As 2018 gets into full swing, we recently analyzed over 100 of our clients websites to find out exactly what is working in SEO in 2018.
What we found taught us some great lessons, reassured us of some basics, and in some aspects completely surprised us.
You see, as cliche as this is going to sound, SEO has changed.
But you already know that.
You know that you simply can’t just throw up a site, buy some links and hope to get #1 spot overnight. I would write another entire blog about how SEO has changed over the past decade, but that’s a project for another time.
Today is all about the here and the now.
It’s about what is happening in SEO as I write, and what will continue working through 2018.
If you take note, over the following pages you’ll discover the exact strategy that you need to utilise to rank virtually any website.
In fact, we discovered that there are 13 primary aspects that are essential for SEO in 2018.
Here’s the summary of our key findings:
- Site headings remain one of the most influential aspects of on-page SEO
- URL Structure is directly linked to ranking. Keep your URLs short and on-topic.
- Schema surprised us as not having a direct ranking increase, but it does seem to increase traffic by increasing CTR
- HTTPS & website security provide a huge ROI as they are very easy to implement.
- Links are still the #1 factor for all rankings. But it’s not just quantity, or quality, but relevance that is most essential.
Below is a detailed explanation of each of the 13 most important aspects of SEO for 2018…
Informative and user friendly headings beat keyword stuffing.
In our research, across the sites that we analysed, those with user friendly headings that contained the keywords performed much better than those that were keyword stuffed.
As we’ve seen over the past few years Google is becoming smarter in the way that it reads web pages and it can now pick up over optimization pretty well.
Actionable SEO Tip: Update your headings (H1, H2, etc) to be more user friendly and compelling, rather than stuffed with variations of your keywords.
2. URL’s that get to the point are essential
Have a quick look at the top of this page and tell me how long the URL is…That’s right it’s short, like, very short, and for good reason.
You see, during our research we found that the longer the URL, the lower the website ranked on the first page. From what we can gather this is because of a combination of user experience influences as well as some algorithm based ones.
It seems that Google wants you to get to the point in everything that you are doing, not beat around the bush.
Actionable SEO Tip: Shorten your URL’s to 3-4 words maximum. Cut out the fillers and stick to the pure content that helps your readers understand the page.
3. Page Titles Should Be descriptive
Just like your headings, over optimization and keyword stuffing of your page titles has been growing gradually less effective over the past 12-months.
There really isn’t much more to say than write a user friendly page title. You should still mention your keyword once.
Actionable SEO Tip: Re-write your page titles to include no more than 1 version of your keyword while utilising it in a user friendly way.
4. Your images need to tell a story
Here at Black Shirt Marketing we are blessed enough to work with numerous eCommerce merchants as well as regular businesses.
What we’ve found by monthly site audits is that the use of effective and optimized alternative text can play a nice healthy role in ranking for specific keywords.
While it won’t ever help you rank for ‘DUI Lawyers’, if you have a large eCommerce category with numerous products that aren’t unique to you, it can be the deciding factor between position 1 & 2.
Actionable SEO Tip: Take a moment to go and add descriptive Alt Text to your website. If you are an eCommerce store with thousands of images that need optimizing talk to us about our bulk optimisation services.
5. More data in the search results leads to more traffic, even if you don’t get higher rankings
There has been a lot of talk in recent times about the importance of Schematic markup on websites. From our research we couldn’t find any direct correlation between the use of Schema and higher search rankings.
What we did find from our clients sites is that after implementing schema their click through rates did increase by 12-16% on average, which is a healthy boost in overall traffic.
The most effective markups were images, reviews, and prices.
Actional SEO Tip: Get your developer to implement the relevant schema markup on your website to increase your website traffic.
6. Keep your reader entertained and engaged.
User engagement is one of the most important SEO tactics for 2018. One would think that it’s common sense to invest in a top notch copywriter to ensure your readers don’t just stay on the page but actually convert too.
However for too long the world’s designers have won the battle of the budget, so site that look great often have terrible copy.
While design is a very important factor for website engagement, in 2018 its essential that your copy is intriguing, easy to read and keeps the user on the page.
By decreasing bounce rates and increasing time on page we’ve seen a healthy increase in clients rankings once better copy was introduced.
