Driving visibility and organic traffic for your website through optimised SEO is becoming increasingly difficult. However, there are tools and techniques that will have a significant impact. In response to changes throughout 2017, and with the roll out of the mobile first index (which affects how your website ranks across multiple platforms) this year, here are five ways to maximise SEO in 2018:
Mobile First Indexing
This is a core part of the newly-evolved Google index: the search engine now assesses your site’s worth based on its mobile version. If your mobile site is not as good or differs from your desktop, there is a strong possibility that the index will devalue you, resulting in loss of ranks and traffic. This is a big shake up in the industry, as many sites have “unloved” websites on mobile but have been ranking strongly to date.
The previous years have focused heavily on technical SEO; 2018 is no exception. If your website is not performing because of technical problems, it will not rank as highly as it could do.
The technical focus for 2018 will mainly address underperforming parts of your site. Websites should be constantly monitored and the new updated Google Search Console should be your first stop. Here you can check your crawl errors, HTML fixes, indexing rate and when integrated with Google Analytics, it can give high level performance insights (such as which keywords to boost or target at page level to increase traffic).
Tools such as Screaming Frog and Deep Crawl can be used to analyse the technical performance of a site. The quickest wins will be fixing your linking structure, information and site architecture, canonicalisation, system files (sitemap and robots) and checking what pages are actually indexed (if your key pages aren’t indexed, you won’t rank for the terms you expect to).
Increasing Page Speed
Mobile index is heavily aligned with page load speed. The guidelines set by Google advise that your page loads above the fold (on the first screen before scroll) within one second. Whilst this is achievable on some sites, the majority cannot stick to these guidelines, usually taking double that. Studies show that the slower your site loads, the less it converts. With every second increase in load time, your conversion rate drops by 0.01%.
There are many tools out there you can use to assess page load speed; even Google is providing its own version for mobile. As a general rule, reducing image size, increasing server response time, serving scaled images and removing videos (or using a content delivery network) can help reduce load speed.
Keyword Research – the multi-level approach
The days of traditional SEO keyword research are behind us. Over 85% of all Google searches are now “long-tail” and contain a word query search of four to six words. Also, with the development of digital search assistants, the way in which we research keywords has also changed.
Now it is more about relevance, searcher intent and theme modelling for a particular page or product offering. Although brands need to focus on different keywords for different uses, whether they are transactional, navigational and/or informational, every keyword a brand wants to focus on will have a different searcher intent and needs to be presented in the right format for the target market.
This means that a brand’s category page needs a specific keyword set, whereas blog content would be targeting different terms. Content for blogs should use funnel terms and should target users at every part of the funnel (top, middle and bottom). All of these require different key-terms even if they’re targeting the same seed keyword, for example:
– Keyword: Hotpoint Washing Machine
– Top: Why whirlpool washing machine drum doesn’t turn on rinse cycle?
– Middle: Hotpoint washing machine vs whirlpool
– Bottom: Hotpoint washing machine online
Although basic, this example covers all areas of the buying funnel: awareness, confidence and action (or the classic marketing model Awareness Interest Desire and Action – AIDA).
Conversion rate optimisation and user experience
User experience is key and is one of the core parts of the Google ranking algorithm, used to assess how valuable a page is to the user searching. If a visitor clicks on the website, bounces straight away and clicks on a competitor, Google will use this data and drop your rank in place for the competitor, as the page was a better fit for the query. If this searcher query was one of your main keywords that you were ranking number one for then the loss in traffic, even just one position, can be felt.
As SEO is now more of an established marketing channel, instead of being seen as a “dark art”, with KPIs, objectives and strategy that affects offline and online channels, it is an area that is finally getting the respect and budget it deserves, so ensure you are covered on every area.
James Foote, SEO strategy director Infinity Nation, who help manage the ecommerce operations for many major brands.