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SEO is an ever-changing landscape that’s quite hard to exactly pin down. However, the Google ranking factors for 2018 are pretty clear. In 2017, Google started to move towards a more people-oriented approach, instead of a technics-centric one. That means more focus on the experience of the Internet users and less on the nitty-gritty and code manipulation.
2018 marks a shift where the new SEO is prevalent, but the old techniques are still relevant!
In this article, I will cover the most important Google ranking factors for 2018.
An optimized mobile website
This is definitely the most important of Google ranking factors for 2018.
Smartphones are getting more advanced and sophisticated on a weekly basis. The number of people owning a smartphone grows exponentially. There are vastly popular apps such as Instagram or Snapchat that are made specifically for mobile devices. Public WiFi and mobile data networks are now something that’s expected.
What does it all mean?
Mobile is the future!
According to Statista, in 2018, 52.2% of online traffic came from mobile devices. To contrast that data, in 2009 the online traffic coming from mobile devices constituted only 0.7% of all traffic and in 2015 – 35.1%.
In 2017, 57.9% of all searches came from mobile devices. And although mobile websites tend to have a higher bounce rate and a shorter average time spent on a website, it is clear that mobile is winning here.
This is why if you want your website to rank in Google in 2018, you need to have an optimized mobile version of your website. As a host to the majority of Internet’s traffic, Google needs to always be on top of the changes and respond to them. Seeing that mobile takes over desktop, they gave the former a priority. Yet another reason to have a well optimized mobile website!
Let’s come back to the mobile website topic for a while. Have you ever browsed a non-mobile optimized website on your smartphone? If your answer is yes, then you probably know what I am going to talk about.
Microscopic squares, tiny letters, unclear graphics… what is this, a website for ants??? Additionally, you need to scroll across the page and zoom in to actually read anything. It’s a horrendous experience. And since User Experience, or UX is one of the most important Google ranking factors for 2018, such website would probably end up on the second SERP or even further down. SEO is becoming more people-oriented instead of technical. Don’t get me wrong, the technical aspect of it is still important, but the rise of UX as the defining SEO ranking criterion indicates that web designers need to focus on providing a good, smooth and pleasant experience for the users.
The way your website is designed will make all the difference in defining your User Experience. Here are a couple things you should pay attention to:
- Are your clickable boxes easy to intuitively find? Are the most basic fields like ‘Contact’, ‘About us’ or ‘Our offer’ visible on your pages?
- Is there enough space between letters, words and paragraphs? Make sure your content is easy to read! Don’t cram-pack it to save some space.
- Is your content distributed neatly around the page? Try not to stick an entire blog article into a small box. Make the font big enough for convenient reading and use the entire area of the page.
- Are your photos and graphics optimized and of good quality? Nothing worse than a photo that takes ages to load or are blurry/pixelated!
- Is your colour scheme pleasant to the eye? Opt for mild colours that don’t disturb the reading process (unless, of course, your brand is flashy and bright colours suit it).
The five-second rule
What refers to dropped food is also applicable to websites. Namely, the first five seconds a visitor spends on your website are likely to determine the way they perceive your entire business. Sounds dramatic? It kinda is!
It should be immediately clear what you do and how can you benefit the visitor. If they have to guess or look for it, you’ve lost them. A good idea for avoiding it is to design every page in a way that the visitor immediately knows what it is about. A homepage should have a banner stating your mission or main area of expertise in a single sentence. A blog post should have the title visible immediately after loading. In this way, you’ll avoid confusion.
Content topic is a relatively new term invented by Moz. It refers to Google’s emphasis on the overall relevance of your content page.
In the past keywords were the only defining feature of ranking the written content. The more keywords, the better the ranking. People noticed that and started abusing it. This resulted in blog articles cram-packed with keywords and the birth other Black Hat SEO tactics.
Google have recently improved their algorithm for ranking websites and it focuses on experience now. The algorithm can find out much more than just keywords – it can put them in context and find out the theme in your content. That means Google will reward websites that contain informative and relevant content. It used to be done by analyzing the keywords. Now, it’s also done by looking at your content as a whole.
Getting linked to by other content creators is not something you can do just by yourself. It’s something you have to earn.
‘What do backlinks mean?’ you may ask. It’s when another blogger uses your article as a point of reference or a source. It usually means inserting a hyperlink to your post in a sentence that refers to it.
The number of backlinks gathered by your website is a good indicator of the quality and relevance of your content. Google’s algorithm assumes that if you have plenty of backlinks, you are a respected content creator. In return, you will be rewarded with better SERP ranking. A huge focus on linking back as one of the main Google ranking factors for 2018 is yet another proof of search engine’s shift of focus from technical to people-centric SEO. It’s all about good experience, reliable information and relevant content.
How to get backlinks? Although backlinking is a very organic tactic, there’s one way to get backlinks – write good content and then share it!
Ever visited a website that took forever to load? You probably had your veins popping out of anger after several seconds of waiting and started blaming the website and the people behind it for a bad experience. It’s actually backed by research that in such cases, people are more likely to blame the website itself instead of their bad Internet connection
The five-second rule (revisited)
I know I’ve already talked about it, but the five-second rule is also applicable to loading speeds. Remember when I said about outlining right away what your pages are about? If your visitor spends four out of these five seconds waiting for your website to load, then you’re left with only one to convey your message. This is why making sure your pages load as smoothly as possible is so important.
