To stay ahead of the game as a marketer, you have to improvise and adjust. It typically applies to a situation that’s constantly changing, or for your purposes—inbound marketing. And from the looks of things, you’ll be doing a lot of improvising and adjusting in 2018 when it comes to search engine optimization. Not only are the devices your customers search with changing, but how they're conducting their searches is changing, too.
As you’re putting your digital marketing plans together for 2018, remember this: The foundation of your plan should be search engine optimization. That’s because, according to HubSpot marketing statistics, Google now gets more than 100 million searches each month. That’s a lot of competition, which is why it’s so critical to optimize your content.
It’s going to take more than title tags and meta descriptions to get it done in 2018.
Tip 1: Optimize for Voice Searches
Researchers at Search Engine Land put together some telling statistics. They illustrate just how dominant voice searches are becoming.
60% of smartphone users who use voice search started using it within the past year
41% only started using voice search in the past six months
20% of search queries on Google's mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches
The best search engine optimization tip we can give you this year is to make sure you adapt your marketing to voice commands. Why? More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.
Pro Tip: Think about the questions you might get for your product.
Because of voice-enabled devices like Alexa and Siri, for the best search engine optimization results, Kanary recommends developing a list of questions and statements your customers typically ask about your product. As you’re doing this, remind yourself how someone would ask the question— not type it. Voice searches are different from a search you type into your phone or computer because they’re longer and more conversational.
Once you finish your list of questions, you can start creating content pages that focus on those longer, more conversational search terms.
Search terms like “best solar panels” are being replaced with questions like, “Alexa, what are the best solar panels for a home in Ohio?”
Tip 2: Featured Snippets
If your search engine optimization strategy is built for voice commands, this will give you the chance to rank as a featured snippet, which will also be critical to your success in 2018.
Alexa, what’s a featured snippet?
This one is an example of a text snippet. Featured snippets are also known as direct answers. If you can see how the answer to the question is provided in a clear, direct, simple way, Google likes that.
Hey Siri, what does a table featured snippet look like?
You get the picture. If someone is searching for Denny's menu prices and asks Siri “How much does Denny's breakfast cost?” They may get this for an answer. A very clear, easy to understand table or chart.
OK, Google, can you show me a featured video snippet?
Video snippets are also very effective. They, too, provide a clear answer to a question.
With featured snippets you can leapfrog the competition.
Pro Tip: Develop a procedure to get direct answer placement in Google search results.
Search Engine Land recommends:
Developing your list of common, simple questions related to your product.
Provide a clear and direct answer to each question.
Offer information that goes beyond the direct answer.
Make it easy of users (and Google) to find your page.
One thing you can try is testing the questions you generate by typing them into Google and analyzing the results of the featured snippets. There is no special technique that is any different than standard search engine optimization, but if you are thinking carefully about user intent you should be fine. You can also find sites like Schema.org that will have information on how to write snippets.
Tip 3: Schema Markup
Speaking of Schema, more than ever, Schema markup should be part of your search engine optimization plan. Schema markup is a specific set of tags that improve the way your page is represented in search engine results pages. Its growing importance has a lot to do with Google's use of the machine learning technology called RankBrain to help deliver its search results.
Search Engine Journal explains schema markup like this: As voice searches grow and RankBrain becomes more influential in Google’s core search algorithm, the need to put a web page in context is increasingly important to improve SEO results. Once added to a web page, schema markup creates an enhanced description (commonly known as a rich snippet), which appears in search results.
In other words, you will have to use schema markup if you hope to be a featured snippet. It will be critical if you’re hoping to rank high.
Pro Tip: Adding Schema markup to the HTML of your pages will help the major search engines better understand those pages. It can also make your search results appear more attractive by adding star ratings, customer ratings and images.
Tip 4: SSL Certificates
If your site is not secure, you’re like the house on Halloween with tons of candy inside but no porch light on—people will assume it’s not safe to approach you.
A site that is not secure will produce a message to let the user know your site is not secure. If this doesn’t immediately scare off potential visitors, it will cause you to lose them over time.
Your SSL Certificate decreases the risk of sensitive information—like credit card numbers, usernames, passwords and email addresses— from being stolen or tampered with by hackers and identity thieves.
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layering, it’s the “S” that shows up at the end of “https:” before you begin a search.
Pro Tip: One of the first things you should do to optimize your website for search in 2018 is to check with your domain provider to make sure you have a SSL certificate for your site.
Tip 5: Video
A major component of search engine optimization in 2018 will be video. If you’re posting on YouTube, you’re posting on the No. 2 search engine in the world.
The presence of video itself affects the most important SEO ranking factor: content. It sends a message to search engines that you’re providing content that’s relevant. You can implement many video marketing best practices as part of your search engine optimization plan, but just having a YouTube video linked to your site is valuable.
Pro Tip: Before you publish your video, make sure to check things like:
Keywords—Just as with a blog, you want to be able to tell Google what your content is about. Start by doing keyword research.
Title—Your title should be catchy, but should also include your keywords.
Description—This is the spot where you add the most text. It, too, should contain your keywords.
Tags—Think about what your target audience might search for and use those terms as tags for your video.
Category—Choosing a category is another way to group your video with similar content on YouTube.
Thumbnail—Along with the video's title, your thumbnail sends a signal to the viewer about the video's content, so it can affect the number of clicks and views your video receives.
Subtitles and Closed Captions—They can boost YouTube search optimization by highlighting important keywords.
The goal here is not only to build links and generate shares, but also to increase conversions.
Tip 6: Remembering the Basics
That brings us to our next search engine optimization tip for the New Year- remembering the basics.Start by including all of the things that search engines are looking for:
Quality content that’s relevant
Good user experience
Meta descriptions and title tags
Search engine optimization should always be an essential part of your inbound marketing plan, but with a new year comes new challenges. To do well consistently you must learn to improvise and adjust, as our tips for 2018 illustrate. But things change fast, so it’s important you have a strong team backing your efforts.
You need a digital marketing agency with expertise in search engine optimization. Technologists who can help make sure things are coded and tagged properly. Writers who understand how to optimize content for search and are able to keep up with Google's changes.