What is SEO in 2018?
Search Engine Optimisation in 2018 is a technical, analytical and creative process to improve the visibility of a website in search engines. Its primary function is to drive more visits to a site that converts (into sales, for example).
The free SEO tips you will read on this page will help you create a successful SEO friendly website yourself.
TL;DR – What Really Matters if you do SEO in 2018?
In my opinion, here are the things that really matter if you do SEO in 2018, and I would wager that both white-hats and black-hats would agree on these:
Don’t block your site
Don’t confuse or annoy a website visitor
Don’t block Google from crawling resources on your site or rendering specific elements on your page
Have a responsive design that works on mobile and desktop
Be local to your customer
Geotarget your site in Search Console AKA Google Webmaster Tools (unless you have a country specific domain)
Put your keyword phrase at least once in the Page Title Element
Put your keyword phrase at least once in the Main Content on the page (at least once in page copy (in Paragraph tags)
Avoid keyword stuffing main content
Optimise your meta description to have a clickable useful SERP snippet
Ensure the Main Content of the page is high-quality and written by a professional (MOST OF YOUR EFFORT GOES HERE – If your content is not being shared organically, you may have a content quality problem)
Ensure the keywords you want to rank for are present on your site. The quality of competition for these rankings will determine how much effort you need to put in
Use synonyms and common co-occurring words throughout your page copy
Add value to pages with ordered lists, images, videos and tables
Optimise for increased ‘user intent’ satisfaction (e.g. increased dwell times on a page or site)
Keep important content on the site updated a few times a year
Trim outdated content from your site
Avoid publishing and indexing content-poor pages (especially affiliate sites)
Aim for a good ratio of ‘useful’ user-centered text to affiliate links
Disclose page modification dates in a visible format
Do not push the main content down a page unnecessarily with ads etc
Link to related content on your site with useful and very relevant anchor text
Use a simple navigation system on your site
Create pages to basic meet W3C recommendations on accessible HTML (W3c) (H1, ALT text etc)
Create pages to meet basic usability best practices (Nielsen) – Pay attention to what ‘annoys’ website visitors
Create pages where the main content of the page is given priority, and remove annoying ads and pop-ups (especially on mobile)
Develop websites that meet Google technical recommendations on (for example) canonicalization, internationalisation and pagination best practices
Ensure Fast delivery of web pages on mobile and desktop
Provide clear disclosure of affiliate ads and non-intrusive advertising. Clear disclosure of everything, in fact, if you are focused on quality in all areas.
Add high-quality and relevant external links (depending if the query is informational)
If you can, include the Keyword phrase in a short URL
Use the Keyword phrase in internal anchor text pointing to this page (at least once)
Use Headings, Lists and HTML Tables on pages if you show data
Ensure on average all ‘Main Content’ blocks of all pages on the site are high-quality
Ensure old SEO practices are cleaned up and removed from site
Avoid implementing old-school SEO practices in new campaigns (Google is better at detecting sites with little value-add)
Consider disavowing any obvious low-quality links from previous SEO efforts
Provide Clear website domain ownership, copyright and contact details on the site
Share your content on the major social networks when it is good enough
Get backlinks from real websites with real domain trust and authority
Convert visitors (whatever that ‘conversion’ may be)
Monitor VERY CAREFULLY any user-generated content on your site, because it is rated as part of your own site content
Pay attention to site security issues (implement https, for example)
What really matters in SEO in 2018 is what you prioritise today so that in 3-6 months you can see improvements in the quality of your organic traffic. I lay this out in my comprehensive SEO audits (see an example SEO audit here).
What Are The Best SEO Tools for SEO in 2018?
You can use tools like SEMRush (specifically the SEMRush Audit Tool), SiteBulb Crawler, DeepCrawl, Screaming Frog or SEO Powersuite Website Auditor to check for SEO issues.
If you are not technically minded, we can analyse and optimise your website for you as part of our fixed price SEO service.
An Introduction to SEO
This article is a beginner’s guide to effective white hat SEO.
I deliberately steer clear of techniques that might be ‘grey hat’, as what is grey today is often ‘black hat’ tomorrow, or ‘shady practices’, as far as Google is concerned.
No one-page guide can explore this complex topic in full. What you’ll read here are answers to questions I had when I was starting out in this field 20 years ago, now ‘corroborated with confirmations from Google.
Google insists webmasters adhere to their ‘rules’ and aims to reward sites with high-quality content and remarkable ‘white hat’ web marketing techniques with high rankings.
Conversely, it also needs to penalise websites that manage to rank in Google by breaking these rules.
These rules are not ‘laws’, but ‘guidelines’, for ranking in Google; lay down by Google. You should note, however, that some methods of ranking in Google are, in fact, illegal. Hacking, for instance, is illegal in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia.
