Do any of these headings sound familiar?
- The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
- Why SEO is Dead
- SEO IS DEAD!
Misguided marketers that (at a wild guess) want to present themselves as forward-thinking, have been making the claim that SEO is dead and buried for almost as long as search engines have existed.
In fact, here’s a handy little chart from Portent SEO that demonstrates just how long this idea has been around:
However, regardless of how often it’s said or how loud it’s shouted, it’s wrong.
The reality is that as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. All that’s changed (and continues to change) is the approach we need to take when it comes to optimizing sites.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are 6 of the most effective SEO tips for driving meaningful traffic to your website in 2018.
1. Prioritize Technical SEO
You may have heard the odd SEO state that technical SEO isn’t important, that “content is king,” and that if you get that bit right, everything else will just fall into place.
Just like those who claim SEO is dead, they couldn’t be more wrong.
Technical forms the foundation of any SEO strategy, and ensuring a site is technically sound should take precedence over anything else.
Even small mistakes can hinder a site’s performance in the SERPs, such as:
- Failing to use H1s or title tags correctly
- Implementing redirects to unsuitable pages
- Using 302 redirects in place of 301s
These are all common mistakes that, in isolation, might not have a huge impact. Collectively, though, they tell a different story.
Some mistakes, however, can have a devastating impact and prevent whole sections, or even entire sites, from being indexed by search engines – i.e. the classic disallow fail – placing, or leaving, this in your robots.txt file:
Unfortunately, technical SEO can quickly get complicated. If your knowledge is lacking, it would be advisable to seek help from someone who specializes in this area. That said, if you want to have a go at it yourself, here are a couple of resources to get you started:
In addition to this, you’re also going to need at least one tool that will crawl your site and help you identify technical roadblocks:
- Screaming Frog – Arguably the best-known.
- Botify – Awesome but pricey, and typically aimed at a more advanced market.
- Sitebulb – Also awesome, affordable, and, thanks to its user-friendly interface, ideal for both beginner and advanced SEOs.
2. Write Content with Users and Search Engines in Mind
Do you remember the days when SEO copywriters were instructed to write first and foremost for search engines? When the aim of the game was to practically force-feed search spiders the subject of a page by working one or two specific keywords into a piece of content multiple times?
Fast forward a few years and things have changed – a lot. The general consensus today is to forget what search engines want, and just write for users.
However, while writing for users and users only is a far better approach than keyword stuffing (after all, at the end of the day, all search engines want is to serve the best possible results to users), it still pays to understand how the search engines themselves work.
The fact is that keywords still matter – just not in the way they used to.
Today, Google uses algorithms like TF*IDF to understand how often, and where, specific words should appear in a piece of content. It also looks at the semantic relationship between words and phrases in order to better establish the subject matter and relevancy of a page.
Thankfully, writing for the modern search engine doesn’t have to be as complicated as it might sound. You simply need to use long-tail keyword research in order to pinpoint semantic words and phrases that can be used to enhance your content, and the relevancy of its subject matter in the eyes of search engines.
3. Analyze and Optimize Your Search Snippets
For anyone who’s not sure, this is a search snippet:
A search snippet features your title tag at the top, the URL of the page in the middle, and below that, your meta description.
A well-written search snippet can make a massive difference to your site’s performance in the organic search results for two reasons:
- The keywords you include in your title tag impact rankings.
- Informative, enticing and persuasive title tags and meta descriptions can improve click-through rates.
Unfortunately, a lot of marketers make these common mistakes:
- They don’t give search snippets the time and attention they ought to.
- They stuff too many keywords into title tags.
- They overlook search snippets altogether.
The contents of your search snippets are an opportunity to sell your site and increase click-throughs. This applies to both your title tag and your meta description, so while you should include a keyword (maybe even two) in your title tag, your main focus should be the user, and how you can persuade them to click onto your site, instead of a competitor’s.
For even better results, you shouldn’t just be optimizing your search snippets – you should also be analyzing the snippets of those you’re up against in the SERPs.
To do this, take your most important pages, and their top-ranking keywords, and compare your search snippets against those that rank around you.
What can you do to stand out and increase your share of the clicks?
Of course, unless your site’s very small, you can’t be analyzing the competition and writing bespoke snippets for every page of your site – especially if you’re working on a large ecommerce site.
So what’s the solution?
Write bespoke snippets for your most important pages, and create rules that will automatically populate title tags and descriptions on the rest of the site. For example, the rule for title tags would typically involve pulling in the page’s H1 tag, followed by the brand name.
4. Optimize for Voice Search
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing SEOs today is voice search.
No one knows for certain how many voice searches are actually taking place, but Location World estimated that in 2016, 40% of adults were using voice search on a daily basis, while ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based.
Needless to say, if you’re not considering voice search as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out.
So how do you optimize for voice search?
Consider the difference between how people talk and how they type. Voice searches tend to be longer and more conversational. Keep this in mind when creating content for your site.
Create content with featured snippets in mind. Research from Dr. Pete found that 53% of voice search results were being pulled from featured snippets. You can read the full research here.
5. Don’t Forget About Links
As much work as Google may have put into devaluing them, as of 2017, links still carried more weight than anything else in the search giant’s algorithms (even if they don’t carry as much weight as they used to).
This means generating quality, natural links (or at least, links that appear natural) is as important a part of SEO strategy as it’s ever been.
Without going into too much detail, here are a few search engine-friendly ways to generate links that will boost your site’s domain authority and in turn, its visibility in the search results.
- Write great content that answers common questions and is formatted for featured snippets (other sites may link to it as a resource in their own content).
- Go one better and create playbooks or ebooks.
- Start guest posting (the right way).
- Gather original, firsthand data that’s of interest to your industry (better yet, create data visualizations to accompany it) and promote the heck out of it.
- Upload and optimize high-quality photographs to Flickr, apply the Creative Commons license, and request in the description that if the image is used, they should link to your site as the source.
- Create free, embeddable tools that you can promote and feature on your site (again, requesting that if the tool is reproduced, your site is linked to as the source).
6. Don’t Forget About Internal Links, Either
Internal links help users and search engine spiders navigate your website. They’re pretty damn important, and yet they’re often overlooked (particularly as a site grows).
A poor internal linking strategy can diminish the value of key pages, or leave pages orphaned altogether.
What’s more, search engines use the anchor text of internal links as an indicator of the content of the destination URL. Unlike with external links, you can use pretty much whatever you want as the anchor text (within reason) without being at risk of getting a penalty. However, it’s poor practice to use anchor text like “here” on internal links. Use text that accurately describes the content of the destination page instead.
Unfortunately, implementing an effective internal linking strategy tends to be much more complicated than that (and the bigger the site, the more complicated things get). If you want to learn more, I can’t recommend this resource from Shaun Anderson enough.
What other SEO tips would you suggest using in 2018? Comments are below if you can spare a second to share your ideas.
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