Stacy JacksonStacy Jackson is a founding partner at Jackson Marketing, Inc., a marketing firm located in Dunedin, Florida. In addition to her work at Jackson Marketing, Stacy is a co-host of The B2B Mix Show podcast. You can follow her on Twitter at @stacy_jax and connect with her on LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/stacyjax).
When it comes to SEO, do you know what works in 2018? Read on to discover this year’s best SEO tactics and how to implement them in your current strategy.
SEO must undergo constant evolution because the algorithms that drive search engines get updated and refined all the time. That means that once accepted SEO tactics, like keyword stuffing, are now the search engine kiss of death.
It also makes set it and forget policies a no-go for your website. Old content optimized for different SEO priorities can become a liability. You might find old plugins for a WordPress site must go.
Your site must evolve with the shifting currents of algorithms and SEO best practices.
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To help you get the best use of your limited time and energy, we’ll outline the best tactics that 2018 has to offer. So, let’s jump in with one of the big guns of contemporary SEO: responsive design.
Mobile traffic makes up more than half of global internet usage. Add that to Google’s plans for mobile-first indexing and a responsive site isn’t an SEO tactic. It’s a website necessity.
Shaking your head and asking, “What’s responsive design?”
In short, responsive design solves the problem of website display on variable screen sizes. In the old days, websites got optimized for desktop displays. Visit a website on a mobile device and you got a scrunched up version of the desktop site.
The text is tiny. You get image distortion. It’s almost impossible to navigate.
Mobile and tablet screens give you a lot less display real estate. Responsive design breaks your site up into a grid pattern. The grid rearranges itself for best effect on different screen sizes.
You get a hamburger menu instead of a menu bar across the top of the screen. Sidebars vanish in favor of displaying page content in one or two columns. In short, you get a version of the website that actually works on a small screen.
That encourages visitors to stick around and buy something, read something, or contact your business.
Again, quality content isn’t a new tactic as much as it’s a way of life for business websites. It’s the reason it turns up in so many articles and blog posts about good SEO.
Without quality content, it doesn’t really matter what other tactics you use on your website or blog. The slickest new tactics won’t overcome shoddy writing and off-topic videos. Semantic search made sure of that.
Semantic search isn’t just looking at keywords. It’s looking the contextual relevance of those keywords. It’s also looking at user intent — more on that later — in relationship to that content and context.
In other words, content is the engine that drives everything else. Start with a misfiring engine and your site won’t generate good traffic or leads.
Quality content is error-free content. While you get a slight pass on grammar in blog posts, typos stick out like sore thumbs.
Your content should provide value of some kind. It can teach a process, analyze an industry trend, or solve a problem. It should always remain consistent with your brand voice.
The very best websites deliver a near-flawless user experience.
Your site leads people seamlessly from one piece of compelling content to the next. Visitors can understand your navigation menu at a glance. They don’t wait for more than a second or two when a new page loads.
When all of these details come together, visitors stay longer. People leave your site when parts of the overall user experience don’t work.
You’ve probably done it yourself. You click on a link on a website and get bored waiting for the new page to load. You close the tab and go check your email instead.
You go looking for contact information, but it’s not on the navigation bar. You search the site for a while before giving up and going to a competitor site.
Search engines can analyze a site for these factors. Let the UX score fall too low and your rank gets dinged.
When you type a query into a search engine, you want information. User intent concerns itself with the kind of information you want.
Let’s say you type in the phrase “cowboy fan.” That’s an ambiguous phrase that can mean several things.
Maybe you want a fan forum for the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe you want a cowboy-themed desk fan with a cowboy hat painted on it.
Now consider the phrase “buy a cowboy fan.” It’s much less ambiguous. Buy signals your intent to make a product purchase.
That signal lets the search engine direct you toward retail or eCommerce websites, although the cowboy part remains ambiguous.
Search engines try to divine the underlying intent of these phrases in a variety of ways. For example, your search history informs it. If you visit Western wear websites, the search engine will probably direct you toward cowboy-themed fans.
Common usage also informs the websites displayed. If 90% of searches for “cowboy” results in people clicking on Dallas Cowboys-themed sites, you’ll see more Dallas Cowboys results.
The takeaway is that you must consider more carefully the keywords you select. Ask yourself how you would phrase it if searching for a site like yours. Your phrase probably closely resembles the phrases others will use in a search.
Focus more on working those keyword phrases onto your site.
Parting Thoughts on SEO Tactics
SEO tactics evolve in response to the alterations in search engine algorithms. Old tactics lose power while the new, best SEO tactics become imperatives.
Quality content transcends those limitations. It always works for your website, never against.
Responsive design is an absolute must for every website that wants to survive online today. Too much traffic gets routed through mobile devices to ignore it.
UX has taken on a lot of significance. With so many options online, anything that disrupts the visitor’s attention wrecks your conversion rates.
The rise of user intent as a feature of search engine result selection means keyword selection is a more complex matter. You must tailor your keywords selections so they better reflect the intent of someone looking for a site like yours.