You can choose to follow and abide by these rules, bend them or ignore them – all with different levels of success (and levels of retribution, from Google’s web spam team).
White hats do it by the ‘rules’; black hats ignore the ‘rules’.
What you read in this article is perfectly within the laws and also within the guidelines and will help you increase the traffic to your website through organic, or natural search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are a lot of definitions of SEO (spelled Search engine optimisation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, or search engine optimization in the United States and Canada) but organic SEO in 2018 is still mostly about getting free traffic from Google, the most popular search engine in the world (and almost the only game in town in the UK in 2018):
A good search engine marketer has a good understanding of the short term and long term risks involved in optimising rankings in search engines, and an understanding of the type of content and sites Google (especially) WANTS to return in its natural SERPs.
The aim of any campaign is more visibility in search engines and this would be a simple process if it were not for the many pitfalls.
There are rules to be followed or ignored, risks to take, gains to make, and battles to be won or lost.
A Mountain View spokesman once called the search engine ‘kingmakers‘, and that’s no lie.
Ranking high in Google is VERY VALUABLE – it’s effectively ‘free advertising’ on the best advertising space in the world.
Traffic from Google natural listings is STILL the most valuable organic traffic to a website in the world, and it can make or break an online business.
The state of play, in 2018, is that you can STILL generate highly targeted leads, for FREE, just by improving your website and optimising your content to be as relevant as possible for a buyer looking for your company, product or service.
As you can imagine, there’s a LOT of competition now for that free traffic – even from Google (!) in some niches.
You shouldn’t compete with Google. You should focus on competing with your competitors.
The process that is seo can be practised, successfully, in a bedroom or a workplace, but it has traditionally always involved mastering many skills as they arose including diverse marketing technologies including but not limited to:
PHP, HTML, CSS, etc.
Social media promotion
Analytics and data analysis
Looking at Google for hours on end
It takes a lot, in 2018, to rank on merit a page in Google in competitive niches, due to the amount of competition for those top spots.
What Is A Successful Strategy?
Get relevant. Get trusted. Get Popular.
It is no longer just about manipulation in 2018.
It’s about adding quality and often useful content to your website that together meet a PURPOSE that delivers USER SATISFACTION over the longer term.
If you are serious about getting more free traffic from search engines, get ready to invest time and effort in your website and online marketing.
So Google raised the bar.
Google decided to rank HIGH-QUALITY documents in its results, and force those who wish to rank high to invest in higher-quality content or a great customer experience that creates buzz and attracts editorial links from reputable websites.
These high quality signals are in some way based on Google being able to detect a certain amount of attention and effrot put into your site and Google monitoring over time how users interact with your site. These type of quality signals are much harder to game than they were in 2011.
Essentially, the ‘agreement’ with Google is if you’re willing to add a lot of great content to your website, and create a buzz about your company, Google will rank you high above others who do not invest in this endeavour.
Google Rankings Always Change
Google Rankings Are In Constant Ever-Flux
What is Bad UX?
For Google – rating UX, at least from a quality rater’s perspective, revolves around marking the page down for:
Misleading or potentially deceptive design
malicious downloads and
spammy user-generated content (unmoderated comments and posts)
Low-quality MC (main content of the page)
Low-quality or distracting SC (supplementary content)
In short, nobody is going to advise you to create a poor UX, on purpose, in light of Google’s algorithms and human quality raters who are showing an obvious interest in this stuff. Google is rating mobile sites on what it classes is frustrating UX – although on certain levels what Google classes as ‘UX’ might be quite far apart from what a UX professional is familiar with in the same ways as Google’s mobile rating tools differ from, for instance, W3c Mobile testing tools.
Google is still, evidently, more interested in rating the main content of the webpagein question and the reputation of the domain the page is on – relative to your site, and competing pages on other domains.
A satisfying UX is can help your rankings, with second-order factors taken into consideration. A poor UX can seriously impact your human-reviewed rating, at least. Google’s punishing algorithms probably class pages as something akin to a poor UX if they meet certain detectable criteria e.g. lack of reputation or old-school SEO stuff like keyword stuffing a site.
If you are improving user experience by focusing primarily on the quality of the MC of your pages, and avoiding – even removing – old-school SEO techniques – those certainly are positive steps to getting more traffic from Google in 2018 – and the type of content performance Google rewards is in the end largely at least about a satisfying user experience.
TAKE NOTE: Google is Moving To A ‘Mobile First‘ Index in 2018
Now that Google is determined to focus on ranking sites based on their mobile experience, the time is upon businesses to REALLY focus on delivering the fastest and most accessible DESKTOP and MOBILE friendly experience you can achieve.
Because if you DO NOT, your competition will, and Google may rank those pages above your own, in time.