Actionable SEO Tip: Invest in a high quality copywriter to re-write your website content. Not only will this boost your SEO rankings, but it will also increase your conversions and thus profits.
7. Security matters
HTTPS is now an essential part of the algorithm. With Google announcing that it was now going to give a benefit to sites that are secure, there has never been a better time to go HTTPS.
While implementing HTTPS, ensure that your SEO team is involved to make the necessary adjustments and redirects to your website to prevent duplicate content penalties.
Actionable SEO Tip: Invest in a SSL certificate and implement a HTTPS version of your website.
8. Outbound links tell a story about your business
For years SEO’s have understood the importance of having high quality links coming into your website, however in 2018
more than ever it’s essential that you are only linking to high quality sources.
You see, who you link to determines to Google what quality of information you as a business stands behind. If you are only ever linking to the top authoritative sites, then it indicates to Google that you are a site that stands behind quality, which in turn builds your trust levels.
Actionable SEO Tip: Do an outbound link search on your website and ensure you are only linking to sites with a low spam score and high domain authority.
9. Just quality and amount isn’t enough for your link building efforts.
Having access to countless websites allows us to do controlled website testing on the effects of links. Over the past few months the topic of relevance or authority has plagued the office with strong competition for each side.
So when we finally put it to the test the results spoke for themselves.
What we did was pick 5 niches, and 2 websites in each niche. To one site we pushed links from a DA30 site that was niche specific, and to the other links from a site with the same metrics that wasn’t relevant to the client’s niche.
The results – Niche relevant links were on average 15–18% more powerful at increasing rankings.
Actionable SEO Tip: Build a custom link plan for 2018 that is built on the idea of domain relevance, not just domain authority.
10. Domain metrics do still count through.
While it might seem exciting that you can now go and get links from any site as long as it’s in your niche, sadly that’s not the case.
Domain Authority (Measured by Moz), is still the most important factor when it comes to building links. In fact, we found that a site with a DA of 50, packs over 3 times more juice than a site with a DA of 25.
Now not all your links can come from high DA sites, but it’s well worth the time to acquire them if you can.
Actionable SEO Tip: Spend time nurturing relationships with owners of high authority websites as a link from there is worth its weight in gold.
11. Anchor text is important, but shouldn’t be spammy.
One of our sites is in the health niche, and on almost a daily basis I get asked to provide a link with anchor text for ‘best fat burners 2018’. If I wasn’t educated I’d give it too them, but luckily I am.
You see, Anchor text in 2018 is more an indication of topic, rather than a factor to rank for exact terms. If I use the example above, using the anchor text ‘best fat burners 2018’ would likely trigger a warning and a small penalty against the site. where if in the same sentence I only used ‘fat burners’ as the anchor, we’ve found it still sends strong topical juice, without as many decreases in ranks.
Actionable SEO Tip: Ask your SEO to show you the anchor texts that they have used recently and get them to ‘de-optimize’ them where needed.
12. Social Signals are growing in strength
Social signals are growing so much in strength that I actually saw a guy rank a site using them exclusively…
Now that was in an uncompetitive niche and it wouldn’t fly in a market with tough competition, but it is a strong indicator that they do help across the board.
To support this further, about 50% of our clients are active on social media, while roughly the other 50% aren’t. We’ve found that from the same quality links with the same metrics, that those with more social signals respond better to our link building efforts.
Actionable SEO Tip: Get active on at least 3 social media platforms and build a strong audience who actively shares your content.
13. Your customers and Google don’t want to wait.
Site speed has long been a factor in Google’s algorithm, however it seems that as the world continues to go more mobile that Google is giving it a heavier weighting.
Our research showed that sites that scored lower than a 60 on Page Speed Insights are on average 2 spots in the SERPS behind those with an 80 or above.
Quite often you can increase the speed of your site relatively easily, so it’s well worth the investment.
Actionable SEO Tip: Get your developer to implement caching, compression and optimize your image delivery via a CDN and compressed images. This will increase your page speed and increase your rankings.
2018 SEO Wrap Up:
There you have it, 13 actionable SEO Tips for you to implement in 2018. If you live by these guidelines and work hard by this time next year your ROI on SEO will be through the roof.
If you’d like any help with these tactics, or to work with an SEO Agency that truly understands what’s going on in the industry, then get in touch and we’ll be happy to help out.