structure well.
- Find out what LSI keywords should be used in your article
- These are related terms to the topic you are discussing. It tells search engines that you have effectively covered a topic in-depth
- If you search on Google for your topic, take a look at the bottom of the page for the “Searches related to”… block. This will help you identify some key LSI terms.
- Write a minimum of 2000 words. The longer your content, the better it ranks.
- Quality Visual Content
- Visuals are one of the major reasons users stay on a website.
- Create embeddable images
- This helps to generate backlinks. Having a nice visual that others can use on their websites, will potentially create loads of backlinks for your website.
- Many SEOs will contest this point but readability in our tests and completed by many other authoritative SEO companies have found it contributes to better ranking.
- Make your content shareable. Allow others to share your article across social media. This may not get you any quality backlinks but it does help to generate credibility and traffic.
- Video Content
- Online video content is playing a massive role in content marketing. Create video content and get started on it today!
- Video also helps to improve your Dwell Time
- Submit to Google
- Submitting your articles to Google will help Google to index it faster. Make sure to sign up with Google Webmaster Tools in order to submit your sitemap and monitor search queries, errors and improvements on your website.
In conclusion, 2018 has seen some changes to how Google measures relevancy but you can meet all of these requirements by creating great content for users to consume.
If you enjoyed this article or have some questions please comment and we’ll do our best to help you out!