Cutting your loading times
Another thing you should do is optimizing your pictures. That means, reducing their size, while retaining their quality. Use optimzilla for that.
Google likes long articles. I’m talking 2500-3000+ words per post. There are two main reasons for that.
The longer the article, the more keywords
Keywords and key phrases can’t be just jammed into an article for the sake of ranking better. If your post has a keyword density of 10%-15%, then something is wrong. Keep in mind that the main aim of blogging is for it to be read by the people, not just by search engine algorithms.
If you want to include more keywords, simply write longer articles. That way you will rank better while retaining a nice readability and good User Experience.
The longer the article, the more info it provides
Google rewards informative content written by knowledgeable people with better ranking. Writing longer pieces will allow you to really go into detail about your topic and analyse it from different angles or describe various aspects.
However, remember that a long article needs to be valuable all the way through. If you wrote 3000 words, then each and every one of them needs to be informative and relevant. Don’t just write pages for the sake of ranking better – do it to provide insights and knowledge. Google rankings will come naturally.
One of the most basic Google ranking factors, keywords are still relevant in 2018. They serve as an immediate indicator of what your content is about, making it easier for search engines to rank your pages accordingly.
There are several types of locations where you have to make sure to include keywords.
Keywords in meta description
A meta description is the little text below the blue link found in Google’s SERPs. It’s mostly for the viewers to get a better understanding of what your page is about.
While Google stated it doesn’t take meta description into account when ranking pages, it will contribute to your UX. Including the keywords appropriate to the content page your meta description is referring to will make it immediately clear for a potential visitor what they can expect to take out from visiting your website.
Keywords in headers
Another feature that will make your User Experience better are h1 and h2 tags. The former is also known as the title tag – the biggest piece of text on your content page that’s supposed to outline its topic. The latter are the ‘chapters’ of your page – they divide your page into neat thematic blocks.
It’s generally a good practice to include your focus keyword in your h1 tag and in at least one of your h2 tags. This will allow the search engine to categorize and your content right away. It will also make it easier for your visitors to navigate the page, especially if you pot for a long article approach.
Read more about creating effective h1 and h2 headers here.
Keywords in the URL
Same as in terms of h1 tags – it immediately outlines the topic of your content page. It also allows the search engine to analyse your page in a quicker and more effective way.
Keywords in body
You cannot forget about including keywords in your body of text, of course! While both the search engine algorithm and the readers would process your text mostly based on your content topics and your ability to tell a story, the in-text keywords are still a good indicator of the theme of your page.
Video on page
Content marketing is currently on the rise as the most important and effective way to engage people. And within that, video content generates the most engagement. Videos are better at retaining the message and more adapted to today’s passive, yet experiential way of consuming content. However, video content is also one of the most important Google ranking factors for 2018.
According to Buffer, businesses that include videos on their pages have a CTR higher by 27% and get 34% more conversions than those who don’t. HubPost stated that 52% of marketers consider video to be the best type of content to drive ROI. Videos are also seen as the best method of product demonstration with ‘how to’ video searches growing by 70% within the last year
78% of marketers claim that the most effective SEO strategy for them was to create content that’s relevant and valuable to their customers and target audience. Given video’s immense success in both engaging the people and conveying the message across, it is no wonder why including this type of content on pages is one of the most important Google ranking factors for 2018.
This one’s simple – why would Google want to rank you high in SERPs if you write about things everyone writes about or have the same perspective as everyone?
Try to find your unique voice or a theme in your niche. Start by checking out blogs of your competition. What opinions do they express? What views do they have on the most important aspects of your field? Try to find something that hasn’t been done before. If you can’t – try to approach all the topics that had already been done from a new angle.
Similarly to Facebook, Google likes to give better ranking to content that drives engagement and sparks conversation. How many people leave comments on your blog articles? How many re-shares and likes do you have on average? Following Facebook’s principle that a lot of engagement means that content is valuable to the viewers, Google puts emphasis on making sure that good experience is being put forward.
A good start to driving your engagement is to do a thorough research on the topics to cover. Another one is to share your content on social media and via email marketing.
SEO is 2018 is all about the experience. Every point in this article boils down to one question: is it good for the user? In this article, I covered 10 of the most prevalent Google ranking factors for 2018. Let’s recap:
- As mobile searches have overtaken desktop ones, you need a well-optimized mobile page,
- UX is an essential factor when it comes to both how Google ranks your website and how the users feel about you and your business,
- Google is shifting from keywords to content topics – a broader term containing a more contextual approach to analyzing your pages,
- Backlinks may be hard to get, but they can do wonders to build your online reputation,
- The first five seconds a person spends on your website will define their perception of your business – don’t let them be spent waiting for your page to load,
- Longer articles rank better – they contain more keywords and more information,
- Keywords are still relevant – put them in strategic places for the search engine to easily analyze,
- Videos are the most popular type of content that’s bound to increase your rankings
- Google rewards innovation and new perspectives on known topics,
- Try to use your content to start conversations!